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It’s been a while since I’ve had a request from one of my readers. This particular one was a happy coincidence as I had recently come across a new recipe for tewka. I must admit that I am not a big fan of this indian sweet; I cnt remember eating one in years but after I allowed myself to be convinced to sample the homemade version of a friend from the ISKCON community, I found myself asking for more and ended up taking the recipe home. If you happen to have any misgivings about tekwa as I did, I can guarantee that with this recipe you are gonna overlook all of them and will discover what you’ve been missing all along.

The original thekua is a traditional homemade cookie of northern India – Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The dough is prepared from wheat flour, coconut powder, melted sugar and ghee and is deep fried till reddish brown in colour. It hardens on cooling, can be stored for weeks and its rich carbohydrate content makes it a popular sweet snack on long journeys.

Our mauritian tekwa however has nothing to do with its indian counterpart other than being deep-fried. Over here, they are more like large pooris, filled with a mixture of dholl and sweet spices, that puff up like pillows the moment you dip them in hot oil. They are the perfect thing to have with a steaming cup of tea on a dreary winter afternoon. We’ve been having quite low temperatures lately so I guess it’s gonna be on my to-make-soon list once more. Well, this one’s for you, Archana!

TEKWA

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup powdered milk

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbs butter or margarine

1/3 cup luke warm water

Yellow food colour

1/2 cup split peas/dholl gramme

1 tsp aniseed/gros anis

3 tbs dessicated coconut

Method:

  • Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Add milk, baking soda and half of the sugar. Combine thoroughly.
  • Carefully rub in butter with fingertips until the mixture has a loose crumbly texture.
  • Add a pinch of food colour to the water before gradually adding it to the dry ingredients.
  • Mix well until everything comes together to form a soft, sticky ball of dough.

  • You may need to add extra flour as you knead it into a smooth ball. Cover dough and set aside.
  • Clean dholl against a white background to remove any impurities. Wash well and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
  • Bring water to boil in a heavy pan. Lower heat to medium and add dholl to boiling water. Do not stir.
  • Cook dholl until it is soft enough to be crushed between two fingers. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

  • Drain cooked dholl well to extract maximum moisture. Using a moulin à légumes, grind into fine, loose crumbs. If you are used to making dal puri at home, you should be familiar with this. Or use a food processor if you cnt find anything close to a moulin.
  • For the filling, carefully stir the remaining sugar, aniseed and coconut into the crushed dholl so that they are well combined.

  • Divide dough into 10 equal sized portions, shape each into a cup shape before you start filling.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of filling in each and pinch them closed. Keep on a lightly floured surface.
  • Roll out into discs of about 10cm diameter. Be careful not to let the filling ooze when rolling.

  • Heat oil in a shallow frying pan and deep fry tekwa in moderately hot oil until golden brown.
  • Run a test batch first to know the approximate temperature at which tekwas will puff up.
  • Drain well on absorbent paper and serve hot with a fresh cup of tea. Makes 10.

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

Ingredients:

Flour, plain or whole wheat

Water, boiled

Vegetable Oil [or melted butter/ghee]

Extra flour, for dusting worktop

Method:

  • 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!

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PrerrnaMirchi
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