Roti is a wonderful unleavened bread served hot from the griddle. Along with its variations, such as phulka and chapatti, it is a staple in many parts of the world, especially the Caribbean, India and the Middle East. There are myriad fillings. One of my favorites, a popular Indian dish of lamb with onions and mushrooms, inspired by a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, makes a perfect filling although not originally intended as such.
The roti are simple to make, but should be prepared just before serving. I serve a hot stack of roti alongside a bowl of the filling. A couple of spoonfuls of filling is placed on the roti which is folded over and eaten by hand.
Filling ingredients (serves 4 – 6)
2 lbs. boned shoulder of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-cubes
5 medium onions
Vegetable oil (enough to coat skillet by 1/8 inch)
¼ t whole black onion seeds (kalonji), if available
½ t whole fennel seeds
¼ t whole cumin seeds
15 fenugreek seeds
½ cup plain yogurt
1 t salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
¼ t cayenne pepper
½ lb. fresh mushrooms
1. Peel and halve the onions lengthwise. Slice into 1/8-inch half-rings.
2. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet. Fry onions in high heat until they begin to turn dark brown in spots and soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir as you do this.
3. Remove onions with a slotted spoon and set aside.
4. In the same skillet place the black onion seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds.
5. As soon as the fennel seeds begin to darken, put the meat in the skillet and fry on all sides until well browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
6. While meat browns, place yogurt in a small bowl and slowly beat in ½ cup water with a fork. Pour into the skillet.
7. Add salt, pepper and cayenne and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium low, cover and cook for 25 minutes.
8. Clean mushrooms. Cut off ends of stems. If small, leave whole; if larger, cut into smaller pieces.
9. Add to skillet, stir, cover and cook another 25 minutes until meat is tender.
10 Uncover and add onions. Raise heat to medium to reduce liquid. The only sauce should be what clings to the meat. Check for salt and serve.
Ingredients (makes 16 roti) You’ll need a flat cast iron griddle.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
2 T vegetable oil
1 ½ cups warm water
1. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and oil in a mixing bowl.
2. Add water and pull together with your hand until a soft dough forms. Add a little more water as needed. Dough should clean bowl. It might still be slightly sticky but not “wet”.
3. Place on a floured surface and knead into a smooth ball. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest 15 minutes.
4. Roll out into a log shape with your hands and pinch off sections to form balls the size of golf balls.
5. Heat a flat cast iron griddle to hot but not smoking.
6. Roll out a ball of dough with a small rolling pin to a 5-inch circle the thickness of a nickel. Roll on one side only. Don’t turn over. Use enough flour to prevent sticking.
7. Place roti on the dry hot griddle, rolled side down. Cook until bubbles begin to form on surface. Check underside to look for brown spots. Flip over.
8. Cook until both sides have brown bubbly spots. Brush one side with clarified butter or melted ghee. You will need to adjust heat from time to time. It should take about 45 seconds to one minute per side to cook.
9. Place on a plate in a warm (180 degree) oven. Continue with remainder of roti placing in a stack in the oven. Serve immediately with hot lamb filling.
Photographer Bill Brady