I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t bask in the crisp, flaky gloriousness of ghee-cooked paratha. They’re like the classy, generous older sister of chapattis and perfect for scooping up rich curries and daals. You can glam them up any way you like; stuff them with spicy mashed potato, crushed peas, fresh paneer or grated vegetables. My personal favourite is peppery mooli (white radish), but I’m also wild about plain flaky paratha including the ones that are made with fresh coconut milk, South Indian style.
These Jalebi Paratha get their name from the bright orange Indian sweets, Jalebi because of their beautiful coiled shape. To make Jalebi, first a batter is made with flour and yoghurt, which is piped directly into hot oil in coiled circle shapes to create a beautiful ‘spider-web’. The hot fritters are then lifted out of the oil and plunged into a hot sugar syrup spiced with cardamom and saffron until soaked through. They are served warm or cold at special occasions with ‘gathia’, long savoury snacks made with chickpea flour and ajwain seeds. The extreme crystallised sweetness and savouriness of these two dishes together creates a breakfast that will blow your mind.
Jalebi Paratha are made in the same vein as Jalebi as the dough is rolled into a spiral cone shape before being rolled out and cooked on a hot pan with ghee – which is the way my Nanabapu (maternal grandfather) used to make them for his clients as a chef in Nairobi, and then in the UK.
I hold this recipe and its stunning method for creating those layers of flaky goodness close to my heart because it’s the way Nanabapu taught my mum, and then exactly the way my mum taught me. A technique passed down the generations and a skill Nanabapu would have wanted us to share with other paratha lovers. Think of it like making the simplest form of puff pastry; the layers need to be created with plenty of ghee in between, then the dough should be left in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling out, to ensure the layers are trapped and marbled with ghee.
Note: If you’re counting the calories, paratha aren’t going to be your best friend. I think that for that amazing flavour, they need to be cooked with ghee. However, you can combine one part ghee, one part groundnut oil at all points ghee is used in this recipe if you must.
420g chapatti flour, plus more for rolling
30g ghee, melted plus more for rolling and cooking
Pinch of salt
220ml boiling water
1. Place the flour and salt in a bowl and combine. Make a well in the centre and add 30g melted ghee and the boiling water.
2. Bring together using a spoon until cool enough to handle. Next, knead the dough until smooth, about five minutes.
3. Divide the dough into ten equal pieces cover with a damp tea towel. Follow my instructions below to roll out the dough below or use my illustrated step-by-step tutorial.
4. Take one piece of dough and roll it to a five inch circle. Using a sharp knife, make a cut from the middle to the outside edge. Take a teaspoon of melted ghee and spread over the surface of the dough. Take a pinch of flour and sprinkle over the ghee. Lifting from the slit you made, roll the dough into a spiral cone shape. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the cone – spiral layer side up. Repeat for each dough ball and then place them all on a tray. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for an hour. You can do this up to a day in advance.
5. Remove from the fridge and on a lightly-floured board, roll out one piece of dough to a six inch circle, spiral side up. Place the paratha in a hot non-stick pan and cook each side until lightly golden. Finally, spread each side with a little ghee. This will help give your paratha the perfect, crispy finish. Remove from the heat and wrap the paratha in a tea towel and lightly scrunch it up for ultimate flakiness. Repeat this process for each dough ball. Serve immediately.