Aunt Gayathri’s Ragi Roti
During my most recent trip to South India this January, I had the privilege of spending time with my dear friend Gayathri Muralidhar and her family. I met Gayathri in 2006, when I visited Myosre, Karnataka for the first time. In the years since, Gayathri has become like an aunt to me, and her house a second home. In addition to being one of the most kindhearted and generous individuals I have ever met, Aunt Gayathri is an exceptional chef. In fact, her food is by far some of the best I’ve ever had in India (and the world) and I find myself longing for it all year long.
Here is a recipe for one of my favorite breakfasts that Aunt Gayathri makes: ragi roti served with coconut chutney. Ragi, or finger millet, is a nutritious, earthy grain used frequently in South Indian cooking. Native to Ethiopian Highlands, it has been harvested in India for over 3,000 years. In the United States, you can find it online or at specialty stores.
In India, traditional recipes are generally passed on through hands on experience in the kitchen. Ingredient quantities are often eyeballed as opposed to meticulously measured. I’ve learned so much from Gayathri and will do my best to share this recipe in writing with you! Remember: Practice makes perfect! My first few rotis definitely didn’t look like this.
makes 6-8 rotis
- 2 1⁄2 cups Ragi Flour
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups finely chopped Onion (the Indian onions are red, but they are less pungent then our red onions. I recommend using yellow onion)
- 3⁄4 cup freshly chopped Cilantro (Coriander).
- 1⁄4 cup finely sliced Green Chili. More or less to taste.
- 1 cup freshly grated Coconut (if needed, you can buy pre-grated)
- 2 teaspoons Salt, according to taste
- 1 pinch of Hing (Asafoetida) (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- In a large bowl, mix the ragi flour, salt, cumin seeds, hing, and grated coconut.
- Add onion, coriander, and chili to the dry ingredients.
- Mix by hand (or spoon)
- Add a small amount of water and continue mixing. Continue to add water and mix until the dough achieves a soft, cookie-batter-like consistency.
- Next, heat a large oiled skillet over medium heat. (In India a cast iron pan called a tawa is used)
- Take a medium sized handful of the dough and form into a ball. Place this on the skillet and carefully use your hand to form a thin pancake-like shape.
- Apply a small amount of oil on the roti and cook about 4-5 minutes. Then, carefully flip using a spatula. Cook for another 4 minutes.
- Transfer onto a plate, folded in half. Enjoy with a little ghee (clarified butter) or homemade coconut chutney (recipe below). Gayathri also prepared an eggplant and pepper palia, or sautéed vegetable dish.
This is a standard accompaniment to many South Indian dishes.
- About 1 1⁄4 – 1-1⁄2 cups of freshly grated coconut
- 8-10 Green Chilies (This is for pretty spicy chutney. Adjust according to taste and depending on variety of chili)
- About 10 fresh Curry Leaves
- 2 tablespoons of Sunflower Seed Oil (or substitute with other vegetable oil)
- 2 teaspoons of Mustard Seed
- 1 pinch of Hing (Asafoetida) (this adds flavor and aids digestion. If you don’t have hing, don’t worry)
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped Cilantro (Coriander)
- About 1 tablespoon of Dry Roasted Chickpeas (chana dal)
- 1-1⁄2 teaspoons of Salt (more or less to taste)
- Dry fry the chilies and curry leaves for about 1 minute
- Add oil, after about 30 seconds, add mustard seeds
- Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the hing and remove from heat.
- Place the chilies, curry leaves, chickpeas, coconut, and salt in a blender.
- Next, add a small amount of water and blend all ingredients together until you have a nice, slightly course texture.
- Add the cilantro. Blend again until slightly smooth.
- Stir in remaining mustard seeds and oil. Put aside until ready to serve.
Feel free to comment about your favorite South Indian dishes!