Friday, November 13, 2009
Millet Flour Flatbread (Bajari Rotlo)
Millet is possibly the first domesticated cereal grain. Recent evidence suggests that it has been grown in East Asia since 8000 BC and was the staple grain before the popularization of rice. Its cultivation is mentioned in the Bible.
Today millet is the sixth most cultivated grain in the world, but is largely unknown in North America and Europe. India and Nigeria are the world’s largest producers, followed by China and several African countries. It is a hardy crop that grows well without fertilizer and in water-poor environments. As a result it is widely cultivated in the global South, especially among the poorest people in these regions. It is generally not traded in the international markets.
Millet is gluten-free and non-allergenic. It is high in protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and B-complex vitamins. It is popularly used to make porridge in Russia and China, and is an important alcohol grain in Nepal, China, Balkan countries and India.
In Gujarat and other parts of India, where my family has its roots, millet is used to make the traditional local staple flatbread (known as rotlo or bhakri). Rotlo is thicker, coarser and more rigid than chapati, with which it has now largely been replaced. This recipe is a spicy version, but rotlo is traditionally made only with both flours, salt, oil and water (one can make the recipe below with just those five ingredients). My mother tells me that as a baby, I loved to eat yogurt with crushed rotlo. I guess some things never change...
3 cups millet flour (also known as bajari)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger paste
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic paste
4 green onions, thinly chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable)
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups water
1. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix all the ingredients (except the water).
2. Add 1 cup of water to form a dough. Add additional water slowly until all the flour is incorporated and you have a soft but firm dough.
3. In the meantime, heat a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.
4. Separate dough into four balls.
5. Place one ball on an unused J cloth or silicone baking mat on a flat surface.
6. Flatten the ball using your fingers to press dough towards the edge. Continue until the bread is about 1/4 inch thick and about 7 to 8 inches in diameter. Make sure it is even in thickness.
7. Lift the J cloth or mat to transfer the bread onto one of your hands (flat side up) and run under a small stream of water until wet.
8. Place the bread (wet side down) on the skillet. Cook for two minutes.
9. Moisten the top of the bread and flip. Cook for an additional two minutes.
10. Flip back to original side and cook for one further minute. Using a flat spatula, remove to a plate. Eat warm and serve with yogurt or vegetable curry.