Well my friends, it's been a long absence. I wish I could offer a cogent reason for being away that I could successfully communicate. However, as with all crisis, my will to reach out during my tumultuous time was diminished, and now reflecting back, I think it better to just move on. I thank those of you who were kind enough to write expressing your concern and offer your prayers, and to those who simply wondered where I was, I also say thank you for thinking of me.
It's fitting after this long hiatus to offer a rare glimpse at one of my wife's specialties. Whenever we meet with members of her family, they always seem in awe that I do most of the cooking at home since in their world, it's part of the duty of a wife to cook for her family. The idea that I might actually enjoy cooking never seems to enter their heads. So, last week my wife suggested I make pumpkin curry a favorite of both of us. Normally, we eat it with one of the many flat breads available in our area .This time however, Neeta (the current wife) suggested she make roti for the meal. When I asked why this strange change of heart about cooking she said, "So next time someone asks you if I cook, you can say yes". And all this time I thought she was immune to family pressure! I should take advantage of it, but hey, I do love to cook. In any case, here's my wife's method for making roti or nan or what the Trinadadians call "Bus' up shot"
A good clean space is essential. We use our Formica counter top cleared of its' usual debris.
Measuring for one roti. In a meal for the two of us, she will measure out 3 &1/2 handfuls.
For each handful, she pours a generous pinch (?) of baking powder. This recipe is rather forgiving. Don't worry too much about getting the measurement correct. Learn by doing.
Add water slowly, kneading the mixture as you go.
When the dough comes together, it will be a somewhat elastic and dry mass almost like pizza dough.
Form it into a ball, sprinkle the top of the dough and the rolling surface with flour and roll the dough into a flat, thin oval. If you've done the previous step correctly, the dough should roll out quite easily. Turn it once or twice as you are rolling it.
Here is the dough fully rolled out (enough for 3 regular and one small roti). Before preceding, add a small amount of vegetable oil and spread it over the top of the dough.
Starting at the top, carefully roll the oval as tightly as possible.
Now cut the roll into the desired number of roti pieces (in this case, 3 regular size as measured by Neeta's hand and 1 smaller one.
Using your fingers push down on the ends of each roti to form a somewhat compact roll pushed in at the top and bottom as shown. Dip each finished roll into the flour coating them lightly.
Now, let them rest for about 5 to 7 minutes.
To continue, form each roll into a flat oval shape with your hands. This is the tricky part because it involves timing. Neeta makes each roti individually. As the first is cooking, she will quickly roll out the second. There are five steps: Shaping the rolls as shown, rolling them, cooking one side on a heated griddle while you dab oil over the uncooked surface, flipping the roti and oiling the cooked surface, then clapping the finished roti in your hands till it shreds a little.
Step 2: Rolling out the individual roti. (If this were not the first one, the previous one would be on the griddle)
Step 3: The rolled roti is placed on your open palm and slapped down onto the heated (dry)griddle. (not as hard to do as it sounds. Practice makes perfect!) Then using a brush or a bunched up paper towel dab the surface with oil. The first side will cook less than a minute (40 seconds?), so quickly turn your attention to the others.
Step 4: You can use a spatula or simply pick up the edges of the roti (carefully) and turn it. Then, dab oil on the surface as in Step 3. Almost immediately you will see the roti start to swell and puff up. Notice the browning of the cooked side. These are thin and lightly cooked.
Step 5: This is the step that takes a little practice to get right. Using a spatula, remove the finished roti from the griddle and bring it over to the mixing bowl. Notice, Neeta has moved the bowl into the sink as she finds it easier to work this step with the bowl in a lower position. You must take the finished roti in your hands folding it once and clapping the roti between your hands alternating from side to side till the roti takes on a raggged appearance specially at the edges. Perhaps 5 or 6 claps are necessary and you can drop the roti into the bowl if it gets too hot to handle. The finished roti is folded twice and placed in the bowl till all four are done. Back home in Guyana, roti is the preferred utensil for eating all curries. Get adventurous! Try this recipe.