Jambo! Karibuni Afrika!

Good Monday morning, friends!

I realize I often begin these posts quite cheerful- but today's post is worthy of cheer.

I'm bringing back my African roots, or rather, African experience since I'm about as far from native African as possible.

That's right, dears, today we are heading to the vast continent of Africa (dabbling a bit in India, but remaining mainly in Eastern Africa for all intents and purposes).  I am going to teach y'all how to make the basic of all basic food necessities to the African peoples...well, aside from rice, which naturally is the staple of most of the world's diet aside from western nations.  That and tea.  Why didn't we inherit the rice-and-tea-fetish?  Not sure.

Another question for another day, I suppose.


Today's food item is extremely versatile, quite fun-to-eat, and isn't too hard on the waistline (if you use my method and not the native one- eek!).  So what is this mystery item?

Chapati, my friends.

Have you ever heard of it?  I'm sure many, many of you have had something quite similar.  Ever tasted pita bread?  A tortilla? A crepe?  A pancake?  Any sort of unleavened bread?  If so, these are all similar-in-form to chapati.

Here's a visual for those who crave that sort of thing:

Chapati is the most common way wheat is consumed in East Africa, and South Asia.  It is a form of unleavened bread made with wheat flour and cooked on a skillet.  Generally they are made from a very easy dough of flour, water, salt, and oil.  Small portions of the dough are rolled-out into discs, similar to a Mexican tortilla, then thrown onto a pre-heated skillet, and cooked on both sides.  These flat, unleavened bread rounds are native to South Asia, mainly north India, and have many varieties depending on what surface they are cooked upon, and which flours are utilized.  Some places in India cook the flatbreads in a tandoori oven (which also makes an insanely good roasted chicken!), this is called a "tandoori roti".

However the way I will show you is one used in East Africa so if you are familiar with a different method, I apologize- this is how I was taught!  And, I must say, it makes a mean chapati.

Chapati (African flatbread)
4 Cups flour (I do half whole wheat, half white)
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Cups water (more or less depending on consistency of dough)
Olive oil

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add water to make a soft dough, knead well and continue adding a touch of flour until dough is no longer sticky and becomes pliable.  Let sit, covered, for 30 minutes.  Divide dough into about 8 balls.  Roll out each ball on a floured surface with a rolling pin.  Spread about 1 tsp oil on each piece, roll up jelly-roll style (see photos) and curve dough into a snail-like form (see photo).  Let sit 5 min.  Roll out each piece again on a floured surface with a rolling pin.  Preheat skillet.  Add a few teaspoons olive oil to the skillet, and fry each chapati one at a time (or if you have room, you can do more).  Turn once underside is flecked with light brown spots- but re-oil pan before turning over, this is crucial to prevent burning and smoking up your kitchen.  Stack finished chapati in a round cake pan, cover, and place in a warm oven (150 degrees or so) until ready to eat.  Be creative, eat with a variety of things and/or topped with your choice items!

Mix your dry ingredients together, add the 
water, and let the dough sit for a bit.  
Once rested, form your dough balls:

I make mine a little larger than normal but you can
create whatever size you wish!

I also choose to use olive oil, rather than the 
traditional melted shortening the African's use.
My choice, but you can do what you like.

Roll out each dough ball on a floured surface:

Add a smidge of oil.

Rub it around to coat the flatbread

Roll each chapati up, jelly-roll style:

Then curve in a snail-like fashion
This isn't that complicated, people, it's just hard
to put into words.  Follow the photos!

There she is, ain't she purdy?

Now let your little snails rest a few minutes,
allowing the oil to seep through it's innards.

Then take each piece, scrunch it back up into a ball,

and roll it out a second time.

Head up your skillet, add another smidge of oil,
and cook each side.
Remember to add a second smidge of oil before flipping,
to prevent burnage.

See these little brown flecks?  
That's whatcha want, folks.

Transfer each finished chapati to a round cake pan, 
cover, and place in a warm oven until ready to eat.
Serve warm or eat cold later- either way, they are

Aren't they lovely?

Chapati are so incredibly versatile.  In Africa, we used them mainly as the natives did: to lap up stew spoon-style.  However, once we returned to the states, and had a variety of other food items as our disposal, we began to teach the old dog new tricks.  We eat it for breakfast, slathering the bread with peanut butter or honey, then slicing bananas over top (this is, by far, my favorite way to eat 'em). We cut 'em up, sprinkle the tops with grated cheese, jalapenos, black beans, and tomatoes then toast it in the oven for a nacho-style chapati.  I make mini pizzas for lunch using the chapati as a crust, topping it with whatever I have on-hand that looks enticing.  

I found this photo from a fellow gastro-blogger.  
This guy knows how to utilize his chapati!

The possibilities are endless.

Chapatis are, at best, distinctly ethnic, 
and the most basic of African food items.  
Here is a Mozambique lady forming the dough:

A table of soon-to-be-chapatis awaits rolling
and frying in Tanzania:

A traditional Tanzanian meal of chapati, sweet potatoes, plantains
(a savory banana), and an African spinach-like green.
If I could remember the name of the greenery I would
tell you, unfortunately it has slipped my mind!

What a meal might look like in Kenya, 
notice the chapati is front-and-center.

So go ahead and make an African-inspired supper,
or just make a bunch of chapatis to have on-hand
for quick, easy meals, either way- you'll enjoy a little
slice of Afrika.

Tutaonana baadaye!


Shadley said...

Funny how similar and yet very different from Ethiopian injera. We also used it more as a utensil to sop up meaty stews (called "wot") and even with breakfast! We liked injera but man were we sick of it by the end of the trip!

Trevor and Andrea Wolfe said...

Hey Abby :) I found your blog and i think it's great!!
We love chapati too, but i've only made it once since we've been back from Kenya. I do think now i'll have to make it again :)
(oh, and fyi, the greens are sukuma wiki :)

Trevor and Andrea Wolfe said...

Hey Abby! I found your blog and think it's great!!
We love chapati too, but i've only made it once since returning from Kenya. I do think now i've been inspired to make it again soon! :)
(oh and fyi, the greens are called sukuma wiki :)

Abbie said...

Thanks for reminding me!!! Yes, sukuma wiki- it brings back great memories! Sukuma wiki with some royco seasoning= fabulous! :)

Kirsten's Cooking said...

I'm still trying to think of something to make with the chapati. I wonder if I could use my roasted tomatoes, grilled veggies, cheese, etc and make a "wrap"?
these look absolutely fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes for exotic foods...
keep em coming!

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