Makki di roti is one of those stereotypical foods that are seasonal and dusted off (pun intended) for a short period of time in honor of the season and cultural heritage. In Punjab or anywhere in northern India you will be presented saag with said roti repeatedly until the end of winter. It’s a carb rich meal that induces the best afternoon siestas I have known. Made better with a charpoy laid out under the open sky to absorb the most winter sunshine possible. Gather up some quilts. Chit chat with your fellow lunchers and drift into a cozy sleep. Bliss!
Eating the seasons – highlighting winter produce in Punjab
You’ll find numerous articles on news websites from India touting the health attributes of a meal of saag and makki ki roti. There is no denying that green leafy vegetables are generally high in certain nutrients such as antioxidants, various vitamins and iron. Whether our ancestors knew that, had perhaps observed the impact of winter greens on health and well being is something we won’t know for sure. But we do know that there is a seasonal calendar of fruits and vegetables across the world. Such is nature’s cycle that invariably seasonal produce bolsters immunity and compensates for the micro and macro nutrients we need. Sakshi and I talk about our favorite winter foods on the podcast. You can hear it here. Try to eat the calendar!
The quintessential image of Punjab’s mustard fields popularized by Raj and Simran’s love in DDLJ (you know if you know!) is seasonally accurate. Traveling along the Grand Trunk road in winters you will find yellow fields as far as the eye can see and trees shrouded in mist at dusk and dawn. Its the perfect agrarian setting. Those are mustard (sarson) fields. Grown as a catch crop between major planting seasons of Ragi and Kharif, it is harvested for seeds that produce oil and as a vegetable for saag. Punjab isn’t the only region that grows mustard and its varieties. Other regions grow it for seeds and oil. From Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in the north to eastern states like Orissa and West Bengal to Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in the south, all grow mustard.
Mustard is seasonal, but why Makki?
Makki or maize in this case is derived from corn. As a crop corn precedes the sowing of wheat. So by the time winters roll around there must’ve been large reserves of dried corn i.e maize to grind into meal or flour. This is my hypothesis for why this particular flatbread is so common in the winters. The wikipedia entry on makki ki roti mentions that maize arrived in the subcontinent with the Portuguese and was probably not as widely used as it is now until the 19th century. Food habits are ever evolving. Same as the use of tomato in our cooking. In rural Punjab while my grandparents were growing up and even now tomato based preparations are not as common as restaurants would have us believe. Kunal Vijayakar bemoans this overuse of tomatoes and if you were to flip through recipes in the India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant, tomato will only appear once in a while. Anyway, back to our recipe!
Ingredients for Makki di Roti
- Makki ka Aata/Corn flour/Maize flour ~ 1 cup
- Hot water ~ 1/2 to 1 cup
- Butter or ghee for serving
Things you’ll need: A flat griddle or cast iron pan, flat spatula for flipping, a bowl of tepid water.
Let’s make Makki di Roti
It is best to serve and eat these rotis as soon as they are off the griddle. To make the dough measure flour in a large bowl. Warm up some water. It should be lukewarm so that it is comfortable enough to work with without scalding your hand. I had boiled water in my kettle earlier in the day and used it. For 1 cup of flour, start by adding 1/2 cup lukewarm water and starting mixing and kneading. Then add a tablespoon of water at a time until you get a cohesive, soft dough like above on the right. Using warm water fastens the process and produces a pliable dough. Though there are cold water corn flours too.
Foolproof tips for rolling makki di roti
Working with makki atta is difficult because it lacks gluten which makes it crumbly. Gluten free doughs are hard to roll and flatten. I find moistening my palm and fingertips eases the process of shaping the dough. Another option would be to use oil on your palms and fingers. In order to make makki ki roti you have two options. Break a bit of dough about the size of a golf ball and then proceed one of the ways below:
- Flatten by hand: One way to make makki roti is to flatten the peda with your hand. Place the flattened peda in the center of your palm and start pressing with your other hand. Repeat until you get a thick pancake sized roti. Moisten your fingertips and palm occasionally . It will prevent the atta from drying out and crumbling. Using too much force or trying to go too thin will just break the dough apart. So keep it thick. Place the roti on a hot griddle and cook just like a chapati or a missi roti.
- Roll between sheets of food safe plastic: You can use a ziploc bag or other clean plastic bag. Slice it open so that you can easily peel the sheet off once the dough has been rolled. First, I like to tip my fingertips in tepid water and then flatten the peda into a thick disc. Second, place it in the center between the plastic. Third, start rolling with a rolling pin. Do this gently. Don’t be afraid of jagged edges. That’s it! Peel open the sheet of plastic and place roti on a warm tawa. I was able to get really thin and even rotis.
Cooking Makki di Roti
Cook on the first side until you see some bubbling. Flip over and cook on the second side for a minute or two. At this point either cook like a chapati or a missi roti.
Cook evenly and enjoy warm, fresh off the griddle!
Sometimes, with luck, a makki di roti fluffs up just like a chapatti. But this is rare. Most often though makki roti stays thick and flat. Continue rolling and cooking until all the dough is used up. Storing makki dough for later is not a great idea. It is most pliable when fresh and warm.
I like to add a dab of ghee on both sides before serving them. Be sure to enjoy them fresh with hot saag, dahi, achar and salad. Sitting out in the winter sun (where possible) is a great seasonal bonus!
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Makki Roti – Tips To Make Perfect Makki Roti Everytime
- Tawa or Griddle
- 1 Cup Makki Atta / Corn or Maize Flour
- 1/2 to 1 Cup Hot Water
- Butter or Ghee for serving
Making the dough
- Measure flour in a large bowl. Warm up some water. It should be lukewarm so that it is comfortable enough to work with without scalding your hand. For 1 cup of flour, first add 1/2 cup lukewarm water and starting mixing and kneading. Then add a tablespoon at a time until you get a cohesive, soft dough. Using warm water fastens the process and keeps the dough soft and pliable.
Tips for rolling the dough
- Flatten by hand: Break a bit of dough about the size of a golf ball. Moisten your palms. Flatten the peda with your hand into as large a roti as possible, keeping it lightly thick. Trying to go too thin will just break the dough apart. Place the roti on a hot griddle and cook just like a chapati or a missi roti.
- Roll between sheets of food safe plastic: Alternatively, place the peda between plastic sheets. You can use a ziploc bag. Slice it open so you can easily peel the sheet off. Moisten your finger tips in tepid water and then flatten the peda into a thick disc. Place it in the center and fold over the plastic cover. Start flattening with a rolling pin. Do this gently. Don’t be afraid of jagged edges. Peel open the sheet of plastic and place roti on a warm tawa.
Cooking Makki di Roti
- Cook on the first side until you see some bubbling. Flip over and cook on the second side for a minute or two. At this point either cook like a chapati or a missi roti. Serve with a dollop of butter or ghee. Enjoy with saag, dahi, achar and salad or any other mains!