An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn't know why they choose him
and he's usually too busy to wonder why.
– William Faulkner
The busy week was actually kicked off last Friday with my now weekly Skype meet up with my writing partner, the illustrious and super talented Molly Watson; at the end of each hour’s session, we are given an assignment and mine was to buy an agenda. A paper calendar on which I can write down my projects in black on white, give myself deadlines – impose deadlines upon myself – and have it constantly in front of my eyes. Said purchase made, I discovered that the agenda begins mid-December and I jokingly boast that this leaves me off the hook for another month.
But I have too many projects hanging mid-air to allow that to happen. Several articles unfinished, not to mention my promise to write one single chapter of a future memoir by the end of November and have it sent off to an agent. Have I even begun? Ilva and I scurried around to put together the information for our Plated Stories workshop for the good folks at Tuscan Muse so it could be announced. So, yes, busy and productive I have been, even if I still spend too much playing, too much socializing. But you know how the old saying goes: All work and no play….
Meanwhile, I spent a glorious Tuesday afternoon at the newly opened Radisson Blu Hotel in Nantes at a goûter presse, a special presentation and tasting for the local press, of pastry and chocolate chef Vincent Guerlais’ holiday creations – chocolates, individual pastries and his very special bûches de noël. This was an interesting, convivial afternoon and Vincent, as huge a star of chocolate and pastry as he is in Nantes as well as all over France, is a delightful, funny, personable man and his creations are beyond incredible. This Saturday, Vincent Guerlais is hosting Nantes’ Amateur Macaron Competition and I am so thrilled and proud to be a member of the jury alongside an impressive, illustrious array of Michelin-starred chefs, journalists, former macaron competition winners and a former Miss France! So I will definitely be writing and telling you all about it next week!
Guerlais' own chocolate and caramel take on the traditional LU Petit Beurre Nantais cookie
And Sunday morning, husband, Marty and I are off for a three-day trip to Brest to visit our friends and take a short break. (* Since writing this post, my dear mother-in-law passed away; our trip to Brest cancelled as JP leaves and heads south for the funeral.)
I did find time to make this month’s Bread Baking Babe's assignment! And I am thrilled that I did because it was not only great fun to make but so delicious as well! Our wonderful hostess Karen of Bake My Day chose Aloo Paratha (or Parantha), a potato-filled Indian flatbread. As the bread contains no yeast, it is a flash to put together. The filling is so versatile one can go classic in a million different ways or go completely off the books and create a new and unexpected filling. I made the classic as given in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything from whence the recipe came.
If you want to make this bread with us and be a Bread Baking Buddy, click over to Karen at Bake My Day to get the details. But before you do that, check out if and how the other Babes baked their Aloo Paratha:
Bake My Day – Karen
blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding my enthusiasms – Elle
girlichef – Heather
Lucullian Delights - Ilva
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
Paulchens Foodblog – Astrid
Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie
Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.
– Jane Austen
So as I get back to work like the busy bee that I am this week, I leave you with the wonderful recipe for Aloo Paratha and I wholeheartedly urge you to bake along with the Babes this month because the Paratha are so easy and fun to make and just crazy good to eat!
Feel free to play with the fillings; visit the other Bread Baking Babes to see what they have done! We love this potato filling, but I will be adding a handful of chopped fresh cilantro next time. Go ahead and try adding garam masala or thinly sliced spring onions, peas or cauliflower in place of some of the potatoes. These were so easy and fun to make – the only thing that took time was the cooking of them one by one – but easy, fun and so delicious we will be making these often!
ALOO PARATHA (or PARANTHA)
From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything; his recipe modified from one he learned from Indian cook and cookbook writer Julie Sahni
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups flour + more for rolling out the dough
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ajwain* dried thyme, or ground cumin
2 Tbs neutral vegetable oil, such as grapeseed or corn, plus more for brushing the breads
1 ½ lbs (680 g) starchy potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 jalapeño or other fresh hot chili, seeded and finely minced or more to taste
2 tsps ground coriander
Freshly ground pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
Melted butter to serve
* aiwain comes from carom seeds which look like celery but taste like very strong, slightly coarse thyme
Combine the flours with the teaspoon salt and the thyme or cumin in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil and ¾ cup water. Stir or mix (I use a wooden spoon) until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water; in the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and, using flour as necessary, shape into a ball; wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature while you make the potato mixture. (At this point, you may wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to a week; bring back to room temperature before proceeding.)
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover and a large pinch of salt. Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers steadily; cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes, then drain. Mash the potatoes along with half the chili, the coriander, a large pinch of salt, some pepper, and the lemon juice; taste and adjust the seasoning (you may prefer more chili; sometimes aloo paratha are quite hot; I added a bit more lemon juice and next time I will add a pinch of salt as well as a handful of chopped fresh coriander).
When the dough has rested and the potatoes mashed, set out a bowl of all-purpose flour and a small bowl of oil, with a spoon or brush, on your work surface. Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Toss it in the bowl of flour and then roll it in your hands to make a smooth ball. Flatten it into a 2-inch disk, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a thin round, about 5 inches in diameter, dusting the work surface with flour as necessary.
Mound about 2 tablespoons of the filling into the center of one of the rounds of dough. Bring the edges of the round up over the top of the filling and press them together to make a pouch, pressing the gathered dough together to seal. Press down on the “neck” of the pouch with the palm of one hand to make a slightly rounded disk. Roll it out again into a round disk 6 to 7 inches in diameter, turning the disk a quarter turn with each roll so the disk is a nice even circle. Pat it between your hands to brush off the excess flour. Put the paratha on a piece of plastic wrap on a plate and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Continue to roll all of the remaining dough into parathas and stack them on the plate with a sheet of plastic wrap between them. You can keep the paratha stacked like this for an hour or two in the refrigerator before cooking them if necessary.
Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or two, then put on a paratha (or two, if they’ll fit) and cook until it darkens slightly, usually less than a minute. Flip the paratha with a spatula and cook for another 30 seconds on the second side. Use the back of a spoon or a brush to coat the top of the paratha lightly with oil. Flip and coat the other side with oil. Continue cooking the paratha until the bottom of the bread has browned, flip, and repeat. Do this a few times until both sides of the paratha are golden brown and very crisp, 2 to 3 minutes total for each paratha. As the paratha finish, remove them from the pan and brush with melted butter if you’re going to serve hot; otherwise wait until you’ve reheated them.