Homemade Chapattis are the thing we use instead of bread the most. They really make cheap easy meals in no time at all. There are many ways to personalise chapattis but all are healthy quick recipes for frugal food. Of course you could serve chapattis with meat but I find they really lend themselves to Vegetarian Quick Easy Meals. So all the ideas below are Vegetarian. And, yes we eat chapattis for supper too, but they make fantastic frugal brunch recipes too.
In my search for a substitute to bought bread I do occasionally make real bread. But I wouldn’t dare share my bread making experiences here, as they are very hit and miss. Sometimes the bread is good, often tasty but with a certain ‘brick-like’ quality, and very occasionally my homemade bread is delightful! Having a very unreliable cheap oven doesn’t help, but mostly I find it just all takes too long. I will persevere when the mood takes me but I wouldn’t dare try to tell others how to make traditional leavened bread. Unleavened bread (or flat-breads) though, are something I can cook!
I don’t know if my chapattis would stand up alongside one cooked with someone who has made and eaten them all their life. It doesn’t really matter my chapatis are very tasty, very very cheap and really easy to prepare.
What are Chapattis?
Chapattis are a staple of the Punjabi and North Indian diets. They should be small wholemeal flat-breads which can be plain, or stuffed with vegetables. Potato stuffed chapattis are traditional British curry house fayre.
I thoroughly enjoy homemade chapatis with curry but they are far more versatile than to be always kept for the evening meal.
Chapatis in our house have become a kind of staple flat-bread, used with spicy dishes and with plain savoury ones too. They have a certain tortilla wrap quality which makes them really useful when trying to plan quick healthy meals.
Chapatis really don’t store that well. They are best eaten still fresh & warm. But, you can, with care, keep them warm for a short while in a low oven. You can of course, make up the dry ingredients the night before so you only need add some water when you want to make them. And, though it is unorthodox I have used day old batter, adding a little more flour to the mix, with good results.
Quick Healthy Recipes – Chapattis
Note on Ingredients
I tend to make vegetable chapatis with plain white flour, just because that’s what I always have in good supply. To ensure these are cheap, I use the cheapest flour with no adverse affect on the results. Traditionally wholemeal flour is used.
Any vegetables can go into the chapattis, or indeed they are fine much more plain, with no vegetables at all. I usually only include spring onions. They keep the chapattis light and fresh, ideal for brunch. More traditionally ordinary onion and bell peppers would be included.
As you role out the chapattis you squash the vegetables which helps them cook quickly and sweetly as their sugars start to escape.
As for spicing let your own tastes guide you. When serving chapattis as part of a breakfast or brunch I would err on the side of caution and only include one or two strong flavours though. Early in the day, I like flavours to be clear and obvious. Fennel is my current chapatti flavouring of choice. But cumin and coriander (fresh or ground) are traditional. Use ground or whole spices as you like. I enjoy whole cumin and fennel as they add some texture and bursts of flavour.
- 400g (14oz) plain flour
- 2 tsp vegetable/olive oil or ghee
- approximately 200ml (7 fl oz) water
- 1 onion finely diced or 4 spring onions finely sliced
- 1/2 red pepper finely diced or vegetables of your choice.
- 2 tsp fennel seeds or spices of your choice
- 1 tsp dried red chili flakes
Sift the flour (if using white flour) into a bowl. Add vegetables, spices and a pinch of salt and mix well. Add the oil and enough water to make a soft dough.
Leave the dough to stand for 10 minutes. Or leave for up to half a day if it is more convenient.
On a lightly floured surface knead lightly for a few minutes. This is easy kneading, not like bread making at all. The dough should quickly become smooth.
Now break off walnut size balls and roll into circles as thinly as possible. Don’t panic if they’re not perfect, even the odd tear has never spoiled my brunch.
Heat a heavy griddle or frying pan (without any oil). Once hot, cook the chapattis (turning often) until golden on both sides.
Pile them up under a tea towel or pass them out to be eaten immediately.
Quick Healthy Meals – Brunch Chapatti Ideas
We eat chapattis several times a week. Sometimes they are served quite traditionally. Other times they are masquerading in the role of tortilla wraps (for which they make an exceedingly cheap & easy substitute). At other times they are just used as plain old bread.
Here are a few ideas of turning your chapattis into meals:
Vegetable Chapatis with Cheesy Egg & Refried Beans
Scramble a few eggs with an eggs worth of milk (to keep things light and save you an egg). Grate in a few tablespoons of cheese just as it is done.
Warm through (about 2 tablespoons per person) red kidney beans (either from a can or like me, from your stash of precooked ones in the freezer). Sprinkle with a little ground cumin and some tobasco or dried chili flakes. Mash roughly with a fork.
Load each chapatti with warm refried beans and moist cheesy scrambled egg.
Vegetable Chapattis with Dhal
Dhal is basically lightly spiced pulses. You can be as heavy handed or as light with the flavourings as you like. You can serve spiced ghee (clarified butter) along side the dhal to be spooned on each portion by the diner. Or you can cheat and put all that flavour in the one pot before serving.
Cooked dhal freezes really well, so I always make lots in one go and freeze for future use. It is quite filling so for brunch you need very little. This is good as it means you can cook it very quickly from frozen. Just make sure it is piping hot all the way through.
I don’t follow any recipe for dhal, every time I make it, it tastes a little different, but it’s always healthy and really tasty. To follow is a rough outline of how I make dhal
Fry some diced onion & garlic (and grated ginger if you have any) in a little ghee or vegetable oil. Add some turmeric, coriander & cumin. Throw in red lentils, yellow split peas or other pulse of choice. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then simmer covered till the pulses are cooked. Top up with more water if the lentils start to catch on the pan as the mixture dries.
About ten minutes before the end I sometimes add fresh or frozen greens (spinach or shredded cabbage) to provide some vegetable bulk & goodness.
I use red lentils quite a lot because they cook in under half an hour. When done, give it a really brisk stir to mash the pulses into the liquid and produce a thick puddingy texture.
When the dhal is ready, make up some spiced butter or oil to serve with it. Warm the oil or butter then add some chili, salt, mustard seeds and fenugreek (or whatever spices you like). When the spicy flavours start to waft out of the pan you’re ready.
Serve the dhal in bowls topped with a drizzle of spicy butter and a few chapattis. This makes a quite special brunch which is actually really easy.
If I’m making chapattis with dhal for lunch I often cook just one or two earlier and serve as they are, brushed with a little melted ghee (or warm olive oil). If we have any left over hummus or bean pate type creations in the fridge they go into chapatti wraps.
Chapattis are not just for ‘Indian’ foods. Think of them like we now think of tortilla wraps and you will find hundreds of uses for them. None of the work in producing a chapatti is difficult. With practice you should be able to forget the rolling pin and just create the rounds by hand, but I have yet to manage it!
Don’t worry about tears and funny shapes, quick healthy recipes and cheap easy meals are all about taste over presentation!
For a more self sufficient future