Our recipe for the famous Punjabi corn meal bread. The name makki di roti literally means “roti made from cornmeal”. The breads are made from an unleavened dough that is rolled out and cooked on a tava or griddle.
They are gluten-free. Having said that, please check that your corn meal has not been adulterated with wheat flour.
Corn meal is not the same as cornflour. Cornflour is a fine white powder separated from the protein and other components of maize flour, leaving pure starch. Maize flour, or corn meal, is the entire corn kernel milled into flour. It retains the protein and fat. A good Indian grocer will have makki ki attar, which is the ingredient you need. Health food shops also sell fine ground corn meal.
These roti are harder to prepare than most of the other breads because the dough is less adhesive than wheat dough, which makes it difficult to handle. The finished product is noticeably thicker and heavier than other roti.
When rolling these out they can stick or break. Consider rolling them out between greaseproof paper sheets. Some of the recipes in my grandmother’s book suggested the cook should use her hands to flatten out the bread instead of rolling.
You may see cracks forming in the roti when rolling or starting cook. Wet your fingers and gently close the crack by pushing from the edges of the crack.
There are many variations to this recipe. This version uses carom seeds, or ajwain. Another favourite is to replace the carom seeds with fenugreek leaves. Made this way it is called makki methi ki roti. Use the same recipe as below but substitute four tablespoons of finely chopped fenugreek leaves for the carom seeds. If you cannot get fresh fenugreek leaves, use one tablespoon of dried leaves, as their flavour is much more intense than fresh leaves.
Taking it even further is the Rajasthani tikkar, which I will post shortly. This has onions, ginger, garlic and chilli cooked into the roti. They even have something like a pizza with added tomato – again the subject of another post.
Vegans can substitute oil for the ghee but are advised to not be as generous, or the roti may become too oily.
The traditional way to serve these roti is with pureed spinach, or saag. This makes a wonderful meal, perhaps with some of your fresh pickles.
- 250 g corn meal (makki ka atta)
- ½ tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
- ½ tsp salt
- 250 ml water
- 3 tbsp ghee for brushing
Mix corn meal, carom seeds and salt in a bowl.
Add half of the water and knead. Add the remaining water slowly, kneading well. Make sure the dough does not become too sticky.
Continue kneading until you have a firm, plastic dough. This may take up to ten minutes.
Divide dough into eight pieces and form into balls.
Sprinkle your work surface with a little more corn meal, then gently roll the balls into discs 120mm diameter and 5mm thick.
Brush one side of the roti with a little ghee and turn this onto a hot griddle or pan, brushed side down. Brush the top side with a little ghee.
Cook for around one minute, then flip over. If the roti sticks to pan, it means the pan is not hot enough. Brush the top with a little ghee. Continue cooking and flipping until the roti is well browned and cooked through.
When cooked, place on a plate and cover with a damp towel whilst you cook the remaining roti.
- Corn meal is available from good supermarkets and Indian grocers. Choose the finest grind you can obtain.
- Eat the roti hot and straight from the pan. They may become tough or chewy as they cool.
- The dough made from corn meal flour will not be as pliable as wheat flour doughs. You will not be able to make these roti very thin.