(Over dinner last night)
Mom: So, how’s work?
Me: Ugh, dun ask. Can’t wait to stop.
Mom: Why, is it that bad?
Me: There’s just something worng with the way things are done there. I dunno. I think I’ll do better somewhere else.
Mom: Yah, of course. If you’re not happy, better not continue.
(My mom takes a bite of the chapathis I cooked)
Mom: Wow, this is good! Ummm, really. Who taught you how to make this?
Me: A colleague at work. Alot of them are from India they cook all kinds of great North Indian food. One of the ladies gave me this recipe last week.
Mom: Oh wow. That’s great. I think you should continue at this job.
Me: Uh? I thought you said it was better I stop since I’m not happy?
Mom: Ya, but you can learn so many new things to cook! And you’re not getting any younger you know. Better start earning your CPF. And this is good, you can work and also learn to make different kinds of Indian food!
Me: uhhh…okaay. I’m still quitting.
Isn’t it hilarious that my mom thinks I should continue at a job I dislike because I can learn new recipes from my colleagues? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she started on about how old I am to persuade me to stay on.
But I must admit, these chapathis present a pretty strong argument for not leaving the bank. The ladies I work with are amazing. They wake up at 4.30 in the morning to cook for their families and during lunch hour, they take out their gorgeous-smelling parcels of homemade goodness which they so willingly share with everyone. Every day is a new culinary adventure with these people. From idlis to parothas to lentil stir-fries, their food is impeccable. And they are so eager to share their knowledge.
It was from one such person that I got this recipe. Such a lovely change from the usual plain chapathis, and chock-ful of spinachy goodness. Really one of the best ways to get your greens if you ask me.
But I’m still leaving work. My mom will just have to contend with my evidently below-par cooking for now =)
Palak (Spinach) Chapathis
4-5 sprigs spinach, leaves torn and rinsed (discard the stalks)
3-4 sprigs coriander, rinsed (do use the stems as well as the leaves)
a thumb sized knob of ginger
2 garlic cloves
2 small red onions, quartered
2 green chillies, sliced
2 red chillies, sliced
1/2 tall glass of warm milk
atta/chapathi flour, about 2-3 cups
salt, as needed
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 heaped tablespoon ghee
Dump the spinach and coriander leaves, ginger, garlic, onions, red and green chillies into the food processor and blitz away until a green herby pulpish mass is formed. Do not add water cos it’s meant to be a little dry, almost like a very fine salsa. This is one of those moments where you would willingly to go on sell-a-vison to proclaim to the world the wonders of a food processor and how it cuts down your food prep time to almost nothing. Really. Chopping all this by hand would have killed me.
Pour about 2 cups of atta/chapathi flour into a large bowl. Sprinkle in salt as needed, normally I do about 1 1/2 tsp. Spoon in the ghee and rub in the fat with your fingertips. Dump the leafy mass into the flour and sprinkle turmeric over it.
Now’s the time for a really good upper-arm workout. Mush all the flour, spice and spinach mixture together. Pour in all the milk and get everything to come together as a slightly soft but not sticky dough. Add more milk or flour as needed, but do so sparingly and cautiously… knead the dough well and only add when you’re certain its too dry/wet. When it comes together in a lump, turn the mass out onto a well-floured surface and knead until the dough is relatively smooth. It will look like a hulking sphere of yellow-green, spiked with leavefy and chilly bits but don’t be alarmed.
Leave the dough in a clean bowl, covered for about an hour to rest.
After an houe or so, heat up a flat griddle over a medium flame. I used my dosa tawa, but I’m certain a large saucepan would do. I’ve tried that before and my chapathis turn out well. Just try to get the non-stick variety and do remember that the heat has to be turned up to medium-high so the chapathis puff up nicely.
While the griddle heats up, pinch of lime-sized globs of dough and roll flat on a well floured surface. Gently place the dough on the heated griddle and cook about 2 minutes each side. People have all kind of tricks to make chapathis puff up but I find if you’re really lucky, they do so all by themselves in the griddle. But sometimes, when the universe just isn’t right, I use two knives to lift the chapathi off the griddle and place them directly over a low flame for a few seconds. The intense heat puffs them up nicely, but be careful you don’t burn the chapathis.
As soon as you take the cooked chapathis off the griddle/flame, spread a little ghee over the top, just to give it a decadent rich flavour. Serve hot with dhall or any other curry. I plated mine with a ladyfinger gravy spiced with tamarind. A really good combi.