Sunday, March 3, 2013

Roti - Everyday Bread (Chapati)

Soft, fresh Roti also known as chapati is a simple unleavened flat bread of India served daily in every home - rich and poor alike.  It has only two ingredients: whole wheat flour with a pinch of salt; and  a little water - that is it!  They are best freshly made and served with a choice of a lentil or bean dish such as Simple dalporicha kuzhambuChunky Chana Dal, etc for protein complementarity. Add vegetable curries, plain yogurt, raitas, a pickle or a chutney or two ... and you will have a sumptuous feast.  Rotis are also delicious served with Frijoles Mexicanas (simple pinto beans) and Salsa ISalsa II or Avocado Salsa.  Chellu loves to spread his last one with a bit of butter/vegan margarine and add a drizzle honey or a sprinkle of sugar for an instant dessert - YUM!

Although it is a simple recipe, it takes practice to roll out perfect circles evenly.  But don't let the long description deter you from trying out this recipe - once you try these rotis, you will not want to eat store-bought ones.  Cooking up soft roti is kitchen artistry at its finest :-).  We loved to roll out our own rotis as little children and Amma obliged by cooking the less than perfect rotis. Not only did we love  eating the fruits of our labor, but also found it very interesting to figure out whether the rotis were shaped like America, Australia, or Africa!  Two for the price of one - we learned cooking and geography at the same time :-).

Rotis may be prepared with or without oil/ghee/butter while cooking; both ways produce good rotis.  It is really a matter of personal preference.  Cooked over flames/coals or on a griddle, well-puffed rotis are also called phulkas - "inflated ones" - these are prepared without oil or other fat.  

8 Rotis ~ 2 - 4 servings 


1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (200 g)
1 pinch Sea Salt
About 1/2 cup water (150 ml)
Ghee/Butter/Vegan Spread/Oil to smear on top (optional)


Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl; make a hole in the center of the flour mix.

Depending on the season and/or storage conditions, flour may require more or less water; so start with a little less and add a sprinkle as needed to make a firm but pliable dough.

Knead the dough into a smooth pliable ball; it should be satiny and not sticky at all.

Place the dough in an air-tight container or wrap in cling wrap and let rest for 30 minutes; if the dough is prepared in advance, chill in the fridge until needed. The dough will last two or three days if well chilled.

Divide the dough into 8 portions and roll firmly into smooth discs. Chilled dough can be used while still cold.

Dip the discs of dough into dry flour and roll out evenly into thin circles approximately 7 inches or so in diameter using a rolling pin; dredge the dough circles lightly in flour shaking off any excess flour as often as necessary to keep from getting sticky while rolling out.

Cook the roti on a preheated griddle or skillet: cook for about 30 seconds or so until the top changes color slightly; flip over to cook the other side.  Adjust the heat to keep them from burning.

When small light brown spots appear and small bubbles form, turn roti over and press gently but firmly with a spatula until the whole roti puffs up (wad of paper towel or soft clean kitchen towel may also be used to press down on the rotis) - be careful not to pop the bubbles.  The bubbles are full of STEAM! Popping the roti will release a burst of steam which can cook your hand - so do be cautious.

The rotis may also be cooked over direct flames or hot coals instead of pressing to puff up - but be careful not to burn them - it should only take a few moments!  Using tongs, hold the partially cooked roti over medium flames/coals until it inflates - this happens in a few seconds.  Use of a grill a few inches above the heat source will keep the roti from burning.

If you decide to cook with oil/ghee, smear the fat after turning the roti over once.  Then turn over and smear a bit more on the other side and press down the edges so the roti comes in contact with the hot surface and cooks evenly.

Remove from heat and place on a cloth/paper towel lined plate and cover loosely until all the rotis are made.

The tops of the dry-cooked rotis may be smeared with a little ghee, butter, or vegan spread if you wish as you stack them.

Serve hot with your favorite accompaniments.  Enjoy!!

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