Our children’s babysitter, Rosalyn, is a fantastic cook. She is from Trinidad and of Indian origin so her food is Indian with a Caribbean twist. Our children grew up eating her cooking and they especially love this flatbread, called roti, which is different from Indian roti. The dough is a blend of wheat and white flours, and a split pea mixture is added before rolling the dough into its flat shape. The result is an aromatic, flavorful flatbread.
Our children help by mixing the dough, forming the dough into balls, filling the balls with the split peas, and using the rolling pin to roll them flat. If you are working alone, you can probably start cooking as soon as you have the first couple of roti rolled out. It seems to take me about as long to cook a roti as to roll out two of them. If you have children helping you, it will, of course, take a bit longer.
If you have a large griddle, I recommend that you use it rather than a skillet and cook two or more roti at a time. It will greatly reduce your cooking time. The split pea filling can be made a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator or frozen. If you have leftover roti, those too can be frozen for several weeks.
Roti are the traditional accompaniment to curries in Trinidad. I will soon post a recipe for a chick pea and potato curry that our children love, but you can serve these with any curry, stew, or soup with similar flavors. I generally double this recipe so that we have leftovers. These roti make a tasty and nutritious snack buttered, or with cottage cheese.
Rosalyn’s Trinidadian Roti
The first time you make this, you will only need half of the amount of filling, so cut the ingredients in half. Stuffing the filling is an art and it takes a while to be able to fully stuff the dough. After you have made the recipe a few times, you will find that you can stuff more in, and you may want to increase the amount as listed here.
Makes 8 roti
40 minutes preparation time
30 minutes cooking time
For the filling:
1/4 pound yellow split peas
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
2 garlic cloves, peeled
For the dough:
11/4 cups unbleached white flour
11/4 cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup warm water
olive oil for brushing
Boil the split peas with the turmeric and 1 teaspoon of the salt until they soften but are still a bit crunchy to the bite, about 25 minutes. Drain them in a colander and let them cool to room temperature.
You can make the dough while the split peas are cooking or cooling. Mix the flours, baking powder, salt, oil, and warm water. The dough should come together but not be too sticky, like pizza dough. If needed, add a bit more warm water, one tablespoon at a time. When the dough has come together, cover and let rest for 10 or more minutes.
In a sauté pan, heat the cumin until it is fragrant and darkens in color, about 2 minutes. Set aside. When the split peas have cooled, grind them in a grinding mill or food processor with the garlic until they are the texture of coarse cornmeal. Mix in the cumin and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and set aside.
Cut the dough into approximately 8 equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Form a bowl-shaped cavity in the dough, and fill the cavity with 3 or 4 tablespoons of the split pea mixture. It may initially seem difficult to fit that much of the mixture into the cavity, but mash it in with your thumb and continue to add more. Fold the sides of the dough and pinch it tightly to hold in the split pea mixture.
Heat a large skillet or griddle (the larger the cooking surface, the more roti you will be able to cook at once). On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough as thinly as you can. Rosalyn makes them at least 8 inches in diameter, but I can’t always get them that big. Don’t worry if some of the filling peeks through the dough. It will be fine once you cook the roti.
Lightly brush the roti with oil and sauté on each side until slightly browned, approximately 1-2 minutes per side. Keep on a plate covered with a towel until ready to serve.