Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Indian Flat Breads - gluten free

I love India. The colours, aromas, people, city chaos contrasting with rural peace, subtly spiced food and all that is different really excite me.

I had the best curries ever in the little back street restaurants of Mumbai and Hospet and in the really cheap beach huts of Goa. The incredible variety of spices, each distinguishable from the next as they hit the tongue from a single dish. How do they do that without the flavours all getting mixed up together? Amazing!

I have never had that same taste-bud awakening experience in England. I have no idea why. Perhaps England just lacks the weather or the thrill of 'being there'. Perhaps the spices aren't so fresh. Perhaps I can't afford a good enough restaurant........

Indian food is generally one of the safer restaurant options when you are eating gluten free. The curries are often thickened with coconut milk and yoghurt and the papadums are usually made with gram (chickpea) flour. With rice as the most likely accompaniment, the chances are there is something you can eat on the menu. Except the bread......

Before going gluten free, I loved being able to dollop spoonfuls of curry into a chapati or dip naan bread into my raita and saag paneer. So trying to make a good gluten free alternative became a bit of a priority.
I have struggled to find a good gluten free, easy to make recipe, so figured I had to create one myself. It has taken many attempts and trying to create a flat bread which is pliable enough not to crack as soon as you wrap it, and is still plain enough to suit Indian cuisine has not been easy. But I think I have finally achieved a formula which works and tastes good too.

Near where I live, we have a great takeaway Curry Hut called the Chai Stop. All their curries are gluten free and taste infinitely better than the usual local takeaway. We usually buy a few for the freezer, ready for those warm nights in front of the fire.

This flat bread recipe is really quick and easy so we always knock up a few to go with our meal. I can never roll out mine perfectly enough to get them 'round', but they taste great and it is always good to have them home-made and fresh.

Indian Flat Breads


125g potato starch (flour)
60g gram flour
45g brown rice flour
25g tapioca flour
½ teaspoons xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ tablespoons sunflower oil
130ml lukewarm water


  1. Weigh and mix together the flours, xanthan gum, salt, and bicarbonate of soda in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and warm water.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together with a flat knife until fully combined.
  4. With lightly floured hands, knead the mixture until smooth and pliable.
  5. Cover with cling-film or a clean damp cloth and leave to rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
  6. Divide and roll the mixture (using your hands) into 10 to 12 dough balls, making sure they are kept covered with cling film or a damp cloth when you set them aside, to prevent them from drying out.
  7. Roll each dough ball out between two sheets of baking paper or on a lightly floured (use just a dusting of rice flour) board with a floured rolling pin, to about 2mm thickness.
  8. Use a large flat bottomed frying pan or skillet, and heat empty until very hot.
  9. Place each flat bread in the centre of the pan to cook, one at a time. 
  10. When the uncooked side of the bread develops lots of air bubbles, turn the bread over using tongs or a spatula and cook the other side. The bread should puff up as it cooks.
  11. Adjust the temperature of the pan if the flat breads are cooking either too fast or too slow. If you find that any flour used to roll the breads gets left behind in the pan and starts to burn, carefully use a handful of dry kitchen roll or a clean dry cloth to wipe out the pan (being really careful not to burn yourself).
  12. I usually cook my flat breads until they are nicely puffed up, with a few small charred patches as this adds to the flavour. Set aside on a wooden board or plate and cover with a clean dry tea towel to keep warm until ready to eat.

 Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated

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