June 11, 2021
Flatbreads were among the earliest processed foods, and evidence of their production has been found in the ancient sites of Mesopotamia as well as the Indus valley.
Roti, also known as chappati or phulka, is a round, whole-wheat unleavened flatbread native to the Indian subcontinent. Today artisan bakers craft fresh turmeric sourdough loaves with sprouted millet or sorghum, but leavened bread was so uncommon in India in the ’70s and ’80s that a plain loaf of white bread was called “double-roti,” which refers to the doubling of the dough when baked.
A lesser-known bread is the lowly loli — an onion- and spice-laden, twice-cooked flatbread native to the people of Sindh province. The dough resembles pie crust more than flatbread; has outrageous amounts of ghee or butter, and I indulge it in very rarely. However, on the rare occasion that I stay with my 82-year-old aunt in Mumbai, India, it goes without saying that breakfast will be a crisp loli with strawberry jam. And unless I protest loudly and clearly, a second one will land on my plate before the first is done.
As kids cavorting on the playground at a time when calories did not count, my brothers and I ate lolis for breakfast all the time. And even though I have no recollection of ever laying eyes on a fresh strawberry during my childhood, strawberry jam was readily available. I texted a picture of these leek lolis to my brother as a fond memory, and he informed me that when traveling through China on an eating expedition, the ubiquitous scallion pancakes reminded him so much of the lolis of our childhood. Do indulge in a loli someday, go all in and let the ghee flow. Just make sure to leave some time for a nap afterward. I promise you will need one.
Makes 8 lolis
3 cups roti flour, plus more for dusting
2 heads of leeks, thinly sliced (4 cups loose)
1 serrano pepper, minced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon amchur
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons sea salt
3/4 cup melted ghee, plus more for frying
Strawberry or other fruit jam
Combine the roti flour with sliced leeks, serrano, cilantro, amchur, black pepper, cumin seeds, salt and about half a cup of ghee. Mix thoroughly until crumbly and add another 1/4 cup of ghee.
Add half a cup of water and keep mixing until the dough comes together into a soft but firm ball, adding water as needed.
Divide the dough into 8 equal balls. Gently press each ball out into a 4-inch circle and cook on both sides on a hot skillet for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. The lolis can be frozen at this point for future use; however, layer them between pieces of parchment paper so they don’t stick when frozen.
When ready to eat them, carefully roll each half-cooked loli into a 7 to 8-inch circle. Transfer to a hot skillet and cook low and slow while slathering each loli generously with ghee. Enjoy warm off the skillet with strawberry jam or fried eggs.
When cutting leeks, they tend to bury dirt within the layers, so be sure to separate them when washing.
When chopping cilantro, discard only the bottom 2 inches of the stems — the rest of the stems and leaves are edible.
Roti flour is finely ground whole-wheat flour — it makes for a softer bread than supermarket whole-wheat flour. Find a bag at the nearest Indian grocer — I often use it in baking cakes and tarts as well.
Amchur is a sun-dried green mango powder.
December 02, 2022