The uncomplicated yet productive life of a devotee is reflected in the simple and nutritious capati.

Simple And Nutritious Capati

Every morning at 6:45 in the Philadelphia ISKCON temple kitchen, Yamaraja dasa measures ten cups of fine durham wheat flour into a large, stainless-steel bowl, adds ten cups of whole-wheat flour, nine cups of whey, and a little salt. Then he secures the bowl, full with ingredients, in its place on the large power mixer. In a few minutes he mixes and kneads the dough. In the next hour and a half, he will make that dough into one hundred eighty capatis unleavened flat breads.

"I learned how to make capatis in the Brooklyn temple in 1973," Yamaraja told me. "At that time all the older devotees were expected to spend some time in the kitchen, and the head cook assigned me to the capati crew. We were a crew of four one to make the dough, one to put it through a machine that rolled it into rounds, one to cook the capatis, and one to butter them. Our first capatis were stiff, burnt, and totally unappetizing. We made two hundred fifty capatis a day, and it took us about two months to get the process down." It was so difficult to keep a crew of four trained devotees together one or another of them would change services or change temples that after awhile the Brooklyn temple switched to making bread sticks or rolls instead of capatis. But for Yamaraja there was just no substitute for capatis.

"When Srila Prabhupada started cooking for the devotees at 26 Second Avenue in 1966, he made rice, dal, vegetables, and capatis," Yamaraja pointed out. "Prabhupada himself ate capatis throughout his stay with us. That was the simple standard he preferred. He would wonder at how Westerners could eat dry bread. Capatis are soft, tender, and moist with butter."

In the kitchen I watched Yamaraja roll his fresh dough into a rope about an inch and a half in diameter and then cut it with a knife into inch-size pieces. He took one piece in his hands, rolled it into a ball, pressed it into a small mound of flour, and rolled it out with a rolling pin until it became a disk six inches in diameter. He did a second one the same way and then, after checking his griddle to make sure it was hot enough, put both capatis on it and immediately started rolling out two more.

By the time he'd rolled out the second pair of capatis, the two on the griddle were cooked on one side. He turned them over and, after they'd cooked for a few seconds on that side, picked one up with some large tongs and placed it directly over the flame. A large bubble started forming inside the capati, and in a matter of moments that bubble enlarged until the formerly flat capati had puffed up into a six-inch ball. Yamaraja turned the puffed bread over on the flame for a second or two and then put it on the side of the stove, where it leaked steam until it was flat again. He did the same with the other capati on the griddle. Then he placed the next two capatis on the griddle and began rolling out two more.

"A devotee is concerned with simplicity as well as utility," Yamaraja said. "Generally, in modern society, particularly in the West, if something is simple in its makeup then people don't think much can be accomplished with it. Thus we see so many complicated industrial enterprises for maintaining an artificial standard of living. Capatis are symbolic of a devotee's simple lifestyle; devotees are very simple in their ways, yet very productive. In the same way, capatis are made with just flour, water, and salt, yet they are wholesome and nutritious. When they're properly made, devotees appreciate them and aren't satisfied with any substitute. To master capati- making takes practice, but it's worth it." As Yamaraja speaks, he moves rhythmically from rolling to griddle-cooking to puffing and buttering and back to rolling. He concentrates on making each one perfect. It's his personal crusade to keep capatis popular in the Hare Krsna movement.

By 8:30 A.M. Yamaraja is Finished. His capatis are offered to the Deities on the altar and are then saved until lunch, when they will be served to all devotees and guests. Yamaraja takes breakfast with the devotees and then begins his service. He's been designing and doing layout for Back to Godhead magazine since 1973 the same year he made his first capati.

(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)

Whole-wheat Flat Bread


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Standing time: 30 minutes to 2 hours

Rolling and cooking time: 2-3 minutes for each capati

Servings: 12 capatis

1 cups atta or sifted whole-wheat flour 
2/3 cup lukewarm water 
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Slowly add water, gathering the (lour together as you do, until a soft dough is formed. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes until it is smooth and firm. Sprinkle the ball of dough with water, cover it with a damp cloth, and set it aside for half an hour to two hours.

2. When the dough is ready, place a heavy cast-iron griddle over a medium flame. With moistened hands, knead the dough again; then shape into 12 equal-size patties. Dip them into flour and roll them out thin and even on a floured board. Make them as round as possible and about 6 inches across. Keep some plain whole-wheat flour on the side to dust the capatis as you roll them.

3. Knock the excess flour off a capati with a few slaps and place it on a preheated griddle. (You can cook several at a time if the size of your griddle allows.) When small white blisters appear on the surface of the capati and the edges begin to turn up, turn it over with a pair of flat tongs and cook the other side until the surface bulges with air pockets. Lift the capati and toast both sides over a direct flame for a few seconds until it puffs up like a ball. A finished capati should be cooked completely (no wet spots) and should be freckled with brown spots on both sides. Press the air out and brush one surface with melted butter.

To cook a capati on electric heat, let it stay on the griddle. Turn it over as many times as it takes for both sides to cook; then gently press the top of the capati all over with a soft cloth, and the capati will swell. Offer to Krsna.

Whole-wheat Pancakes

(Atta dosa)

Preparation time: 1 hour

Servings: 15

1 ½ cups sifted whole-wheat flour 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander leaves 
1 fresh chili, minced
2 pinches salt 
1 ½ cups lukewarm water

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Slowly add the water and whisk it into the flour to make a smooth pancake batter. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let stand for at least half an hour.

2. When you're ready to cook, put a griddle over a medium flame. Beat the batter again it should be of pouring consistency. Flick a few drops of water onto the griddle. If they bounce and sputter, the griddle is ready. Pour on 4 tablespoons of batter and use the back of a spoon to spread the batter out thin with a circular motion, starting from the center. This amount of batter should make a thin dosa about 8 inches across. (The art of making dosas lies in the ability to spread the batter thin before the heat of the griddle hardens the mixture.) Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until it becomes golden-brown. Turn once. Cooking the second side takes only about half as long as the first. The second side never browns as evenly as the first.

3. Continue making dosas until the batter is finished, greasing the griddle only when the dosas stick. Pile them on a plate to keep them warm and moist. Offer to Krsna.

Urad dal with Spiced Yogurt

(Gujarati urad dal)

Preparation time: 1 hour

Servings: 4-6

1 cup plain yogurt 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
5 cups water 
1 cup urad dal 
½ teaspoon turmeric 
4 bay leaves 
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 dried chilies, crushed

1. Mix the yogurt and the brown sugar in 1 cup of water. Set aside. Clean, wash, and drain the dal. In a large saucepan bring 4 cups of water to a boil. To this water, add the urad dal, turmeric, bay leaves, and salt. Bring to a boil again and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove any froth that accumulates on the surface. Stir once, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes over a medium-low flame until the da! beans can be mashed between two fingers. Then let simmer.

2. Put the ghee in a small saucepan over a medium flame and fry the black mustard seeds and crushed chilies. Cover the pan to prevent the mustard seeds from jumping out. When the mustard seeds have finished popping, put this masala into the yogurt and pour it into the dal. Stir to blend well. Continue cooking for 5 minutes. Offer to Krsna.

Apple Chutney

(Seb ki chatni)

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6

2 pounds apples 
1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long
½ teaspoon anise seeds
2 or 3 dried chilies, crushed
5 cloves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 pinch asafetida (optional)
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons sugar

1. Wash, peel, and core the apples. Then cut them into small chunks. Heat the ghee in a saucepan over a medium flame. When the ghee begins to smoke, drop in the ginger, cinnamon sticks, anise seeds, chilies, and cloves. Stir-fry until the anise seeds darken. Immediately add the turmeric and asafetida, then the apple chunks. Stir-fry for 5 or 6 minutes to brown the apples. Then add the water.

2. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the apples are soft. Mash the apples in the pot. Add the sugar, increase the heat, and stir continuously until the chutney thickens. Offer to Krsna at room temperature.