Sunday, 17 March 2013

Tools of the trade

Gobhi Paratha - (Cauliflower stuffed bread)

My shopping trips when I visit Hyderabad must include a trip or two to the local “Steel Palace”, a home ware store in the neighbourhood. 

It’s as if Bharat Bhai, the owner, knows I am going to be visiting and is just waiting for me, for he always seems to have “fancy items” or “best items” that have just come in and almost sold out, but I shouldn’t worry- for he has already (clairvoyantly) set aside one of each item aside for me and this may well be the last piece in the whole city….

In the last so many years Bharat Bhai has beguiled me with non-stick handis, innumerable dosa/ paniyaram/ appam tavas, a larger pressure cooker and why not a small pressure pan, rosetta irons, boondi maker, chakli/murku press, a food mill, a herb cutter, an South Indian style coffee percolator… the list is as endless as the enthusiasm with which he takes me from shelf to shelf, aisle to aisle, climbing up and down ladders agilely and impressing me with his vast and ready knowledge of his products, his mental inventory and stock control and his very sweet and polite manner!

On his part, and only when it comes to his customers, Bharat Bhai engages a “need to know” policy. I go from being his sister-in-law to his younger sister to his older  sister– the relationship terms changing from trip to trip and sometimes, I am all three in a single trip in that order-as my “shopping cart” gets fuller… 

Bharat Bhai knows I am a jackdaw for these shiny contraptions, so he supervises my shopping with a hawk’s eye. He offers me a cold drink and a special stool, scolds his minions for not being prompt in their service, gives everything an extra wipe with his dirty duster and puts all his phone calls on hold till he finishes preparing a kacchi raseed (a temporary receipt) in a scrawly hand. He then rounds off the totals and even offers me a discount. But then, you see, he apologetically has to charge me a fee for the credit card transaction, but quickly softens the sting with a loyalty card, which will give me five bonus points if I shop for a certain amount every month…

“So what has Bharat Bhai saddled you with this time?” Mother asks when I return home. Well, this has kind of lost a bit of its barb in the translation – she will actually say “what has he tied round your neck”…

Thanks to Bharat Bhai’s special home delivery service to me, I never have to carry the shopping home. When the consignment arrives, I show Mother my shopping, a trifle timorously.

And sure enough, I have reason to fear, for a quick look and the verdict is out. “This anodised tava is exactly like the one you bought in your last trip! That  sweet charmer has talked you into buying the same thing twice… “

I have to listen to a whole heap of worldly wise, street smart business nous… this is their sales spiel, how can you fall prey to their pitch, this glib talk is their “tools of trade”, they see gullible NRIs like you and…

Sigh… yes Aai, I do dabble a bit in business, I do know these tricks… (I will be half a century old next week)…

But it’s not until I reach Melbourne and rush to check if the tava I bought in my last trip is the same as this one, that I discover that the hard anodised paratha tava from this trip only "looks" just like the chapati tava from the last trip.

This one’s much thicker, nearly 5 mm thick and you know what – this one’s called Punjabi Tava, tough, scratch resistant, stronger than iron – ideal for making Punjabi parathas…

Wasn’t it Mother herself who taught me that the best way to ensure a dish turns out perfectly is to use the right tools of the trade? 

Gobhi Paratha

I probably had a tava as “thet” (authentic) Punjabi as it can get, but the recipe is perhaps a little experimental and eclectic!

Since I had this tava to blame it on if the parathas remained uncooked, I tried the strata method (which I have hitherto frowned upon) of stuffing between two layers of dough, rather than my usual style of enfolding the stuffing in the dough and rolling it out.

The perfect heat distribution quality of the very thick sheet metal and the non-stick coating of the tava helped achieve the most perfectly cooked paratha!


For the dough
2 cups whole wheat Flour (Atta)
1 tsp kalonji
½ tsp ajwain
A pinch of black pepper powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp yoghurt
Water as required for kneading

For the stuffing

1½ cup finely chopped cauliflower florets
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ tsp fresh ginger paste
2-3 green chilies finely chopped
2-3 tbsp coriander leaves chopped
½ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
Oil to cook the parantha

Note: I don’t grate cauliflower (or cabbage for that matter) - I find it changes flavour. I use an onion chopper or food processor to chop it fine.


Mix all the ingredients for the dough and knead into a firm but pliable dough.

Mix all the ingredients for the stuffing except the oil.

Divide the dough into equal sized small balls. Roll out two balls into small poori like discs of the same size. Spread a tablespoon of the stuffing on one disc and cover it with the other and press the edges, sealing the stuffing completely.  

Dust the disc generously with flour and roll out into flattening the disc and making it larger, until it can’t be rolled any further.

Heat a hard anodised Punjabi paratha tava (or your favourite/regular tava) and cook the parantha on it- dotting it with a little oil or ghee.

Serve hot with the works, or eat it just off the tava - like we did!


  1. Thanks for that very nice tongue-in-cheek narration of Bharat-bhai's sales strategy. Would have loved to read the original (pre-translation) in Hyderabadi Urdu!

    1. :) How did you know I narrated this incident to my brother?

      I wish there was a way to do write Hyderabadi... maybe a video!


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