Caribbean—Trinidad Flat Bread

 

Caribbean Sideflat bread-roti

Trinidad Flat Bread
Roti
(Makes 6 or 8 pieces)

Roti (from India) is found throughout the Caribbean. It's used both as a bread and a roll for meat and vegetable filling, like a soft taco. Frankly? I'd head to an ethnic food store...this is a lot of work.


4 C flour
2 T baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T vegetable oil
1 to 1 1/2 C water (as much as needed)
Oil for cooking

In a large bowl, sift first 3 ingredients together. Combine water and oil, mixing with a whisk. Keep adding the oil-water to flour, working with your hands, to form a dough. Knead for 5 minutes till smooth. Divide into 6 or 8 balls, cover with a damp cloth, and let rest for an hour.

Sprinkle flour on counter and on rolling pin; roll each ball into an 8" circle, if you're making 6 (or a 6" circle if you're making 8). Brush each circle with oil, roll back into a ball and let rest for another 20 minutes.

Unroll balls and flatten into the circles again. Brush top side with oil. Using medium flame, heat a heavy skillet (without oil), and place a roti, oiled side down, into the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes, and brush the top side. Flip roti and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Add more oil if necessary, and continue flipping until you see golden spots. The bread is done.

Remove to a plate and keep the rotis warm as you finish cooking the others. Serve as a bread accompaniment to any meal or spread with filling and roll.

Phew.

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Tips & Glossary

Caribbean cuisine is an exquisite blend of African, Asian, European, and Carib Indian (the area's original inhabitants) foods. Dishes are highly seasoned, either with a dry rub or marinade —or both. Below are some typical ingredients found in Caribbean food.

Callaloo: young leaves of either the taro root plant or amaranth used widely in Caribbean cooking. Spinach can be used as a substitute.

Spices: Allspice, bay leaves, black pepper, chives, chili peppers, cilantro, cinnamon, coconut, curry powder, escallion, garlic, ginger, lime, mace, nutmeg, onion, oregano, sugar, thyme, orange, tomato paste, vanilla, cayenne (red) pepper.

Jerk: Jamaican cooking method in which meat is rubbed, prior to grilling, with a blend of seasonings, often firey hot.

Jerk is also the name of the seasoning (from Spanish charqui, or dried meat). You can buy jerk in most grocery stores (even McCormick makes it), or can make and store your own.

• 1 T each—onion powder, garlic powder, dried chives, brown sugar; 2 tsp. each— (ground) allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon; 1 tsp. each—sage. thyme, salt, black pepper, cayenne (or more to taste). Mix thoroughly and store in a tightly covered jar.

There are thousands of versions; figure out what flavors you like most and add or subtract accordingly.

Typical meats: goat, pork, chicken, and some beef (though beef has tended to be expensive).

Fish: varieties that abound in surrounding waters, some familiar to us—grouper, cod, tilapia, blue marlin; others not so—200 species of jack, chip-chips (tiny clams), casadura (primitive armored catfish).

Native plant foods:
• ackee—peach-looking fruit with pulp like scrambled eggs
• annatto (achiote) seed
red coloring or flavoring agent w/ slightly sweet peppery taste.
• cassava (taro) root 
• malanaga root
• scotch bonnet peppers
• breadfruit—fruit used like a potato in salads, stews, even whipped.
• passion fruit

More familiar foods:
bananas and plantains, okra, yams, papaya, mangoes, coconut, yams, sweet potatoes, rice, beans, corn and cornmeal.

 

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