Mum's Dhal-stuffed Rotis
Updated: Feb 16
Today I learned how to make dhal-stuffed rotis. Rotis, to those that are unfamiliar, are round flatbreads made from wheat-based flours. They are quite common in Indian households for everyday cooking and eating. Dhal is what we call different type of lentils and dried peas. Typical everyday meals include roti and some sort of curry. Yummy! A typical everyday roti is not terribly difficult to make. Just the right combination of flour and hot water is needed to make a nice dough that can then be divided into smaller dough pieces, rolled out into a circle and cooked over a griddle or crepe pan. Easy peasy.
Mum decided to make dhal-stuffed rotis today. In all my years of being alive, I thought I had the basic idea of how to make this. Apparently, I was very wrong. Learn something new everyday right? Anyways, the basic roti dough recipe remains the same. This gets made a bit later in the recipe. The first thing is to work on the dhal. So she used yellow split peas for this. We call it "mattar ke dhal" but to be quite honest all the dried dhals look the same to me so I am also still learning how to name all the dhals we eat. This recipe takes a couple of hours to make so this gets made on special occasions typically.
So back to making the dhal. First step is to boil the dhal with some turmeric and salt.
Once dhal is boiled to where it is cooked but not mushy (the edges will start to look soft and the inside will mainly be cooked but still whole). Then dhal should be drained. In the same pot, add some ghee (clarified butter) and heat it up. Then add whole garlic cloves and pieces of whole ginger (peeled of course), handful of chilis (can be left out), some cumin seeds and curry leaves. After cooking for a minute or two, add the boiled dhal. Stir well to coat everything. Let the mixture cook for a bit longer until all the flavors are incorporated.
After this step, the dhal mixture has to cool down. Once it is cooled, it then goes into the food processor and ground until the dhal mixture forms very small granules. It almost becomes velvety to touch and is able to form large loose clumps. This recipe makes a lot of dhal. This is because mum freezes whatever she doesn’t use and saves it for the next time she makes this recipe. And this is why I thought the dhal stuffing just magically came out of the freezer in neat little plastic bags.
After the dhal mixture is ground, you can work on the roti dough. This is basically, flour mixed with boiling water to form a soft dough. Dough should be soft but slightly stretchy. Once dough is done, divide into small dough balls. It should roughly fit inside the palm of your hand well. Then roll out dough ball into a small circle.
While holding the dough ball in the palm of your hand, add one tablespoon of the dhal mixture to the center. Slowly and carefully press the dhal into the center of the dough circle while stretching out the edges upward to form a sort of dough bowl. Then bring up all the edges and pinch them together to enclose the dhal. Carefully twist the edges and press down to form a sort of dough disk. Then place seal side down on floured work surface and gently flatten the disk with the palm of your hand. That is one disk down and several more to go! Note that sometimes if you overfill your dough bowl will form a hole and the dhal mixture will come out. So always keep a bit of dough on the side to patch up those holes.
Now finally we get to roll out the rotis! I have been rolling rotis my whole life so this seems easy to me but if this is your first time rolling out rotis, maybe it would be best to practice with a bit of unstuffed dough first. Sort of like rolling out pizza dough. Basically, make sure that you work on a lightly floured surface as you roll and sprinkle more flour on as needed. As the dough balls are stuffed, roll them out gently until the yellowness of the stuffing begins to show through the dough. At this stage, some tearing could occur as well. So use that extra bit of dough from before for patching up the holes.
Typically, I have the griddle going as I am making these. So I am usually rolling out a roti as I am cooking one but you don’t have to do that. You can roll out several rotis to give yourself a head start and then start the griddle. The griddle or "tawa" as we call it should be on medium heat. Cooking the rotis is relatively simple. First cook one side for a minute or two.
You will start seeing bubbles. Flip the roti carefully then. Apply a layer of ghee to the slightly cooked side. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip carefully again and apply ghee to the other side. At this point, there should be several dark brown cooked patches on the roti.
Only two flips needed. Then remove from heat and place in container lined with paper towels. Apply one more layer of ghee! And that’s it! You have yourself dhal-stuffed rotis! You can enjoy them as is or with a simple potato curry which my mum likes to do. I personally prefer eating them as is. They are delicious with or without curry! Have a try and let me know what you think!
Dhal for stuffing:
-4 cups of yellow split peas
-Approximately 8 cups of water
-pinch of turmeric
-salt to taste
-2 tbsp of ghee
-10 peeled whole garlic cloves
-10 pieces of peeled ginger ( 1 x 1 inch)
-17 whole chilies (can be left out completely or adjusted to taste)
-handful of curry leaves
-1 tsp of cumin seeds
-2 tsp of ground cumin
-2 cups AP flour
-1 to 1.5 cups boiled water
-extra flour for dusting
-ghee for applying to roti
Wash dhal until water runs clear.
Add enough water to cover dhal. Add pinch of turmeric and salt to taste. Boil for one hour or until dhal is tender.
Drain the dhal in a colander over the sink.
Turn on stove to medium heat. In the same pot, heat 2 tbsp of ghee. Once heated, add garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, chilis and curry leaves. Some sputtering may occur so be careful. Let these cook until aromatic.
Add boiled dhal to the pot. Mix well and let cook for 20 minutes until flavors are incorporated.
Turn heat off. Let dhal cool down.
Once dhal is cool enough to handle, it can be ground up in a food processor. The highest setting should be ok.
Grind until mixture resembles smooth and small granules and is velvety to the touch. Large granules will tear through the roti dough so it is important to get the texture right.
Once mixture is correct, add 2 tsp of ground cumin and adjust salt level. Mix well.
In the meantime, water can be boiled for the roti dough. Once water is boiled, it can be added to the 2 cups of flour. Dough can be made in a standard KitchenAid mixer using the hook attachment. Dough should be kneaded until smooth dough begins to form and pulls away from the side of the bowl. You can stop the mixer at this point and pinch out a piece of dough. If it breaks away easily, then dough needs to be kneaded a bit longer. If dough piece has a bit of a pull or stretch to it, this is correct.
Dough can now be divided into smaller dough balls. Dough balls for stuffing should be a bit larger than usual. Split dough into two pieces. Roll out each piece into a long roll thick enough that your palm can wrap around it snugly. Pinch off pieces of dough that are as wide as your palm. Smooth each piece out into a dough ball and flatten it with the palm of your hand.
Roll out flattened dough ball until it can fit flatly in the palm of your hand.
Add 1 tbsp of ground dhal. Cup your hand and press dhal gently into the center of the flattened dough. Keep pressing dhal down and edges of dough up. When edges are long enough, pinch and twist them together to seal dhal in place. Then press down the sealed edges and flatten out the dough gently on floured work surface.
Sprinkle more flour and gently roll out the dough into a large roti. Once the roti begins to look yellowish and stuffing can be seen, roti is rolled out enough.
Have the griddle on medium heat. This should be adjusted according to your stovetop and how the roti is being cooked. Add roti to griddle. Apply ghee to uncooked side. Once uncooked side starts to look bubbly (visible air pockets), flip the roti. Apply ghee to the exposed side. Let roti cook for 1-2 minutes. Flip one more time. Let it cook for 1 more minute. Roti is done when large dark brown spots are visible on both sides. Remove roti from heat and place in container lined with paper towels. Apply one more layer of ghee.
Roti is best served warm and can be eaten as is or with any type of curry. Enjoy!