Amaranth flour has been my new best friend for months, now. Referred to as an ancient grain, amaranth flour is actually a pseudo-grain from the Chenopodiaceae family of plants: a family that includes spinach, swiss chard, and beets. True grains (such as wheat, barley, corn, and sorghum) are from the Graminae family of plants. Amaranth, though a seed like pseudo-grains quinoa and buckwheat, looks and behaves as a cereal. In its raw form, amaranth is inedible for humans; it has to be cooked to be digested. Nutritionally dense, the amaranth seed is high in fiber, protein, calcium, lysine, iron, and magnesium. The whole amaranth grains, or seeds, can be made into porridge or substituted for rice to make a risotto-like dish (incidentally, a substitution Phillip does not like and thus one I don’t make often). The ground grains are what we use as amaranth flour, and this form of amaranth is that which I use most.
Amaranth has an earthy, nutty flavor. For this reason, some people prefer to use it in savory dishes, only. I’ve used it in desserts, quick breads, and leavened breads, always with success. Since amaranth doesn’t absorb liquid well, it works best in recipes in which much of the moisture derives mostly from fat (oils, butter), and egg. It may be used in recipes that derive moisture mostly from water or milk, but only in a smaller amount: no more than about 15% of the total weight of the flours used in the recipe.
As an ancient grain, amaranth has been used in various cultures for centuries. I am interested in ways other cultures have used, or still use, it. Use the search term “traditional recipes using” and then add whichever ingredient interests you at that particular moment of your search and you’ll find a wealth of resources that will inspire your creativity, with any ingredient you wish to choose! I have done just that with amaranth flour, using the search term “traditional recipes amaranth” to find inspiration for more uses of amaranth flour. One of the recipes I found with using these search terms is for Rajgira (amaranth) paratha, a flat bread that people who observe the Hindu religion eat on Vrat, or fasting, days. Many variations of rajgira paratha exist, but all are similar in that the main ingredients are cooked, mashed potatoes, amaranth flour, and cilantro. The recipe below is a composite of the various recipes I have viewed, my having put together elements from recipes I liked. These simple amaranth flatbreads, seasoned lightly with cumin and cilantro leaves, make a wonderful, flavorful snack eaten with cucumber raita. Eaten as an accompaniment with soup, they are simply delicious.
A couple of notes about this recipes: I modified the recipes I used to form my own recipe to suit my taste. In keeping with the dietary restrictions of people who observe Vrat, or fasting day, the original recipes use ghee instead of butter, and rock salt instead of fine grind salt. Although some of the recipes call for yogurt in the dough, very few do so I omitted the yogurt.
Some of the recipes for rajgira paratha say to roll the dough with a floured rolling pin; other recipes say to use floured hands to pat the dough into round flat bread. Although both methods work; I find that the hand-patting method works best. I’ve make this recipe with my grandsons, and the hand-patting method works especially well for the little guys.
- 250 g amaranth flour
- 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled, and mashed
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Milk, if needed
- In a food processor, pulse the amaranth flour, grated ginger, chopped cilantro leaves, ground cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper until well blended. Add the mashed potatoes and butter; pulse until the ingredients come together and form a soft ball. If the dough is too crumbly, add milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is too wet, add amaranth flour a teaspoon at a time, until the ball forms.
- Place the dough in a bowl, cover with a dish towel, and let rest about thirty minutes.
- After the dough has rested, divide it into eight equal ball. On a surface dusted with amaranth or tapioca flour, using a lightly floured rolling pin or your lightly floured hand, roll or pat each ball of dough into a round pancake-like disk. Fry each side of the disk of dough on a lightly oiled skillet until browned on both sides.
When forming the balls of dough into the flat bread, I found that using my floured hand to pat the dough into thin circles worked better than rolling them with a floured rolling pin.