Friday, February 18, 2011

Golden Sunshine: Makkai ka Zucchini Paratha

Unexpectedly, it is a beautiful, warm and sunny day today. A taste of spring to come . After months of cold and snow, it is nice to see the sun come out bold and bright. I may sound cliche, but seeing the sun come out and light up everything did ease my gloominess - part of which was as a result of my recent health problems. The snow has really started to melt and I can see bald patches in my lawn, where grass will spring up...soon, I hope. The trees look like they're ready to sprout and I can't wait to start thinking about a vegetable patch again this year. I've spent the past couple of hours sitting outside, and just soaking up the beauty of this day. And reminiscing....

I remember many days that looked like today back in India at this time of the year. Around the middle of January, sun would be strong enough to dispel the fog overhanging Delhi skies, and we'd get a few hours of sunshine. We had an open rooftop, where my mom would set up her camp every Sunday afternoon - a charpoi (a bamboo-woven cot), a chatai, or a bamboo mat and her coal angeethi.  We first sat on the chatai, where she'd massage my scalp with warm coconut oil. I had thick, long hair those days, that fell way below my waist  and my mom was so proud of them. While she groomed my hair, I kept a close eye on the big basin of water that she kept to heat on the angeethi. Then, it'd be time for her to wash my hair, with her home made amla-reetha-shikakai-brahmi shampoo. And finally, as I sat there on the charpoi sun-drying my hair, she'd fire up her angeethi again and cook up a scrumptious sarson-ka-saag and makkai-ki-roti lunch. She always used her hands to shape the rotis. They came out perfectly round everytime, and as golden as the sunshine above. Plus nobody makes the saag like she did, at least no body I know. But like every other kid you may know of, I refused to eat my greens and totally boycotted the saag for a very long time. So she'd make make the mooli-paratha version with makkai-ka-atta, just for me. Every winter we followed this ritual, till I moved out of my parents' home. And then, I sorely missed my mom's makkai-ka-mooli paratha lunch.

I have pretty much stayed away from attempting to make makkai-ki-roti, just because I felt I wouldn't be able to shape them. Plus we have an electric, smooth top stove, which isn't really the same as cooking the rotis over open flame. Then recently, a friend gave me tip on how to shape the rotis, and the whole craving for re-creating my childhood magic came back to me. The first time, I made makkai-ka-mooli paratha, it came out perfect. I had a little more of corn meal left, and a small zucchini that had overstayed its welcome in my fridge. So my second attempt was at using zucchini instead of mooli (radish). This is what gave birth to my today recipe of makkai-ka-zucchini paratha.

                                                Makkai-ka-zucchini Paratha
                                  (Zucchini stuffed cornmeal flat bread)

Fine yellow Corn meal (I used Goya; or Indian makkai ka atta)   1cup
Whole wheat flour  (atta)    1/2 cup
Zucchini grated   about 1 cup
Warm water as needed
Salt 1Tbsp
Oil  to cook

  1. Peel and finely grate zucchini. Sprinkle the salt on it, and set it aside for 10 min or so. This will drain out some moisture from zucchini. Squeeze it as dry as possible.
  2. Mix the corn meal, atta  and zucchini together. Bring the dough together with luke warm water, as required. The dough is still crumbly and tends to fall apart if worked too much.
  3. Cut a ziploc bag open, leaving it attached on one side so you have a big rectangle. Oil the inside of the bag.
  4. Take a golf-ball size lump of dough and put it on the oiled ziploc. Bring the other end on top. Now use the rolling pin to roll out the paratha, about the thickness of a tortilla.
  5. Heat a shallow skillet/griddle/crepe pan.
  6. Pick up the rolled out paratha along with the ziploc bag. Place the ziploc on your open palm, open the other end of the ziploc, and holding the plastic steady bring it as close to the hot pan as possible. Invert your palm and the tortilla should fall right in. Don't try to lift the tortilla itself; it doesn't hold.
  7. Cook for 2-3 minutes, till brown flecks appear. Then using a flat wooden spatula flip it. Cook the other side for a few more minutes.
  8. This is the point where if you have a gas stove, you pick up the paratha using a chimta (tongs) and hold it over low flame till dark brown flecks appear all over and it and both sides are completely cooked.
  9. If not, you do what I did. Smear a little bit of oil on top of the pre-cooked tortilla and flip it again. Press with the flat end of the spatula to help cook through.
  10. Oil the other side and repeat again, till done.
My two cents: Makkai -ki- roti is pretty much a winter staple in Northern India. Traditionally served with winter greens such as sarson ka saag (mustard greens), it also goes well with Paalak (spinach). My mom's version added radish to it , which adds a little bit of bite to the roti. I used to love that version. The zucchini version of this corn flat bread was pretty good too, but a tad too bland for my taste. The next time I make it, I'll definitely add some green chillies or red pepper flakes to the prep. Other than that, there's nothing more to change in here.

My frugal tip: I save the water squeezed out from zucchini and add it to dal, soup or rice that I might be making. The water is a tad salty, so be careful and adjust the salt in whatever you use it in.

PS: This is the last dinner I had made before my unexpected surgery. Just got a chance to post it. The kitchen is still sort of out of bounds for me for another week or so.