In the 1950s we lived in the Khuzestan desert. Despite the scorching heat my baby brother used to hang with the old men behind our house, speaking Persian and spending the day cooking chapatis. Theirs were soft and doughy while the ones they made for my mother were crisp. I can still taste them now.
By 1981, I was an insignificant member of a puri making chain in the kitchen of a well known Indo British magnate. Well, I was part of the production line on several occasions but never achieved the position of fryer or roller or even drainer.
Move forward ten years and I lived for a year in San Antonio. On a lunch break from my voluntary job downtown I made the error of asking my companion if she could tell me how to make tortillas.
‘What do you think I am? some barefoot wife making my husband’s breakfast every morning?’ is a toned down version of her shocked reply. She accepted my stammering apology and, sighing, went through the recipe in detail.
After years of trying I can just about manage to make tortillapatis. The good news is that you can use any flour and no need for any special equipment. They taste better than supermarket flatbreads too.
- Ingredients: 500g plain flour – any sort, warm water, salt, pinch of cumin powder, tsp oil (optional)
- Method: put the flour in a bowl with the salt and cumin. Using your hands, stir in the water to make a sticky dough. On a lightly floured surface knead this dough very gently for a minute or two until smooth. Leave to rest for another few minutes and then divide into evenly sized balls. Return the balls to the bowl and cover with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.
Place a heavy metal or non stick pan on a medium heat. Gently roll out each ball in turn to the thickness of a pound coin. When it is still on the rolling surface brush the top side with a film of water. Then carefully flip this wet side down onto the pan (take the pan off the heat to to this if necessary). Now sprinkle more water onto the dry side.
In a minute you should see bubbles forming in the dough. Flip the bread over and you should see brown patches have formed. Repeat this flipping several times until the tortillapatti is cooked. Turn out and cover the cooked breads so they don’t dry out.
- Serving: these taste nice with almost anything – just butter, yoghurt, coriander leaves and spring onions, falafel, wrapped around a spicy omlette, dipped into hot sauce, a starting point for burritos, curry sandwiches …