Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Storecupboard adventures - Bajrina rotla (millet breads)

Sometimes I am too curious for my own good. Why on earth did I buy a packet of millet flakes a while back? I had no plan for them and no particular ideas of what you can even do with millet flakes beyond porridge, which I never get round to eating (though I should). I have millet seed already, but flakes? Good gracious woman, what were you thinking? They sat in the cupboard for a while, making me feel guilty, until I hit on the idea of grinding them into flour and using them in bread. An internet search didn't bring too much up, but I did find a reference to bajrina rotla, or Indian millet flour bread in a book which is happily available via Google Books - Cooking Along the Ganges: The Vegetarian Heritage of India by Malvi and Neil Doshi (if the link doesn't work, it's on p. 434). It's described as a 'hearty' and 'rustic' and is a type of flatbread.

Rotla thinking about being puffed up over the gas flame (yes, it was on!)

The recipe stayed bookmarked for a little while, and then on Saturday we had The Scientist's parents visiting and I thought I would put together a little medley of Indian dishes. The millet flakes' time had come. Although millet flour has a short shelf life, the flakes did seem to be ok - they certainly ground up nicely. The recipe is easy, although it requires you to mix up only one pancake's worth of dough at a time, shape it, fry it and then hold it over a gas flame to make it puff up before moving on to the next one. I was making these after several hours of chopping, cooking and trying to follow three recipes at once, and after doing one of them properly I have to admit that I did mix up all of the rest of the flour and water at once. The pancakes were quite thick and didn't puff up particularly, but I'm quite sure that this was due to my inexperience/lack of focus.

Not very good photo of the rotla (top) accompanied by uninspiring-looking but tasty daal, sesame, ginger and garlic beans, and potato and spinach curry. I don't know why I put the rice at centre stage when it basically cooked itself in the rice cooker with no input from me.

I have to admit that the pancakes were really quite stodgy and didn't have too much taste on their own. Another time I will definitely follow the alternative suggestion to add chilli powder and turmeric. They did, however, have a nice rustic graininess from the flour and if you're after a comforting, soft in the middle, crunchy on the outside piece of stodge to mop up your curry, this is the recipe to turn to. I suggested that we put the curries on top of them so that they took on some flavour and The Scientist's parents certainly seemed to think they were ok. The Scientist wasn't keen at all - too bland and stodgy, and I can't blame him. I think I'll make making our preferred naans before trying these again, but I'm very glad to have shifted some of that millet. Perhaps porridge will start getting more attractive now that the days are getting colder...

Bajrina rotla (millet flour bread) - recipe here


Johanna said...

You have made me think I need to use up millet flour I have in the fridge - another of those impulse buys that seem to lead nowhere - but not sure about cooking bread over a flame - I don't have that sort of courage!

RE the rest of your flakes - just substitute them for breadcrumbs and oats in burgers and crumbles and they will go (I went through millet flake quicker than millet flour)

Lysy said...

That is a VERY good idea - thanks for the tip! I've been wondering about sneaking them into oatmeal cookies but I'm not sure how The Scientist would feel about me messing with such a classic!

I fully expected the breads to fall apart over the flame, but they're doughty little things. I'm not sure it added too much to their appearance or taste though!