Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Our 'not so daily' bread...

Wholewheat Tava Tandoori Roti

As I walk home, my shadow on the camel coloured clayey earth darkens and lengthens. The sun goes crimson with the exertion of the day. The unsure sighs of relief of the huge tamarind, bottlebrush and neem trees stir up a tentative breeze, to the relief of their feathered residents. Emboldened now after the daylong oppressive heat, they chirp and chatter excitedly and try to finish as much business as possible in that narrow window between dusk and dark. 

Then the loudspeaker atop the single minaret of the mosque crackles and amplifies the mellifluous rendition of the muezzin. Is it Raag Multani? No can’t be- it’s a little late for Multani- maybe Raag Madhuvanti…no- no! It is Multani… 

Oh dear, I must stop humming and gesticulating! People are looking…

As I turn into the dirt lane in the newly developed area where we recently moved into, the construction workers working outside their lean-to indeed are looking! 

I look away instinctively. Years of ingrained advice - received and now at times given to my two daughters- plays a loop in my ears. Don’t trust strangers. Don’t lock eyes with staring strangers. Behave yourself. Make sure your dupatta is in place…

But the lovely warm yeasty aroma of fresh rotis cooking on the wood chulha draws my attention. And what is that savoury smell? It's kalonji- nigella seeds! But how did they get hold of yeast? Or do they knead the dough before starting work at sunrise? The heat of the day is enough to form khameer… 

It’s strange to see a sun-wizened pathan deftly slapping ever-widening circles of dough in his hands and flapping them onto the griddle. In this women-free world, these expatriates assume hitherto unfamiliar roles making rotis, washing clothes and pounding saag. 

Our daily bread is not easy to come by...

I walk away (not into the sunset, please!) reminded of the Kabuliwallah.

The transient sadness is replaced thankfully by the excitement of wanting to try out the rotis fermented with yeast and baked on the tava…

Tandoori Wholewheat Roti


2 cups atta
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 sachet (7gms) dry yeast
2 teaspoons kalonji seeds
Water to knead


In about ½ cup of warm water, dissolve the sugar and pour the yeast granules on the top shaking the bowl a bit. Cover and keep for 5-7 minutes in a warm place. The solution will rise a bit and become frothy. 

In a bowl, mix the atta and the salt and pour the yeast solution and knead with a light hand. Add more warm water as required. Make the dough smooth by greasing your palms with oil. Keep covered with a cling film for about 15-20 minutes. Knead the dough again and keep covered for another 5 -7 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 balls. Roll out thick medium sized rotis and sprinkle kalonji seeds on the top and press them in. Smear a little water on this side (top) of the roti and press onto a medium hot tava.

The roti will begin to rise in bubbles first and then will puff up fully. Remove the tava from the fire and roast the top end of the roti (without the seeds) on the gas flame, moving it all around till well done. Roast the other side (with the kalonji seeds) only if required.

Serve hot with ghee or butter!

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