Paratha is an Indian flatbread made from unleavened dough that is either layered with ghee, or stuffed with a savory or sweet filling. Ours contains umami-rich caramelized tomato and onion, with flavor amped up with warming and pungent Indian spices slow roasted in ghee. Our paratha is coated in an inviting thin layer of ghee, and its surface spotted in golden brown just like at restaurants.
Traditionally, a paratha is deep-fried, but we are going to forgo the trouble and complete our cooking on a flat skillet, griddle, or frying pan. In India they use what is called tava, which is a flat frying pan with no edges and a slightly concave shape. A small wooden rolling pin, such as a French rolling pin or Indian belan is also really helpful for adeptly rolling small circles. A final note about the flour. Look for stone ground flour, or the best is “chakki atta,” which is a traditionally milled whole wheat flour from India. Only a finely ground flour gives the soft texture that puffs up so beautifully.
Heat ghee in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add ginger, green chili, and onion, and sauté until the onion is just starting to brown. Add chopped tomato and turn the heat to medium-low. Simmer 5 minutes and then add the kasoori methi, turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala and salt. Turn the heat to low and continue to simmer until the tomato mixture gets thick and most of the moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Divide into 8 portions.
for the paratha flatbread
Place flour, salt, and a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a bowl. Use your fingers to rub oil into the flour. Sprinkle water evenly over the flour. Use your fingers, or a wooden spoon, to combine it. After all the water is added, the flour will start coming together into a dough.
Turn the dough onto the counter and knead it for about five minutes, or until a smooth, pliable dough forms. If necessary, add a little more water or flour as needed to achieve a workable consistency. Cover with plastic wrap or a wet tea towel, and allow to rest for 15 minutes or more to allow the gluten to relax.
When you are ready to make the paratha, knead the dough again for a minute to warm it up and soften it further. Shape dough into a log, and use a knife to divide it into 8 equal portions. Cover portions until needed.
Prepare to cook the paratha by placing about a cup of flour onto an 8-inch plate. You will need this to dust your paratha with flour as you roll. Heat ghee in a small glass dish or jar so it becomes liquid, and keep it ready, along with a pastry brush. (A teaspoon would also work to spread the ghee if you do not have a brush.)
To fold the paratha, take the first portion of dough and press it with your fingers into a flat disk about 3 1/2 inches in diameter, leaving the middle a little thicker. Spoon a portion of tomato filling into the middle and use your fingers to seal up the paratha dough around the filling. Smush it down gently back into a flat disk and dust liberally with flour from the plate on both sides. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the paratha to 6-7 inches in diameter. Do not worry about the shape. Paratha’s are traditionally triangular. And if the filling escapes from the sides, it isn’t a problem. Simple reign it in and re-roll, or you can smear filling onto the outside of the paratha and it will cook up wonderfully and taste just as yummy.
To cook the paratha, preheat a large skillet or tava on medium heat for a few minutes. Brush with ghee and place your first paratha on the hot pan. Brush the top side with ghee.
Cook for about a minute, until bubbles begin to appear all over the paratha. Flip the flatbread over and cook for 1-2 minutes. The paratha should have golden brown spots on both sides.
Place the hot paratha on a plate, or in a dish, and cover it with a clean dish towel. The dish towel keeps the paratha warm, but allows moisture to escape so that it does not become soggy.
Proceed the same way with the remaining portions of the paratha dough. As you get faster, you will be able to roll out a new paratha as the previous one is cooking. Enjoy your tomato paratha with whole milk yogurt or cucumber raita, and an Indian chutney. To make it a complete meal, serve with an Indian curry, a cooked vegetable side, and a green salad.