“Cooking is magic.”

A statement by a student in today’s class. We’re combining whole wheat flour with cumin and coriander for our mint-cilatnro paratha. “How so?” I ask.

“Because you take like these 4 random things and combine them and they become totally delicious.”

Sometimes these kids just work with you. It’s getting to the end of the school year and I just want to say thank you for paying attention. Other times everything is disgusting, there is no winning and we’ve never made anything good in this class.

I love the ones that believe in magic. Your work is done for you.

It’s the non-believers that take convincing. On the one hand I want to throw my hands up and ask why even take this class?! If you hate everything we make? Why are you here? But I also know for some of these kids it is sometimes said with a grain of truth. They are the ones you catch taking a nibble with a smile of enjoyment before declaring, nope, gross and toss it in the garbage– I saw that!

One day they throw you a bone. They finish half a dish before tossing it, declaring their displeasure and announcing it was okay at first, but then started tasting bad.

There are also the ones that declare dislike before asking for seconds to take home– for their parents of course. I’d like to believe these kids are bringing them home and enjoying them together with their family. (Sadly, they more likely end up forgotten and moldy at the bottom of their backpack.)

I’ve had the terrified criers– They cry through class until finally calming down and declaring cooking their favorite by the end of the semester. I’ve had the kids with daily “stomach aches.” Others that sit out most of the semester because they are too cool to cook. And some of too cool finally come around and seem to be the most enthusiastic and spot on chef. It’s as if they were soaking it all in on the sidelines.

There are all kinds in cooking class. I’m hoping to turn them all into magicians.

Mint-Cilatntro Paratha*
Makes 8 paratha
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
3/4 cup water, room temperature
1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, torn
ghee (or butter), for cooking
yogurt, for serving
lime pickle, for serving (available in markets with Indian specialty foods)

In a bowl, mix flour, salt, cumin and coriander. Add water. Mix with a spatula until too hard to stir, then knead with hands, about 10 minutes, to soft, adding more flour a pinch at a time if the dough is too sticky. Let dough rest 10 minutes (prep the leaves at this point, but do not add them to dough).

Divide the dough into 8 sections. Roll into a circle on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon each of mint and cilantro. Roll the circle into a cylinder (like a burrito). Twist the roll 3 to 4 times (like a candy cane). Roll the dough into a spiral (like a cinnamon bun). Pinch to close then re-roll with a rolling pin into a disc, about 1/8-inch thick.

Add 2 tablespoons of ghee to a warm skillet over medium heat. Cook paratha, about 3 minutes each side, until golden. Serve with yogurt for dipping and lime pickle (if available).

*Note: Paratha are Indian flatbread served at breakfast with yogurt and lime pickle. They are often stuffed with paneer (cheese), gobi (cauliflower), aloo (potato), mint or plain. When I was in India a man studying to be a chef showed me this technique for filling which I’ve adapted into visuals most kids can figure out. If you cannot find lime pickle, yogurt alone is fine. Think of paratha as an Indian version of a bagel I tell my students who cannot seem to wrap their heads around flatbread for breakfast.

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