Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Perfect Roti Recipe

Roti is the perfect complement to almost any Indian dish, and is actually quite easy to make. Easier, according to mum, than rice. This is her recipe and method...

  • 1 litre of Cake Flour
  • 500 millilitres of Boiling Water
  • 60 millilitres of Vegetable Oil
An electric mixer is invaluable to those wishing to avoid scalded fingers. Put all of the ingredients except for a very small amount of the water (about 10ml) into an electric mixer and mix thoroughly. Use the reserved water to moisten the dough if it is too dry. It should neither crumble nor ooze; it should simply hold its shape without being too sticky or tough.

Remove the dough from the bowl and roll it into one or two long rolls about 5 cm in diameter using your hands. Put this dough roll onto a floured board (the flour is essential in preventing the dough from sticking to the board, remember to use it well, but carefully as it can dry out the dough!). Break off small balls of dough by taking a handful from the end of the roll and twisting. Flatten each of the resulting balls to form a small dough discus and set aside under a dish-cloth. This keeps the dough moist as you roll each out.

 Small discs next to already rolled rotis. Both can overlap, as they shouldn't stick to each other very much. Once the rotis are rolled, they can be handled quite easily, just don't keep them suspended long enough to sag.

Flour the board and roll each of the discs into thin and as-circular-as-you-can-manage circles. Mum has a special method of doing so when it's not too sticky, and if I can convince her to let me film her explaining it, I'll find a way to put it up here. For now, just know that she keeps the left end of the rolling pin above the middle of disc and presses away from herself with her right hand. This pushes the disc in an anti-clockwise spin and flattens it evenly as it spins. This works better than rolling in many directions fixing imperfections. The rolled out rotis can be kept on a floured surface or - preferably - a tablecloth until they are ready to be cooked, although not for too long otherwise they'll cook stiff. Also, make sure the kitchen is not to breezy as that will dry out the dough.

A Thawa: basically a heavy steel pan without sides, perfect for making roti.

To cook them, you'll need a Thawa, but if you haven't got one to hand, then any pan with a sufficiently large flat and thick bottom will do. Grease the pan with butter (or oil) and turn the heat on high. Allow the pan to heat up and then turn it down to medium-high heat. Pick up a rolled roti and place it on the pan.  Allow it to cook for a few seconds, then spin it with your fingertips by touching the surface with all fingers very briefly and twisting, pausing every few turns to let it cook. Keep doing so until faint white spots appear on the top of the roti. Then, you can do what mum does and pull it to the edge, pick it up and flip it over. Or you can do what I do, and use a lifter. Her way is cooler and more accomplished, mine safer and more suited to a novice. Either way, turn over the roti and keep spinning it with your fingers.

What is now the top should be evenly dotted with white spots, and a few light brown patches are okay too. That's the dough beginning to cook. Lift the edge every few seconds after about 20 seconds of cooking and when medium dark spots (like those in the picture above) establish themselves on the side touching the pan, flip it back over so that the roti is now back in its original position. If you have already cooked a few rotis, then place a cooked on one on top of the current roti and spin it, pressing gently.
If the roti is cooking perfectly, it will begin to puff up. This means the roti will be airy and soft. Be careful! These pockets are full of very hot steam which can escape suddenly. A dearth of air pockets is not the end of the world; the roti should be okay anyways. Press down carefully to spread the air pocket around as far as you can, and then pinch the rotis together, lift them and put them both onto the pile. Ideally, three should therefore be the maximum number of times the roti is cooked; any more will cause it to become stiff.
Keep the pile covered and somewhat insulated otherwise they may dry out or cool. I recommend a high sided dish with a lid, lined with grease-proof paper with extra paper to cover the top. Once you've cooked them all, cover the top of the pile with the grease paper and a dish cloth. This should keep the rotis warm and toasty until they're served.


  1. I cannot wait to try these, but I have no idea where cake flour might be (and Spanish mixers are really strange). Do you think normal flour would do?

  2. I haven't tried it before, so I can't say for sure. All I do know is that cake flour is to normal flour as castor sugar is to normal sugar. That is, it's much finer or softer. and there's some starch difference. I imagine that would have some bearing only on the texture of the final product.

    Oh, okay, so I found a rough guide to substituting cake flour with plain flour. 'Subtract 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup used in the recipe.'

    Good luck! (:

    (actually, the website is very interesting:


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