Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Roti, India's wonderfully edible eating utensil.

I'm sick and tired of making curry and forgetting to have any flatbread with it. It's vital stuff. Flatbread is great for scooping up curry bits and sopping up delicious sauce. Why use a spoon when you can eat a flatbread and use it as a utensil at once? Naan is super tasty, but sometimes I don't really have the time or the yogurt to make it. In times like that, especially if I'm making something with a South Indian accent, I have to have Roti. Unlike Naan, Roti has no yeast, so you automatically get to skip the time-consuming act of rises and proofs. On top of that, it's mostly made from whole grain flour. This recipe is a riff from Dino's recipe, who has a great recipe. His calls for wheat germ (which I never have) and a blend of aromatic spices. Nothing wrong there, but I like to use ajowan and black onion seeds in my flatbread (If you can't find these, omit them, its not going to make or break this). He also uses all whole grain flour, where I prefer a 3:2 ratio of whole grain to semolina, to make it extra stretchy. You can find stuff called Durum Atta which would be even better for the task at Indian grocers, but my ratio works pretty well.

At any rate, enough rambling. Here's what you need:

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup slightly warm water
  • 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tsp ajowan seeds
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Olive oil, for brushing

Begin by crushing your ajowan seeds. I use a mortar and pestle but whatever gets the job done is what you want. Also, go ahead and pre-heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat so it has time to absorb enough heat to cook.

Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl and form a well. Add in your water.

Mix well to combine and form a dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead about ten minutes or so.

From here, chafe your dough into a ball and cut it into eight equal segments.

Ball up each segment as you work. Flour your work surface and rolling pin a little, and form a nice 10-12" circle, flipping and turning the dough as you go. You want the dough about 1/8" thick give or take.

Drop each rolled dough onto the skillet and let it cook for a couple of minutes, until the dough on top turns a slightly darker shade and it releases from the skillet, allowing you to move it with a spatula.

Flip that over, and use a spatula, griddle weight, or clean towel to press the roti firmly all over. That'll help it to puff a little. Cook another couple of minutes and remove from heat. Dab a little olive oil onto a paper towel and slather that on the roti before putting it on a plate and covering to keep warm.

Soon you'll have a nice warm stack of delicious-smelling roti. Hope you have some curry! If not, that's okay too. I like to snack on em even when I don't have curry. I keep a jar of mango pickle just for such an occasion.

If you haven't had mango pickle or any other Indian pickle before, it's basically fruit that's preserved in salt, oil, and spices. The flavor is very intense, and a little goes a long way. Since this is mango, it's a lot of chunky mango bits, peel included.


What you don't eat warm off the skillet, go ahead and wrap in foil and parchment paper. It'll keep in the freezer just fine, and you can reheat them whenever you feel the urge.

Once again, thanks Dino for another winning idea from your book. For anybody reading this, if you haven't gotten your copy of Alternative Vegan yet, do so ASAP. Even if you aren't vegan, it's definitely going to give you a wide variety of great ideas in the kitchen.

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