How I Learnt to Make Perfect Roti

I’ve always been rubbish at making roti, I tried and failed so many times, I gave up. They were either overcooked or undercooked and never round. Not even close to being round, you could make a doughy puzzle with them.  I would work up such a sweat to produce something that was barely edible. It made me feel so deflated that I stopped trying.

When we moved to our apartment, I wanted see how I could cope without a maid but my husband made an excellent point. Who would make the roti? He never complained when I did make roti (if you could even call them roti!), but he knew how much the process of it all sent me close to an emotional breakdown. I can cook Indian dishes, no problem, we just needed someone to make the roti for his tiffin (the lunchbox he takes to work).

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The younger maid from my mother-in-law’s place owns a bicycle and she volunteered to come over and make the roti every morning for us, result! I knew her, I was comfortable with her and she speaks a little bit of English, this was a perfect arrangement. We live less than 1km from my in-laws place so it wasn’t too much of a hassle for her to come and she always enjoyed playing with Alfonso.

The great roti problem solved….

I have written about this maid before,  when she started stealing my favourite snack from the fridge. At the time I really couldn’t begrudge her it and once I had overcome the fact I wouldn’t be having dhokla for breakfast as planned, I found the humour in it. Sadly, things got extreme when she stole a large sum of cash from my mother-in-law’s bedroom. We were both, my mother-in-law and I, in the house at the time and due to the sequence of events, we knew it was definitely her. I was so upset when she had to be fired, I had really bonded with this woman beyond our language barrier after knowing her for over two years.

It was extremely emotional but necessary for her to go, obviously we will never know what circumstances led her to steal that amount of money but this behaviour could not be ignored. It really took it out of me and even though the money wasn’t mine, I felt betrayed. I was also upset that the maid must be going through a hard time. I had to start making roti until we could find a suitable maid. 

The first couple of attempts produced catastrophic results, Slowly they started to improve, there were soft instead of stodgy, the shape of them became smoother and one fine day, one of them actually ballooned! Those who are unfamiliar with the craft of roti making, when a roti balloons, it’s perfect! I didn’t know I could feel so much joy watching a roti inflate!

Photo credit: indianfoodrocks.com

Photo credit: indianfoodrocks.com

Three weeks later, we had found a new maid, but something strange and unexpected had happened, I was enjoying making the roti every morning! To this day I am still getting up early to make round roti. I find it somewhat therapeutic and relaxing. It really is a matter of loosening your wrists a little, discovering the best ratio of water to flour and most importantly, practice! Practice makes perfect! My mother-in-law came over for lunch recently and was really impressed by my gol gol roti . I am going to admit it, I am pretty proud of myself…and my husband has gained 10lbs!

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64 thoughts on “How I Learnt to Make Perfect Roti

  1. Pingback: The Missing Dhokla - English Wife Indian Life

    • Hehe, that photo is not one of mine but that’s how mine are looking now (60% of them anyway :P).

      My top tips are 3:1 flour to water, knead the dough for as long as possible and make sure you don’t use too much flour when rolling. Also the rolling motion needs to produce a level depth of roti.

      Most importantly, you have to practice a lot 😀

      I hope you are well xx

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  2. Good work! Now any tips on how I can make my chapatis soft? I think you need to add a new section to your blog – cookery! 😉 I have some good recipes I will share with you that I invented which is Indian-English fusion cookery…

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  3. Slightly off topic here, but have been wanting to ask for a while… are you still involved with the Blind School?

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    • Hey Nicola,
      No I haven’t, they dropped the bombshell that my accent wasn’t understandable for Indian listeners. The story I was reading was written by a Marathi lady and there were lots of Indian words dotted around. I have become really close with the ladies who run Women In Need now though, enjoying learning about what there are doing here. I have already written a post about them but you might be interested to read some of their case studies on their website.

      http://www.women-in-need.co.uk/enews/CaseStudies.php

      I have met several of these ladies, including Mina who sat there with a huge smile on her face. If you read her story, you will see what a miracle that is!

      Lots of love,
      Lauren xx

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      • I am currently reading everything on the Women In Need website, and watching all the YouTube videos. Seeing Leah in action makes me think of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Other than meeting with the women who run WIN and accompanying them on visits, are you actually performing a role within the charity?

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      • P.S. Is it Hindi or Marathi that Leah speaks with the women? And (perhaps I shouldn’t ask!)… but how is your learning of Hindi coming along?

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      • Isn’t she amazing!
        Leah is speaking Marathi here, she has told me she speaks a mixture of rough Hindi and Marathi, which is probably what I will end up speaking like. Because Nagpur is central, there is a mix of Marathi and Hindi speakers which makes it complicated for someone like me with no Indian language to fall back upon.

        I love both Leah and Usha so much, they have been in the UK for a couple of months but before they left I was meeting with them often. I went to their shelter (which is a couple of hours from Nagpur), and for some home visits like you see on the video. They left for the UK quite soon after I met them, looking forward to their return!!

        Lots of love xx

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  4. Hey Lauren,
    You really are an inspiration for everyone. These days cooking food is looked upon as a chore by many people. I however feel that food is an important part of one’s culture and I always remember what my mother used to say, “When a woman is cooking food for the family, she should have good thoughts in her mind as the food that people eat affects their thoughts”.
    I therefore feel that there is always a very emotional connection when it comes to food. In Marathi weddings that is the reason why an idol of Goddess Annapurna is given to the bride.
    I have been living in US for 4 years now and after I finished my school and started working, I stopped getting frozen rotis. I make rotis on my own these days.
    Although it is a laborious task, I still do it as it gives me a sense of satisfaction. However, I can completely relate to your struggle as I didn’t learn them for my mom but picked up on my own during my stay in US.

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    • Thank you so much, Yatin!
      I have heard about the Ayurvedic way of cooking, your positive thoughts and love literally go into the food. Thank you for reminding me of this concept! Well done you for making your own roti, it is labourious indeed, especially at the beginning!

      My husband is Marathi but I had never hear of Goddess Annapurna, I will have to investigate!

      I hope you are well and that you can visit your home city soon!

      Take care!

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  5. Hey… I am a guy staying in Reading city in UK since last 2 years on visa for some work purpose.I am from Pune 🙂 .. When i had first came to know about your blog and read some of the stuff, i was really concern about you. I mean , I was not sure even how you were managing to stay in Indian atmosphere. Here in UK its all different.. But I after seeing this balooned chapati , all my concerns have gone away. Initially I used to eat frozen chapati here but later i didn’t like it. so i started making chapatis on my own but still struggling 😦 .. Now you are inspiration for me. Anyways Really good job :).

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    • Hey Rahul,
      I am really glad that your opinion of my choice has swung right around! You are right, I think only people who have lived in both India and the UK can fully appreciate what a change this has been for me. There are huge differences everywhere. I hope that you are coping well, I have been in India for close to 2 years, so we swapped places.

      Keep up with the practice!!! You will be professional in no time!

      Take caree,

      Lauren

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      • @Lauren

        Do you like old bollywood movies, I don’t know if you have seen any. This is cult classic comedy movie made in 1970s. They don’t make movies like this anymore.

        This is blockbuster move “Deewar” of Amitabh Bhachan, perhaps the greatest actor of Bollywood

        This is a bengali movie starring bengali superstar of 1960-70s Uttam Kumar

        The films have english subtitles so you will have no problems understanding them. Do tell me how you found them.

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      • Thank you, Friend!

        I will check them out. My husband is a huge fan of older Bollywood movies, I have only seen ones from 1990 and beyond so far.

        We (my husband and I) found a Bengali Kali Maa Mandir in Nagpur this week, amazing experience. I will write about it soon!

        Take care,

        Lauren

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  6. Cooking gives me immense pleasure.. During vacations I cook a lot, always attempt some new recipe. Indian, Chinese, even brits’ famous fish and chips with Mayo(by Jamie Oliver, I love him).. But I’ve never succeeded with dough.. Be it roti or baking a cake.. Making the perfect dough is sooooo difficult.. I’ve tried several times but every time the result’s same.. Please help me bhabi.

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  7. I am also trying to master the craft of roti making but it is too much time consuming and requieres lots of patience.

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  8. That is great, I am from india and I cook indian food often, many people i know including myself, who hail from south India does not do well with wheat roti’s, our expertise in other areas. But, glad to see you do well and loved those puff and it sure looks like it is soft 🙂 Great job 🙂

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  9. Has any of your readers tried rotimaker and attamaker available online and the technique involved. Earlier ones available in 90s didn’t seem to work.

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  10. Have u tried pav bhaji yet?? The one thing that pops into my mind when people say maharashtra, is pav bhaji..
    nothing can beat maharashtrian rotis and pav bhaji 🙂 🙂 🙂

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