What’s a Paneer Paratha, you might ask. A Paneer Paratha is a flatbread stuffed with a spiced cheese filling. Most paratha aficionados and novices will agree it is a wonderful journey to subject your tastebuds to. To me, paratha-making is a valuable lesson in learning that a skill can be mastered by anyone – what you really need is patience and the motivation to keep trying again despite one or more setbacks. So, even if your first few attempts at making parathas don’t end up too well, let the lure of a perfect paratha keep you going.
The secret to making a good paratha is in making a dough that is pliable enough to stretch as you roll the paratha out. The best dough for making a paratha comes from a high protein flour that is suitable for bread-making. Flour that is high is protein is conducive to development of gluten that contributes to the stretch as you roll the paratha. The flour used in this recipe is a durum wheat flour that is found in Indian grocery stores. It is typically finely milled compared to whole wheat flour that you might find in a supermarket. Make a soft dough and let it rest long enough so that the gluten has enough time to develop. Note that different brands of flours will require different amounts of water. What I have in this recipe is meant to give you an approximate idea of how much water you will need. When you mix the dough, you want to get to the point when you feel that it is just starting to get sticky. I feel that is the time when you stop adding water and knead a few times before letting it rest. The dough may look rough at this point, but you can knead it some more once its rested.
I buy the paneer for this filling from an Indian grocery store. If you make your own, you need to ensure that it is completely drained before starting the recipe. I will add the recipe for home-made paneer one of these days, although I admit I rarely make it. The quality of paneer from the store is good enough for me that I am not too compelled to make my own.
If you are an experienced paratha maker, this recipe will take you a total of about 3 hrs. But if this is your maiden attempt, save at least 4 hrs to make it. Recruit a hungry foodie to help you and give you moral support as you move through the recipe; so you may enjoy the fruits of your labor together.
Prep time: 30 mins Time for dough to rest: 1 hr 30 mins Cooking time: 1 hr Makes 16-20 parathas For the dough: 4 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup extra for dusting 3/4 - 1 tsp salt 2 tbsps vegetable oil 1 - 1.5 cups water For filling: 1 - 1.25 lbs paneer, broken into rough chunks 1 tbsp chopped ginger 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro 4 small green chillies, adjust per your heat tolerance 1 tsp cumin seeds salt to taste Dough: Combine the wheat flour, salt and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add 1 cup of the water first, and then a tbsp at a time, until you have a soft dough that is slightly sticky. Knead the dough right in the bowl until you can get a rough ball. Cover and let rest for at least 1.5 hrs. Filling: Place the ginger, cilantro, green chillies, cumin seeds, salt to taste in the bowl of a food processor and process until the ingredients are finely chopped. Now add the paneer chunks and continue to process until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, grate the paneer using the finer side of a box grater. Chop the ginger, cilantro and green chillies as finely as you can and combine with the grated paneer, cumin and salt.
Making the parathas: Make about 16-20 balls of the filling, pack gently so that the ball doesn't crumble when it is laid on plate. Each ball should be about 1.5" in diameter. Make about 16-20 balls of the dough, each roughly the same size as the filling balls. The dough will be soft, so its best to lightly flour your hands during this step. Preheat a pan to medium heat while you start rolling the parathas. The task on hand is to encase each ball of filling with the dough. Place a ball of dough on your floured palm. Using light pressure, flatten the ball of dough on your palm until it is a disk about 3-4 inches in diameter. Place the filling on the disk of flattened dough. Pull up the dough around the sides of the filling so that the filling is completed covered by the dough. You should have a small ball again, seal the edges well and place the ball on your lightly work surface, seam side down. Gently press down to form a disk and using a lightly floured rolling pin, proceed to roll the ball of dough and filling. Turn the paratha as needed to make a circular shape. I usually make about 4 parathas this way, and place them on a clean kitchen towel on my kitchen counter. Once I finish cooking this batch of parathas, I turn the heat off the pan and roll out another batch of four. Once you have rolled the paratha, place it on the preheated pan and cook for 30 seconds until the top of the paratha loses some of its moisture. Brush the top of the paratha with 1/4 tsp of vegetable oil and flip it to the other side. Brush the second side with another 1/4 tsp of vegetable oil. Cook each side until it is golden. Remove from pan, brush with butter or melted ghee and serve hot with a big bowl of whole milk yogurt.