Easy cooking ideas for Singles # 20- How to make Roti or Flatbread
How to make roti is a question I am usually asked.Chapati, phulka, roti is the quintessential flatbread eaten in India. No meal in India, especially north, is complete without this. Like rice is the staple in south India, roti is the favorite in the north. Making a roti is tricky and an art to be learned; both softness and shape wise. My parents were born in Pakistan and roti my mom used to say that it originated somewhere in the North-West Frontier. Roti is made from milled, whole-wheat flour, traditionally known as atta. It is rolled on a flat surface (Punjabi chakla and belna is the rolling pin) and cooked on a slightly concave iron griddle called a tawa.I have a marble chakla and love to roll my rotis on it. Like bread around the world is an accompaniment to other foods, roti is a staple with dal (lentil soup) or curry. The rolling pin is a handy weapon; brandish it to threaten your husband when he does not toe the line!
I have many anecdotes about this humble roti. In the North rotis were made in bulk. No one counted and ate like 2 rotis and you are done. One could eat 2 to 10 or more, so there were leftovers and these leftover or Bayi (stale) rotis. In the morning, this leftover roti was given in the hand and a dollop of fresh homemade butter was dropped in the center. Good roti or bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.
Come night and we siblings would gather on grandma’s bed and she would narrate stories of Guru Nanak Dev ji (Founder of Sikhism). Around 1574, Guru Nanak reached Manikaran Sahib (Gurudwara in the Himalayas) with his two disciples Bala and Mardana. They had been walking since days and Mardana said he was starving, but with no fire to cook he couldn’t eat. Then Guru Nanak asked him to lift a stone and he found hot water spring underneath it. He asked his disciple to roll out rotis and drop them in the spring. But to Mardana’s agony, the rotis drowned. But then a couple of minutes later they bobbed up, perfectly done. Since that day, it is believed that anything you put in the Hot Spring will float and to this day, all the langar at the Gurudwara is cooked in or above these hot springs. I have witnessed and partook the langar there and it is true.
As kids we loved taking the dough from mom and rolling out all sorts of shapes, playing with it like clay. And while playing, I didn’t even realize when I started rolling out round rotis. I started cooking at the age of 12 and my mom used to make me do the roti-making. Initially, while learning, my rotis did not puff up and if any did, she would say if the person (my dad!) you are making the roti for is very hungry then that roti would puff up! My dad always wanted piping hot roti to land from the fire, straight into his plate and I would run to serve him hot rotis.
2 cups wheat flour
1 cup water
Take the flour in a wide bowl and make a well in the flour. Add water little by little and start making a smooth dough. Roti, like love, takes time, nurturing, strong loving hands and lots of patience. My mom used to take a shining brass Thali (wide dish) with the flour and water. She would knead the dough with so much love and serenity and all the rotis would turn out fluffy and soft. These days we stand and finish the dough in a minute; no wonder the roti doesn’t rise! Once the dough is soft and pliable, cover it with a muslin cloth and keep aside for 15 minutes.
Now place a tawa or griddle on the burner and let it heat. Make small balls with the dough and roll them in some flour and roll out one by one. Place the rolled out roti on the tawa, once you see the dough rising a bit, flip it over. Then the other side starts rising a bit then flip it over again and with a napkin gently press on the roti and it will rise all over. Once it is done remove from fire and serve hot or brush it with some ghee (clarified butter) if you are not counting your calories. Instead of pressing with the napkin you can even roast it over the open fire.Serve hot with any dal or curry of your choice.
The pictures give a step by step account of roti making.
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