Monday, December 6, 2010

Roti (Curried chicken with beans and potatoes)

When we talk about Dutch food it would be difficult, and careless, to ignore the colonial influences. Some cuisines, such as the Indonesian one, have had time to slowly integrate into the daily culinary grind, to the point where traditional Dutch families will serve Indonesian dishes (albeit it heavily adjusted to the local palate) regularly at the dinner table and not consider it extravagant or daring. Cuisines from other colonies, such as Suriname and part of the Netherlands Antilles, are not yet as integrated into the six o'clock dinner routine, but can be readily obtained at the many tropical eateries around town and are quickly becoming a favorite. Today's dish is a colonial culinary treasure from Suriname.

The country of Suriname is located on the northern coast of South America. A former colony of the Netherlands, it obtained its independency in 1975. Leading up to its independence, many Surinamese emigrated to Holland instead, thereby introducing a new culinary development. The Surinamese cuisine is an exciting mix of European, Indonesian, Indian and South American influences.

The Dutch brought over workers to plant and harvest the plantations: they were from Indonesia and India, equally former colonies. These workers prepared their own traditional dishes with local ingredients which, in turn, became local specialties. Roti is one of those dishes.

The roti is a flat unsweetened pancake, made from flour, oil and water. Often there is no leavener like eggs, although sometimes baking powder will be used. The roti is heated on a hot plate where the baking powder will puff it up, creating pockets of air and a tender structure. In various countries around the world rotis are served one way or the other: sometimes as a breakfast item, covered with sweetened coconut milk or as dinner with a variety of side items. That's how I'm eating my roti today, with a side of potatoes, chicken and green beans. The traditional roti is filled with yellow lentils, but I'm just making an easy one today. If you want to skip this part, a flour tortilla will do just fine.

Surinamese Roti
For the roti
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of oil
1/4 of warm water
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
extra flour

Mix the flour, the baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, and slowly mix in the oil and water. Knead into a flexible dough, adding flour if you need to. Let the dough rest, then cut and roll into balls the size of a small egg. Heat a griddle or cast iron pan. Roll a dough ball into a large, flat pancake and place it on the hot surface: the roti will puff up in various places. Turn it over with a spatula until the other side is done. Place them on a plate and cover with a towel.

For the chicken
1 tablespoon of oil
2 chicken legs and thighs (or two medium chicken breasts cut in large chunks)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 cups of water
2 tablespoons of curry powder*
1 pinch of sugar
3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

In a Dutch oven, heat a little bit of oil and brown the chicken on all sides. Add the garlic and the onion, sauté with the chicken for a couple of minutes. Add the curry, the water and the bouillon cube and stir in the pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for thirty minutes. Add the potatoes (you may have to add a little bit of water if the water doesn't cover the potatoes) and simmer until the potatoes are done. If the sauce doesn't thicken with the potatoes, use a little bit of flour or cornstarch.

For the beans
The beans used in this dish are traditionally long beans, or yard beans. You may be able to find them in the Asian grocery stores. In this case, I used standard green beans, they make a valid substitution.

1 lb of green beans
3 cups of water
1 bouillon cube
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Cut the green beans in two inch pieces. Bring to a boil with the water and the bouillon cube and boil until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, the potatoes and the beans on a plate and serve the warm roti on the side. Tear a piece of the roti and use it to pick up a piece of potato, chicken and green bean. Wrap it up and eat! This is not a dish to eat with fork and knive, but with your fingers....



* Curry powder is a very personal choice: some people prefer to use a store bought spice mix, others mix their own. For ease of use, and because I appreciate the flavor, I usually go with an instant curry roux from S&B, available in the Asian aisle of your local grocery store.

8 comments:

  1. Tried this out tonight and it was delicious. It was initially a bit different then what we used to get at the Toko in Purmerend, so we modified the recipe a bit adding some more curry and half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

    The other thing was that my Roti pancakes came out crispy, must have done something wrong there.

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    1. This is the very best recipe I have ever seen for roti (no offense to this blog!!): http://www.inner-gourmet.com/2012/03/paratha-oil-roti.html I have stood by my mother in law's side for the past nine years trying to learn from her, but that blog post did the trick. I do think it takes a bit of practice, though, to get the right feel of the dough, and rolled to the perfect "thinness" as well as not totally saturating it with oil while cooking.

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  2. It has been at least 16 years that I had a Surinaamse Roti and am salivating just thinking about making this. I moved to New Zealand 13 years ago and though you can get some Dutch products I don't think I have ever seen Roti. There are so many yummy recipes... Thank you so much for sharing your recipes.

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    1. Roti is one of those comfort foods that one can never get enough of, and going for 16 years without must be such torture! Luckily, it's easy to make at home and give it a personal twist, so go for it! I'm reworking the recipe so will post an update when I'm done: in the meantime, enjoy this one!

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  3. Fascinated by Dutch cooking since OXFAM released their study report showing that people in Holland enjoy the most plentiful, healthiest food in the world! I will try this chicken recipe tomorrow. Looking forward to cooking.. Also it will be a good opportunity for me to learn more about Holland.

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  4. for a tasty roti you need to change te recipe i m afraid.
    your roti will be fluffy and soft hours after baking.

    your dough should contain flower butter/ghee milk/yoghurt water maybe bit of salt. the consistency is a pliable soft dough that is NOT sticky softer then pizza. if your vegan use full flavour coconut fat and maybe almond milk but no soya.

    you need to fill your roti with flavor.

    to fill the dough yellow split peas are used so cook to a boil then lower the heat and simmer in 3 times their volume of water till tender but NOT mushy. they should hold their shape once cooked next drain them for 15 minutes till dry.

    in a food processor you grind split peas in batches to a fine crumbly mixture together with a good clove of garlic a full heaped teaspoon of prior dry roasted cumin you do this in a dry pan medium heat until the cumin releases its scent. also add a small piece of a fresh pepper known as "madame jeanette" mind you she is hot so add as much as you can stand ! if you can't find it substitute with a scottish bonnet and a teaspoon salt these spices should be added to each batch you grind till the split peas are all ground. now taste your crumbly mixture it should be tasty and full of spicy aromatics adjust seasonings if need be.

    now you have ground your split yellow peas with garlic cumin pepper and salt divide your dough up in small sized tennis balls and keep them moist under a moist kitchen towel.

    next step take one little tennis ball of dough flatten it like a patty, now with a table spoon take one spoonful of your crumbly spiced split peas mixture and place it in the middle of your dough patty.
    next you gently close the dough around the crumbly mixture starting from the edges close it securely without tearing and flatten it again in your palms
    gently and continue to flatten this filled patty gently with a roller pin until you have a flattened pancake you should use a little flower and turn it 90 degrees each time till it is properly flattened with the crumbly mixture trapped inside without tearing the pancake or making holes.
    next step on your stove have some ghee or clarified butter ready in a small pan that you ve melted now transfer a tablespoon of the ghee on the pancake and with the palm of your hand make sure the whole side of the pancake is buttered with ghee don't overdo it it should not be dripping but shiny allover.
    next step heat a cast iron flat service big enough to hold your pancake or any pan that can hold the pancake lying completely flat once hot flip the buttered pancake side down on the hot cast iron plate or pan now quickly butter the side facing you with ghee like before if one side bakes it will colour nicely about a minute or so now flip the roti with a spatula and bake the other side it will fluff up when cooked.
    once cooked fold the roti in half and fold it again and store it like this in a plastic bag lined with kitchen towels the roti should not touch plastic put the plastic bag in a flat pan with lid close it and add each baked roti to this bunch and close it till all are done this way they will keep warm till your curry is done and your ready to eat
    now do every tennis ball of dough like this
    if your vegan use 100% full flavored coconut fat instead of ghee

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  6. there are plenty sites online where you can find authentic indian curries but you will need potatoes to go in your curry you can add beans from stringbeans till mange tout. but making your own massalla curry powder is worth it so much nicer then store bought. add hard boiled egg while cooking. for a hot flavorful note add a fresh pepper like "madame jeanette" or scottish bonnet to your curry while cooking and make sure it does not break while stirring else it will be insanely hot for eaters that don't eat hot. and for a real treat add some chutney or if you can find it mango achar to your plate when ready to eat. the way is to unfold a baked roti on a plate and pile it with curry of your choice bit of curried potato egg beans add chutney and or mango achar and eat it with clean hands by tearing from the sides and picking the curry bits with that piece of roti.

    enjoy !

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