These unleavened flatbreads are made fresh in every Indian home each night.
Roti use simple ingredients, but are fiendishly difficult to roll. If they are not perfectly circular and an even thickness, they won’t inflate, and an uninflated roti is an excruciating failure in the tyranny of the domestic Indian kitchen. A tawa is a flat iron pan on which the roti is sealed over a high heat. These pans are heirlooms – the older the better. We in India finish the rotis over an open fire. Flashing the sealed rotis over a gas ring works a treat.
1. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt and vegetable oil and combine. Start mixing and add a little water, then keep mixing and continuing to add upto 240ml/8½fl oz/2 cups water until it forms a dough. Knead the dough for 5
minutes until it turns soft and smooth. Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes under a damp cloth.
2. Start making ping pong-size balls by rolling pieces of dough in the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball, sprinkle some wholemeal flour on the ball and a little on your work surface.
3. Set a tawa over a medium-high heat (if you don’t have a tawa, use a medium-size non-stick frying pan) and while it’s warming up, start rolling your rotis. As you roll your roti it should be moving in a slight circular motion. Keep rolling until you have a flat circle. If the roti starts to stick, just sprinkle over a little more flour.
4. Start by placing the roti on your pan. You want the first side to be about a quarter cooked and the time of this will vary. Turn the roti over and cook the other side. You want this side a little more cooked than the first, with light brown spots.
5. Now take the roti with a pair of tongs and carefully place over your gas flame burner. The roti will start to puff up. Turn it over with the tongs and set it back on the flame – it will puff more. Be careful not to burn the rotis and make sure you don’t overcook it as it will turn hard. Serve the rotis straight away.
From Mowgli Street Food: Stories and recipes from the Mowgli Street Food restaurants by Nisha Katona. Nourish Books, 2018. Commissioned photography by Yuki Sugiura. Hardback.
Visit our Indian recipe section for a whole range of cookery ideas