I did not know it was called ‘pathiri’ and when I made rice flour bhakris by cooking the rice flour and then rolling them into thin discs, I joyfully thought I had hit upon a great method of making them. Pooey! And then guffaws followed, as my little bubble of joy burst into laughter at the thought of my silliness. I found that rice flatbreads were being cooked this way for ages in Kerala.
Has this ever happened to you? The ‘eureka’ moment and then the bursting? It is this feeling of ‘eureka’ that makes cooking so special to me. The feeling is akin to what I felt when, after a whole week of relentlessly splashing my feet to stay up in the pool side, I found myself swimming one day without understanding why it happened! That is the kind of joy and satisfaction I get when I learn recipes – making mistakes, pursuing relentlessly and then stumbling upon perfection. And the mistakes? They help me share tips and anticipate blunders.
Do you remember when I shared ‘nachni chi bhakri‘ [Millet flat breads] a year back? I had mentioned then and I must say it once again. It is Shubhangi, my woman-friday who taught me to tackle gluten free flatbreads. I began with flatbreads that I tried to pass off as lavash crackers but by the end of one week of crackers, and burnt hard cinders of millet / rice bhakris, I eventually learnt to respect gluten-free flours, and understood that they should be treated very differently from wheat or maida.
Indian flatbreds do not contain gum, which means they are more susceptible to tear. Traditional Maharashtrian ‘tandool chi bhakri’ (Rice flatbreads) are made with rice flour by adding hot water. This renders them hard after 2-3 hours. Pathiri on the other hand is made by cooking the rice flour, which means more moisture and hence softer flatbreads. One day, I was left with excess modak or kozhakottai dough and it occurred to me that the dough was just perfect to roll out bhakris. It was firm, without any lumps, smooth and very elastic. That day onwards the ‘modak batter’ became my go to recipe for pathiris. It has never failed me.
White & brown rice are very different too. You cannot use the same quantity of water to cook brown rice as you would for white rice. Similarly the water amount varies even while cooking rice batter. The recipe I am sharing today is for pathiri with brown rice, using the soaked, ground, method. If you are using white rice, please look at the recipe for the dough I use for modaks. It is exactly the same.
The amount of water used to cook varies with the variety of rice. Usually basmati, kolam and ambemohar need more or less the same amount. You can read more about that here. I tried making pathiris with ‘puzhakkal ari / puzhungal arusi / ukda chawal’ [parboiled rice], but the result is not good. Raw rice is what we need to make this.
Recipe: Pathiri (of Kerala) or Bhakri (of Maharashtra) with brown basmati rice
[Gum / Soy / Gluten / Casein / Dairy free]
Preparing the dough:
Brown basmati rice – 2 cups (about 860g)
[Rinse rice well and soak in 2 cups of water overnight. Next morning drain the water in a colander. Retain the water.]
Fresh grated coconut – 2 tbsps. [optional but recommended]
Fine ground sea salt to taste
Oil – 1/2 tsp.
Water – 1 + 1/2 (this must be measure by including the water that was retained)
Grind rice along with coconut and sea salt to a smooth batter. I use an ordinary mixer, and do it in intervals, preferably with refrigerated water. It takes me about 15 mins. to do this.
Pass the batter through a soup strainer to make sure that there are absolutely no granules. The batter must be smooth or you will have lumps. I add 1/4 cup of water in the early stages of grinding, and 1/4 cup later. This way I am left with 1 cup of water. In between I use a spoon to push back the rice on the sides of the blender into the center.
Heat the remaining 1 cup of water in a heavy-base stainless steel vessel with oil and salt, bringing to the boil. Now pour the strained batter and keep stirring and cooking the mixture. I use a slotted spoon that can be used to stir, cut and turn over the batter as it cooks. The portions that get cooked will turn pale. Turn the uncooked side to the bottom, cut through the sticky mass and after about 15 minutes of cooking you will find the dough coming together in a ball. At this stage, remove from heat, cover the vessel with a tight lid and let the dough cook in the residual steam. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, with an oiled finger wipe a flat plate, tray or ‘paraat’ [tambaalam] and turn the dough onto it. If it was cut and cooked there will be no lumps. Gently knead till firm, smooth and elastic.
Making the pathiri/ rolling out rice rotis:
Divide and form about 20 smooth spheres. I made 19 and found that the average weight of one ball was about 45g.
Keep some brown rice flour aside to dust the platform.
Heat a cast iron skillet till hot and reduce the flame. Roll the pathiri.
I use a roti stand (chakla) and I dust it liberally with the flour. Roll one ball gently over the rice flour and press lightly into a thick disc. Roll in the flour again. With a rolling pin (belan), roll out discs that are about 6-7 inches in diameter. If they tear as you roll, you are being too fast or too hard on it. Dust with more flour. While making gluten free breads, without gum, it is the surface that should have adequate flour and not the top of the bread. If not the bread will stick to the platform.
Flip with your hand by lifting from the edge, quickly gathering it with your palm and flip it on to the skillet. Cook as you would cook a roti.
30seconds on one side. Flip with a pancake turner. Cook a minute on the other side over high flame. Again flip back and you will find the pathiri slowly puffing. If there are any holes, the pathiri will not puff. Gently cover the hole with the pancake turner and pray that the hole isn’t too big for all the hot air to escape.
And don’t worry. They will puff. Just begin with 3mm thick rotis and go upto 2mm as you gain confidence.
The nutty flavour, the smooth slippery texture of each mouthful is totally worth the effort.
And then you will discover, like I did, why I gave up the flour method and why I am hooked to the batter method. Carry this for lunch, make it in the morning and serve it at dinner. It won’t turn into a cracker. It will be soft as it was when you made it.
I would serve with a Kerala stew, a hearty chhole, but we had to deal with more Hindi – Jr.P and I. And all I could quickly make was paruppu thogayal (Lentil and coconut chutney)
Recipe: Paruppu thogayal
Yield: 2 cups
Split, husked, yellow mung lentils [moong dal / pasiparuppu] – 1 cup
Fresh grated coconut – 3/4 cup, very loosely filled
Dry Red chillies – 3 (as per taste)
An inch of dark tamarind
Fine ground sea salt – to taste
Roast mung till aromatic and golden.
Cool and grind with the rest of the ingredients, adding a little water to let the blender work, maximum of 1/2 cup.
I like mine coarse. I am a very textural person. I rarely make smooth chutneys.
Updated: Sia says these are called ‘ubbu akki rotti’ and it is made exactly this way! Wow!
Tear a piece of roti, use it to grab some of the chutney. Eat. When made properly, the flatbreads will form two layers, and this is how a morsel will look.
Its Heaven. I know. But you have to come back.
That is veganmofo, day 8, and living organic, eating healthy, avoiding unprocessed foods and living on wholegrains. All October I will feature one Indian dish a day that will be made as far as possible with wholegrains. I eat organic and avoid processed foods always.
On a different note, today I found this tweet by Mr.Sanjeev Kapoor, a leading chef in India and globally renowned. It made my day.