Millet rotis and the Indian Mama

Quite some time before coming to India, I was reading a blog on gluten-free baking and came across sorghum flour. Intrigued by this flour type I did not recognise, I looked it up and discover that sorghum is a type of millet, also known as jowar, Egyptian millet, etc.

Some further research on the internet revealed that millet flour can be used to make Indian flat-bread, rotis. I bought a bag of jowar flour and started experimenting at home. The result, tasty as it was, could not really qualify for an authentic roti.

Short after my arrival in Gujarat, the millet roti popped up again… I had a taste of the real, traditional millet roti, called rotlo, made of  bajri flour – pearl millet -and served with white butter.  I was totally lost in translation, but  blissfully so!

I like millet even more now that I know it is not only gluten-free but also rich in essential amino acids and iron.

Now if all these different millet types and flours are interchangeable I do not know. What I know is that I have found my rotlo-master in the mother of my friend Khushi….

During a food discussion, Khushi mentioned that her mother is an expert rotlo-maker. When she saw the spark in my eyes she swiftly arranged for me to meet the Guru.

Yesterday evening, she came to pick me up on her scooter and off we went to her parents’ apartment.

Her mother stood like a real ‘Mama’ in her spotless kitchen, wearing a blooming dress. Soon I realised that the workshop came complete with dinner cooked by La Mama: shak (remember?) made of cauliflower, eggplant and peas, and kichri (lentil rice).

La Mama first filled a small  recipient with water and added salt to it. Then she sifted some millet flour onto  a big metal plate and started kneeding. She kneeded and kneeded, until the dough became malleable and smooth.

In the meantime, a clay tawa was put on the gas flame.

She took a small piece of dough and rolled it into a ball. She carefully flattened it a bit in the middle by pressuring it gently with her palms. Then she clapped it into shape and launched it on the tawa.

Once the first rotlo was ready, she put it aside, cracked the crunchy top crust and poured ghee into it. La Mama is one of those cooks who do not compromise on taste.

It looked like a child’s game when the dough was in her hands. She let me and Khushi try with the last piece and corrected us as we went along playing with dough

When rotis were done and the food was ready, we all sat down on the shining living room floor and had our delicious dinner.

I am extremely happy to have found my rotlo master, but also to have been received with such great hospitality and warmth in a Gujarati home. Showing curiosity is a doorway leading into a new experience.

The rotlo live show and the succulent dinner are fond memories that I will carry with me on my next stops.


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