Friday 1 April 2011

The Real Roti

Yet again I find myself craving for another delicacy which I took for granted when it was on my doorstep, when I lived, it seems like a lifetime ago, in Shepherds Bush.  Quashie’s Roti Hut, which I believe is unfortunately now closed, was a regular haunt of mine, for the fantastic goat or Channa (Chickpea) Rotis.  An establishment of irregular hours, you could always tell when it was finally open, by the masses of cars pulled up outside, their doors open, music playing and the hoards gathering,  vaguely threatening outside.  All hoods and bling.  I always felt a bit intimidated queuing, as a certain ethnic minority, and the wait always seemed long. Often it was, but it worth it when you finally got your flaky Roti, each layer sandy, dusty with  cornmeal, inside steaming hot, spicy curry.  Delicious. 

Luckily, even if Quashie’s has now gone, you can still buy fresh goat at Shepherd’s Bush Market.  In fact you can buy it at most good Halal butchers so to recreate the Goat Curry was easy, as was the Chickpea Curry, and both recipes are very tasty. The Rotis skins, as they are called,  proved far more difficult and the first  recipe I give is for a Paratha Roti.  It is fantastically flaky but it is slightly difficult to roll and is better used as a bread to serve with your curry. I am not exactly sure that it is exactly the right roti for wrapping but as much as I search I can’t find a better one. So, I give an alternative method which is rolled raw and then cooked.  I was very sceptical about this method, but it really works and you get a delicious flaky crust.

When researching Rotis, I found it fascinating that a recipe from East India or Sri Lanka could be so identical to one from Trinidad, when geographically they are so far apart. With just the Indian Ocean, Africa and the South Atlantic Ocean separating them, it seems amazing that they could have the same dish on the menu.  It would appear that East Indian contract labourers brought the recipe to the Caribbean and parts of South America as early as the 1840’s and it had become very much ingrained in their current cultures.  In fact it would seem that most food in Trinidad and Tobago has been influenced by East Indian cookery, although it has now transgressed somewhat from the original, to find its own identity. 


Roti (Paratha)

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) plain flour
5 ml spoon (1 tsp.) baking powder
5 ml spoon (1 tsp.) salt
50 g (2 oz)  ghee
cold water to bind
250 ml (1/2 pt) ghee
little extra flour
Fine cornmeal

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in ghee with fingertips until fat is in small flakes. Add enough cold water to make a fairly stiff, but not sticky, dough. Knead well until smooth, then cover bowl and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Knead dough again for 3-4 minutes, then divide into 8 equal balls. Roll out each ball on a lightly floured board into a circle, about 20 cm (8 in) diameter.
Brush each circle all over with ghee, then sprinkle lightly with flour and a little cornmeal. Fold each circle in half, then in half again. Cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Roll out each piece into a circle again, as thin as you can.  Make sure it is evenly thin otherwise parts will not cook. Brush with ghee, then place in a large frying pan or a baking sheet on top of the hob, like I did. Cook on both sides, brushing with ghee again to prevent sticking, for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and clap each roti with both hands until pliable again. Stack on top of each other with fine corn meal in between each one and cover with a towel whilst the other rotis are cooked. It is important to stack them like this to allow them to steam very slightly or they will be to crispy to roll.

I know as a chef I should really be a “bones, fat and all” sort of person, but I am not.  I do not like lumps of gristle or gelatinous fat.  Also, for a roti, you can’t have chunks of bone in it, so for my recipe, I bought leg of goat and asked the butcher to take it off the bone and cut it into small cubes, which he happily did for me. The going price seems to be about £5.99 a kilo.  I also picked up some Curried Goat Seasoning made by Tropical Sun which I had heard is a good brand for Caribean spices.  It is a mix of Coriander, Fenugreek, Cumin, Chilli powder, Garlic, Ginger, Cardamon, Fennel, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Onion, Cinnamon and rubbed Thyme, but obviously you can add whatever combination you like.  I looked at a lot of recipes before adapting this one.  Beware of recipes with Lime Juice in them, as Goat Curry can be quite acidic.  If your curry is slightly acidic add some yoghurt or a little cream to balance it.

Goat Curry

1 kg leg of goat, diced
2 tbsp Goat Curry Seasoning
1 tbsp fresh thyme, very finely chopped
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil
1 tin of plum tomatoes, chopped
2 onions, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Knob of fresh Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Water or stock
Handful of coriander

Season the goat with the curry powder, thyme and black pepper and leave to marinate overnight.  Season the meat with salt.  Heat the oil in a pan and cook the goat pieces until golden brown. Do this in  small batches.  Remove the goat with a slotted spoon and add the onions and garlic and some more  oil.  Cook until the onions are soft and just beginning to colour.  Add the tomatoes and then add it to the meat. Cover the meat with water or stock and bring to the boil.  Turn down, cover and cook for a few hours until goat is tender. When ready, remove goat from pan, simmer sauce till reduced by half, then return meat to pan and add a handful of freshly chopped coriander.

Chickpea and Potato Curry

100g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight or 1 tin of chickpeas
2 potatoes, medium-sized
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 knob of ginger, very finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Garam Marsala
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful of freshly chopped coriander
spinach (optional)
Soak the chickpeas overnight and then cook for an hour in boiling water. Drain, saving some of the water  and set aside.   If using tinned chickpeas, drain. Peel and roughly cube your potatoes.
In a saucepan fry the onions, garlic and chilli in some oil until soft but only lightly coloured. Add the spices and fry very gently for a couple of minutes.  Next add the potatoes, some salt and pepper and cook until the potatoes have taken on the colour of the spices.  Add the chickpeas and cover with liquid.  Either the cooking liquid from the chickpeas, or just some water. Cover and leave to simmer for 45 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked.  Check the seasoning.  Add the coriander and if you like, add a big handful of spinach a minute before serving, and stir through to wilt.

Another Roti Recipe (with curry inside)

4 cups flour
9 tbsp ghee plus extra for brushing and cooking
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold water

In a large bowl, combine the flour and ghee with your hands until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the water and knead with your hands until it forms a firm, smooth dough.  If too dry add more water, 1 tbsp at a time and knead again. Wrap in cling-film and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.  Divide the dough into 12 even sized balls.  On a lightly floured surface, with a rolling pin, roll out as thin as possible in a rough circle. Brush with melted ghee. Place a large couple of tablespoons of your curry in the centre of the circle.  Fold over the two side edges first.  Roll out further any areas which now are double thickness, until once again as thin as possible.  Brush with melted ghee and lift over first one flap and then the other to form a cylindrical large spring roll like shape. Fray in a heavy based frying pan in plenty of melted ghee over a medium heat.  Turn until every side is golden brown and crisp.  Don’t forget the ends.


  1. Real nice Check, keep it up!

    Simon x

  2. Stunning recipe, I do love Roti. The Malaysian version of Roti Canai is my personal favourite but I do like the stuffed versions as you show here! My mother used to stuff with meat as here and also do one with a sliced mash potato stuffing...!


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