Grace Shaphan found confidence in the kitchen. The 20-year old, who just graduated high school, lives at Baba Nyumbani as part of Amos and Milkah Tanui’s family. As a young girl, Grace was shy – but standing in the kitchen on a sunny June day, clad in her colorfully patterned apron and white chef’s hat, that shyness is long-gone.
Grace learned to cook at Baba Nyumbani, and her favorite food to prepare is an everyday staple: chapati. Chapati finds its home in the family of unleavened breads, among the likes of Indian roti or naan. It’s common in East African cuisines, eaten as a light breakfast with tea or alongside stews – Grace’s preferred way (chicken stew, in particular).
Chapati may be a common food – and a Baba Nyumbani favorite – but Grace’s preparation of the bread is well-known.
“She’s one of the girls at Baba Nyumbani known for making the best soft chapatis,” Dorice, a program coordinator in Kenya, says of Grace.
Grace’s chapati cooks quickly on the hot, sizzling cooking surface!
Watching Grace prepare the flatbread, it’s clear she’s got the recipe down – the measures and movements are from her heart. “Five cups of flour,” she says as she pours all-purpose flour from its bag into a bowl. Grace uses her fingers to gently combine the flour with the sugar and salt – two and one spoonfuls, respectively – before pouring in enough warm water to make a shaggy dough.
She kneads the dough before cutting it into smaller pieces to roll out and shape for pan-frying. Grace rolls the dough pieces out into thin rounds, flipping them multiple times until the dough is thin and ready for cooking. She heats up a round metal cooking surface, and once it’s hot, pours a spoonful of oil into the pan and lays the chapati into the sizzling pan. The heats causes the dough to rise and fall almost immediately, and Grace sprinkles a bit more oil around the sides before flipping it to reveal a toasty and browned side.
Grace’s chapati are light, soft, and the perfect snack or vehicle to consume stews – but her future outside the kitchen is looking just as bright. Following her high school graduation, she’s planning to attend college to pursue Early Childhood Education.
MAKE GRACE’S SOFT CHAPATI:
- 5 cups flour
- 2 spoonfuls sugar
- 1 spoonful salt
- warm water
Mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a bowl.
Pour warm water into the dry ingredients and mix until a shaggy dough forms.
Let the dough rest, and divide it into several pieces, rolling each one out into a round and slicing it into four strips.
Roll each of these strip up into a ball, and then roll each one out into a thin round.
Set a pan over high heat; when hot, add a spoonful of oil.
Place the rounds into the pan one at a time, flipping when the underside is brown and toasty. Serve hot, alone or with a meal!
Serves 5, two chapati each. Recipe by Grace Shaphan