Farata, the Mauritian derivative of paratha, is a kind of layered pan fried flat bread. It is part of our rich cultural heritage and is now deeply rooted in Mauritian cuisine along with its counterparts – dal puri and roti.
The art of making soft flaky faratas was often among the desirable qualities of a prospective daughter-in-law. I guess if you learn to master the skill early it will make your guy really happy. With V-day coming up, you might get to know if the way to your man’s heart is through his stomach or some other organ 😀
Coming back to farata-making, you may need to give it more than one attempt before you get the hang of it. I think of it as a primitive method for pâte feuilletée devised by our ancestors.
The best thing about farata is that it calls for only 3 basic ingredients – flour, water and oil – that are available everywhere. The thing that maybe hard to find is the equipment, a tava/tawa. Tawa, as we know it in Mauritius, is a heavy cast iron girddle used for pan frying the faratas after they have been rolled out.
I used to be quite mystified as to the origins of tawa. What I mean is that I never saw they being sold in supermarkets or local shops. Later I gathered from mum that the tawa was traditionally a gift to a newly married couple from some one within the family. With the trend of ‘No Giftbox Please’ on today’s wedding cards, it would be hard to come across tawas in modern households I think.
In case u cannot get hold of one either, do not worry. You can always use a large frying pan. I have no experience with this but my friends tell me it works. Wonder if it’s difficult to flip them over.
Before you get started I think it’s important to have all your ingredients and equipment laid out and handy. Farata making is a messy business. You won’t like to reach for something from a remote drawer with those sticky hands. For the same reason I found it difficult to take photos of each & every step of this ‘tutorial’.
FARATA – INDIAN FLATBREAD
Flour, plain or whole wheat
Vegetable Oil [or melted butter/ghee]
Extra flour, for dusting worktop
- Place flour in a large bowl. I never measure out ingredients but approximate them according to the number of faratas I require. A rough estimate would be 3 cups for 12-15 faratas.
- Make a well in the centre and add boiling water a tablespoon at a time. With a metal spoon fold in flour to make dough. Work gradually from centre to periphery.
- I use boiling water [‘coz my mum does] but some use tap or ice water. I dunno if it makes a difference. Be careful with the boiling water, it makes the dough hot and hard to handle.
- Keep adding water until you get a loose ball of dough.
- It will be soft and sticky and a complete mess. Dnt panic!
- Dump everything on a floured counter.
- Sprinkle dough with more flour and flour your hands well.
- Knead dough with both hands until you get a smooth elastic dough. This make take some time, 10-15 minutes.
- Knead by pushing the dough with the heel of your hand, twist it around 90 degrees, repeat until u complete a circle.
- Flip over and repeat in the opposite direction.
- You might need to dust with flour every now and then until you find that it no longer sticks to your hands.
- The dough should be firm [not hard!] and spring back to touch.
- At this point you might be tired and long for like a break.
- Simply cover dough with the bowl you used for mixing earlier and come back later.
- I usually use the dough right after I finish kneading unless I get distracted by smthing else.
- Divide dough into balls about the size of your fist or smaller if you have acromegaly. Flour worktop. Flour rolling pin.
- Dunk your dough ball in flour and roll out into a circle.
- It’s alright if it’s not a circle 😉 This takes practice.
- Smear one side with a vegetable oil.
- Fold circle into 3 parts. To do this, fold lower 1/3 upwards and the upper 1/3 downwards so that they overlap in the centre. Your circle is now a flat rectangle with 3 layers.
- Similarly fold rectangle into 3 parts to get a square – 9 layers
- Layer all your dough balls as above before the final step.
- Flour work top and rolling pin.
- Dunk a layered square in flour and roll out in a circle.
- Try to press down the sides rather than the centre. This causes air to be trapped inside your farata and expand to make your farata puff up when cooked.
- You do not need to be aggressive with your rolling pin. If in trouble, flip the farata over, dust with more flour and roll out lightly. If you get your dough right in the first steps, this should be easy.
- Preheat tawa and lightly grease its surface with oil.
- Do a test run with the first farata to check if tawa has reached the corect temperature.
- Cook farata until it starts to puff up and forms blisters underneath. Flip over and cook on the other side.
- Dump cooked faratas in a heatproof container or dekti lined with a cotton cloth. Steam released from the faratas will condense and cause them to soften till you serve them.
Faratas are best served warm with spicy curries as a main course. I served them along with mushroom, potato & peas curry, stir-fried veggies and apple pickle for dinner.
Note: Some people like their faratas rich and use butter/ghee instead of oil for layering. Oil for me gives good results and keeps the calorie level of my faratas low. Afterall faratas have been deemed as healthy enough to be on the list of permitted foods in school canteens!