I have been trying to perfect this recipe for some time now.
Growing up, in our family and in even in V’s, chappati, roti, phulka were interchangeable words for the same thing. When I came here, my friend who is from the south of India said that for them there is a difference between roti and chappati. She said, that in the south, chapati is traditionally made using a 3 fold process turning the dough into a triangular shape and then rolled out into a circle. Each layer is well oiled, resulting in thin layers. In my family (and even V’s), this is how we make a plain parantha.
A roti (or what we north indians also call chappati or phulka) are kind of like indian styled tortillas. Roti is a traditional unleavened whole-wheat bread which, depending on the cook, can be as thin as paper or thick as pita. Small portions of the dough are rolled out into discs much like a Mexican tortilla, using a rolling pin. The rolled-out dough is thrown on the preheated dry skillet and cooked on both sides. Sometimes after partially cooking it on the skillet/tawa, it is then put directly on a high flame, which makes it blow up like a balloon. The hot air cooks the chapati rapidly from the inside. In some parts of northern India (e.g. Punjab), this is called a phulka (that which has been inflated). After cooking, the top of the chappati/roti can be slathered with some ghee or butter. Deep fried versions are known as “poori”.
Even before going gluten free for this month, in my normal chappatis/rotis I would incorporate different grains. I would generally mix 2 cups of whole wheat flour with 1/4 cup each of soy, ragi, bajra, jowar, ground flax and sunflower seeds, and a bit of wheat germ. The rotis made out of this flour were more hearty and healthier than the traditional 100% whole wheat rotis. Plus, V and I got the added benefit of protein, iron, omega-6 fatty acids in our meal.
But since I decided to go gluten free, chappatis tend to be the biggest problem. I can’t add wheat to my flour mix. And without xantham gums and other helpers, making a dough with gluten free flours is very difficult. It keeps tearing.
One day, while on this diet, I had lunch at my friend’s place (the one who is from south of India). She served me these ragi paranthas. They tasted like dal paranthas, with onions, green chillies and dill incorporated in the dough. The way she made them took some time. She had two pans on the stove and would pat a ball of dough with her hands onto one of the cold pans, patting till it was sufficiently big. And then cooked. She said this takes time to make, but if you boil a bit of the flour with water and then add the rest of the flour, you can roll the dough out like how you do traditional whole wheat rotis.
My friend gave me the ratio of 2:1, 2 cups water to 1 cup flour. She wasn’t sure, since she adds without measuring. I tried the 2:1 ratio last week. And it didn’t work. It was too sticky. I reduced the water and didn’t do the boiling technique my friend had told, though I added hot water- the ratio was still a little off, and I still could not roll out with a rolling pin and had to use my hand and 2 sheets of parchment paper to roll out the rotis, a method popularly used in all the sites I found (some used polythene, but the idea was the same).
Today again I set off to make the rotis. This time kept the ratio 1:1 with a tbsp of oil and salt. And used the boiling method. In 1 cup of water I added 2 tsp of the ragi flour and let the mixture boil. Once boiling, I added 1 cup ragi flour, salt and oil, and switched off the gas. I then mixed it with a wooden spoon. While mixing, I added some chopped dill. Once it was not that hot to touch, I kneaded the dough a bit and it was perfect- not sticky, nor dry. I was able to roll out the rotis with my rolling pin. I oiled the dough balls a little before rolling, this ensured that the dough doesn’t stick to the pin. Also, lifting the dough as you roll it out, ensures that when you roll it out completely no part of it is sticking, eliminating any tears.
Besides being gluten free, these rotis are really really good for you. Ragi flour or finger millet flour is a rich source of calcium, iron and has a high content of protein. Ragi is also great for weight control, diabetes and cooling the body. Ragi based foods are also highly suited for expectant mothers and elderly due to there high calcium and iron content.
I generally add grated carrot, dill/fenugreek leaves/ cilantro leaves, onions, green chillies to the dough. You can also choose to add grated mooli, ajjwain, and anything else you feel like.
The recipe below makes 4 rotis, and trust me these are enough for 2 people. I just make sure I use a little more dough for making V’s 2 rotis and a little less dough for making my 2 rotis.
- 1 cup ragi flour, plus 2 tsp
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp oil
- salt, to taste
- Dill leaves/fenugreek leaves/ cilantro
- ajjwain or carom seeds
- onions, finely choppes
- grated carrot
- grated daikon (mooli)
- In a saucepan, add the water and 2 tsp flour. Mix and let the water come to boil.
- Once boiling, add the rest of the flour and remove pan from fire.
- Add the any additions and the oil, salt. Mix with a wooden spoon. Keep a few minutes to let cool and then transfer to a work surface and knead. The dough will have this nice sheen to it.
- Cover under a wet cloth, and let rest a few minutes.
- When ready to cook, heat a skillet/tawa on medium heat.
- Divide the dough into 4 large balls. Working with one ball at a time, and a little oil, roll out the ball into a circle, making sure you lift the circle, while rolling so that it doesn’t stick.
- Cook on the tawa/griddle/skillet. To cook, put the rolled out dough on the pre heated tawa, and cover with a lid. Let cook on one side till its easy to lift it off and flip the rolled out dough. Apply a little oil on the side that’s facing the top. Cover again for a few seconds till the other side cooks. Take the lid off, and flip the roti. Smear with a little oil and cook uncovered till the roti is cooked.