Experiment: Roti (Indian flatbread)
Indian cookery does include leavened, or raised dough breads, with Naan being the most widely known variety, but flatbreads, in a multitude of forms are much more commonly prepared in the home kitchen. There are very specific sorts… Chapati and Paratha, for example… but ‘Roti’ is a more of an umbrella term, derived from the Sanskrit word for ‘bread’, that includes both of these sub-types as well as a host of others. The following is my recipe for a moderately simple variety…
- 1 cup all-purpose Flour (plus a bit extra for kneading and rolling the dough)
- ½ tsp. Salt
- 1 tbsp. rendered Pork fat
- ½ cup hot water, or as needed
- 1 tsp. Ajwain seed (optional)
- 1 tbsp. dried Fenugreek leaf (optional)
The pork fat is not a common ingredient in Roti but I like it for the very nice flavor it adds. You can substitute ghee, butter or vegetable oil if you prefer, or even omit the fat component entirely, if that suits you. Indeed, if you follow the general instructions for this recipe using whole-wheat, or Atta flour, and no oil or fat, you will produce the very simplest sort of Chapati.
Put the flour, salt and fat into the bowl of your food processor along with the optional ingredients, if using, and pulse until the fat is incorporated and a granular, mealy type of mix is obtained.
Continue to blend and add the hot water a few tablespoons at a time until the dough begins to come together. As soon as it forms a solid ball, stop adding water and remove the dough.
Knead the dough ball on a flat surface, incorporating a little more flour if the mix as still a bit sticky. Keep kneading until the ball is nicely elastic and ‘feels’ right, and then set it aside to rest in a covered bowl for at least 30 minutes.
When you are ready to continue, divide the ball into 6 equal portions and then roll them out into thin rounds, using extra flour to keep them from sticking to your rolling surface. I usually heat my griddle when I start this and then cook each roti whilst I am rolling out the next. If you roll yours all out in advance then it is a good idea to keep them covered with a damp cloth until you are ready to cook. After rolling, make sure you shake off all the excess flour.
Cook each roti on a griddle over medium to medium-high heat, flipping after thirty seconds or so when the top starts to bubble in places.
Once you flip them, the roti may ‘balloon’ as the air in the dough expands. This doesn’t always happen but is a good sign that you will have nice, light roti to enjoy. Just press down with a spatula after a few seconds.
As you cook each flatbread, keep them covered and, if you are not going to serve them immediately you can wrap them tightly in foil and re-heat them in a warm oven later, or else wrap them in plastic and give them a quick ‘zap’ in the microwave’ In either case, you may want to brush them with a little melted butter first.
Nice warm roti can be eaten plain with a little butter, or perhaps some pickle, or else served alongside a dal, or curry of some type. The particular batch I made for this post is going to be eaten with a minced meat curry and some side dishes… My wife especially likes spooning some of the meat mixture, as well as some chopped onion and tomato and hot pickle into each roti and eating it out of hand as a sort of wrap…