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Cornmeal Roti

(Photo by su-lin/Flickr)

(Photo by su-lin/Flickr)

These discs of flat bread have a warm yellow color and slightly sweet
flavor, and stay moist and pliable after cooking. The type of cornmeal
to use is a very finely ground yellow cornmeal usually available in
Indian grocers and not the coarser Italian type sold as polenta.

Makes 8-10.


250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon ghee or butter, melted
1/2 cup fine-ground yellow cornmeal
1 ear tender fresh corn (optional)*
150 g/5 oz/1 1/4 cups atta or roti flour


Combine cold water, salt, sugar, butter and cornmeal in a medium
saucepan, stirring until there are no lumps in the cornmeal. Place over
low heat and stir constantly until mixture boils and thickens. Turn
heat as low as possible, cover the pan and leave over heat for 3
minutes. Remove to a bowl and allow to cool to lukewarm. Add corn (if
using) and atta or roti flour and mix to a pliable dough. It may be
necessary to add a little extra flour or a few drops of water to
achieve a consistency which will allow the dough to be kneaded. On a
lightly floured surface, knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth. Cover
closely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 1 hour.

Divide the dough into egg-sized portions, rolling each one into a
smooth ball with floured hands. On a lightly floured surface, roll each
one with a lightly floured rolling pin to as perfect a circle as
possible. The rotis should be thinly rolled, and about the size of a
bread-and-butter plate. When all are rolled out, start cooking them,
starting with those that were rolled first. The brief resting after
rolling gives a lighter result.

Heat a tawa or heavy frying pan (non-stick if possible) and cook rotis
over medium heat in a dry pan. No fat is used. Allow the first side to
cook undisturbed for a minute, then flip the roti over and cook the
second side for a minute. Now comes the interesting part. After the
first couple of minutes cooking the roti is gently pressed, first
around the edges and then in the centre, with a folded tea towel or
with a frying slice. This encourages rising.

Small bubbles make the texture light and delicious and often the roti
will puff like a balloon. Turn once and press the other side also. Stop
the cooking when there are a few brown spots on the roti. Stack rotis
on clean tea towel and fold the towel over them to keep warm while
cooking the rest. Serve with dry, spiced dishes or simply spread with
butter as a snack.

*If sweet corn is in season, take an ear of very fresh and tender corn
and with a sharp knife slice off the tops of the kernels. Save them to
use in another dish such as Spinach and Corn Bhaji. Scrape the sweet
milky juice from the corn into a bowl using a spoon or the back of a
knife. Avoid the outer skin of the kernels. A single ear of corn should
yield the 1/4 cup you need. In case you're wondering why the tops of
the kernels are not included in the roti, they make holes in the dough
when rolling it thinly. Canned creamed corn may not be used for the
same reason.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998).

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