I’ll let you in on a silly secret I’d kept hidden all along from everyone – I can’t get my phulka (simple fat-free whole wheat flatbreads that puff up beautifully when cooked on direct flame) to puff up perfectly. It would happen for some rotis, but not for others. Else, the rotis would puff up half-way through then not for the other half. Since no one is normally peeping into the kitchen when I’m roti-ing, and the rotis are reasonably soft, I never needed to tell anyone about this little thing.
But a couple of years ago, it became a case of shameful reveal-all at my friend’s place. My parents and my friend’s parents (they stayed right next door) were off to Paris on an official trip for a week, leaving us kids (not really kids, I was married by then and my friend was out of college too!) in-charge of both the house and kitchens for that duration. Both of us have younger brothers who were in school at that time.
Rotis are a dinner-time staple at our house. It is a lunch-time staple too at my friend’s place. We used to cook meals for the four of us together during that week. My friend could roll out perfect rotis but couldn’t knead the dough. So, normally, I’d knead the dough and carry on with making dal and vegetables, while she’d roll out the rotis – her’s puffed up perfectly!
On one particular day, she had some work, so I prepared the rotis myself for dinner. And while I was struggling, trying to get the rotis to puff up, blackening some of them, in walked my friend! “Oh! Any problem with the rotis? Let me do it. We can eat these imperfect ones and give the good ones to Varun and Avinash (our brothers).” I had a red-faced moment or two, but the next minute we were laughing away!
The sad case of not-fully-puffed rotis continued for quite a bit. It is only for the last few months that I can make rotis that puff up perfectly. In fact, I can say that a perfectly puffed up roti gives me more satisfaction and happiness than a perfectly executed new cake recipe!
A few days ago, I had another of those perfectly-puffed-up-roti moment. And I was so so glad, I decided to make fattoush the next day with any leftover rotis! Fattoush is a simple Levantine salad made with cucumber, tomatoes and lots of greens and fresh herbs that also uses up old flatbreads. Typically, pieces of day-old pita bread is fried/toasted till crisp and added to the salad. Although I had planned to knead up some dough for pita bread the following day to make this salad, I felt using up the leftover rotis might be more in keeping with the spirit of fattoush.
Fattoush is topped with a dressing of olive oil, garlic and vinegar/lime juice and is flavoured with sumac. I used za’atar in place of sumac (which I did not have). Although none of the recipes I saw online for fattoush used za’atar, I decided it would be okay to use it since za’atar is pretty commonly used throughout the middle-east and sumac is one of the ingredients in the za’atar mix. And I was very happy with the way things turned out. Ditto my hubby.
Fattoush – Levantine salad from Syria
For the dressing:
Lemons – squeeze out the juice from 2
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Garlic – 1 fat clove, minced
Crushed black pepper – 1/2 tsp
For the salad:
Lettuce – a small bunch, shredded
Cucumber – 1; Peeled, cut lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into half moons
Tomatoes – 5-6 medium ones, quartered (Use cherry tomatoes, if you get or halve/quarter tomatoes depending on size)
Mint leaves – two fistfuls, chopped up
Coriander leaves – two fistfuls, chopped up (Use parsley if you can)
Onion – 1, small, sliced (Use green onions, spring onions or leek, if available)
Day old pita/other flatbread – 2, torn into pieces and fried/toasted till crisp
Optional items – sumac, feta cheese
Make the salad dressing: Mix all the ingredients and keep aside
Make the salad: Mix all the ingredients and put into serving bowls. While serving, spoon the dressing over each bowl and mix
For more recipes from countries starting with the letter S, check out this link: