Afghan stuffed flatbread
Bolani (بولانی) — also known as perakai or poraki — is a simple yet delicious stuffed flatbread from Afghanistan. Similar in some ways to Indian stuffed paratha, these tender, savory hot pocket breads are incredibly easy to make and are perfect for a packed lunch or picnic.
Makes 4 bolani
- All-purpose flour -- 2 cups
- Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Warm water -- about 3/4 cup
- Filling (see variations) -- about 2 cups
- Vegetable oil or clarified butter for shallow frying -- about 1/4 cup
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Stir in the warm water until the flour comes together as a dough. If the dough is too dry and stiff, knead in a little more water, one teaspoon at a time. If it is too wet and sticky, knead in a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time.
- Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead well for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and soft. Cut the dough into four equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Set aside, sprinkle with a little flour and cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Roll one of the dough balls out into an 8 to 10-inch round. Spread about 1/4 cup of your chosen filling on one half of the round. Lightly wet the edges of the dough round with a little water on your fingers, and then fold the round over to cover the filling. Pinch or crimp the edges of the dough together to seal in the filling. Repeat with the remaining rounds and filling.
- Heat oil about 1/4 cup oil or clarified butter in a heavy skillet or griddle over medium flame until hot. Add one of the bolani and let it cook until lightly browned on one side. Then carefully flip and brown on the other side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining bolani, adding more oil as needed.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with yogurt raita and mint or cilantro chutney.
Several types of filling can be used for bolani, and most of them are vegetarian. For an Afghan buffet, make a bolani filled with variety of flavors and textures.
- Potato (katchalu) filling: Mix 2 cups of cooked and mashed potatoes with a chopped and sauteed onion, one or two chopped green chiles, a chopped tomato, some chopped cilantro, 2 teaspoons of ground coriander and salt and pepper to taste.
- Scallion or leek filling: Mix around 2 cups of freshly chopped scallions or the white part of two leeks with one or two chopped green chiles, a bunch of chopped cilantro, a little oil and salt and pepper to taste. You can either use the filling raw, or lightly saute it first to gently wilt the scallions or leeks before stuffing.
- Pumpkin (kadu) filling: Stir 2 cups of cooked pumpkin or winter squash together with a couple cloves of chopped garlic, a small handful of chopped cilantro, 1 teaspoon of ground coriander and salt and pepper to taste.
- Spinach (palak) filling: Saute 1/2 of a finely chopped onion in a little oil until translucent. Add a pound of fresh spinach and continue to saute, stirring until the spinach is fully wilted. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. When cool, squeeze out excess moisture and chop roughly.
- Lamb filling: Use about 1 pound ground lamb, sauteed with some chopped onion and a chopped chile and seasoned with a little ground coriander, salt and pepper.
- Baked bolani: Though not traditional, some people like bolani baked instead of fried to cut down on the amount of fat. Brush the stuffed bolani on both sides with a little vegetable oil, and then place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven until browned and cooked through, around 15 to 20 minutes. Flip once halfway through to brown on both sides.
- Bolani with yeast dough: You can also make bolani with a yeasted dough, which makes them even more tender and flavorful. Use any simple yeast dough recipe scaled to use about 2 cups of flour.