Okay, now close your eyes. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Listen as the waves crash onto shore, the faint sound of steel drums in the distance, the warm breeze and sunlight kissing your bronze cheeks. So you may actually be planted on the sofa these days in your pajamas, no makeup and roots which resemble a skunk. Sadly, you’re not in the Caribbean, but I certainly can take you there with a wholesome recipe indicative of the West Indies that is so delicious and inexpensive; it’s practically an appropriate food staple for any occasion and season. It’s no other than Roti and trust me you’ll thank me for this.
Roti, by simple definition, is a thin wrap filled with a glorious stew cooked for days by the local Caribbean Babcha, filled with a generous portion of potatoes, meat, chicken or fish. It’s hearty, healthy, filling and tastes so wonderful after a good surf session, accompanied with a cold beer of course. Each bite is a taste sensation like no other. The faint sting of curry waters your mouth as you feel the tingle of scotch bonnet trickled over the chickpea, potato and meat mixture. You crave more in each bite that’s not only satisfying, but exploding with flavors that are so addicting, you will not want to stop eating this delicious wrap. Let me tell you how my affinity for Roti started and if you are still craving more, I’ll share with you my easy recipe.
I discovered Roti about ten years ago while I was on vacation in Barbados. I kept passing by various Roti shacks and fast food renditions, I was curious as to what all the hype was about. Another food that changed my life forever. I remember first going to a little hole in the wall Roti shack, standing in line in the hot sun, hungry and thirsty. I ordered the chicken Roti and a Banks Beer. Remember it like it was yesterday. I think it was my ultimate food ingestion record, having consumed the darn thing in no more than five minutes. It was spicy, it was savory and it was cheap! I pretty much lived off of this delicious food for the rest of my stay.
Did I mention I love the Caribbean and the food native to the islands? Well it’s true and have been fortunate enough to have traveled to this wonderful island numerous times now. The natives, the beautiful beaches and yes, the Royal Gem: the Roti. I would be lying to you if I didn’t mention that it gets better with each bite. When we are all back to a new normal, not only acquiring a kinder soul, I certainly hope you will consider this island as your next destination and yes, eating a lot of Roti.
Over the years I have tweaked the recipe for Roti. Sometimes it was good and then sometimes it was REALLY good. As with anything, practice makes perfect, right? I encourage you to always have fun while cooking. Be creative and inventive with the food you create and always, respect your food and remember how it came to be. The promising thing about this recipe is that all the ingredients are inexpensive and again, you probably have most of the ingredients lurking about your pantry shelves screaming amongst the condiments…”Please make Roti from me now!!!” Okay you’ve earned it. Here is the recipe.
|Prep Time||30 min|
|Cook Time||24 h|
- 1 4-5lbs chicken whole chicken roaster or chicken thighs cut into pieces
- 2 medium yellow onions preferably vidalia rough chopped
- 2 tsp garlic grated
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 cube chicken bouillon to tast, for additional flavor
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 3 tsp dried parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tsp curry powder
- 3 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil olive oil is too strong
- 1 380g medium can chick peas rinsed and drained
- 4 medium sized butter potatoes in small cubes leave skin on for extra vitamins and nutrients
- 2 small scallions white and green bits chopped for garnish
- 1-2 tsp scotch bonnet sauce of course you will add more
- In a bowl, massage chicken, salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and curry powder, adding a little water just to activate the flavors. Cover in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. Tip: The longer it marinates, the better the flavor.
- Rough chop your onions and cut your potatoes into small cubes. I learned with potatoes the smaller the cube, the quicker the cooking time. Drain your chickpeas and marinate with a sprinkle of curry powder, as to just coat them for added flavor.
- In a dutch oven over medium heat, add your oil and your chicken. Sautee until golden brown on each side, roughly 1-2 minutes. It's okay to do in small increments as you do not want to crowd the pot. Small batches are fine. If you notice burning bits, take a little cup of water and deglaze the bottom of the pot, keeping the flavors sealed. When all your chicken is browned, lay on a cooling rack and cover with tin foil. Set aside.
- Add onions to the pot and let sautee low and slow until translucent, sweating out and unlocking their flavor. If you notice your pot getting dry on the bottom, add more water to keep everything moist and covalescent. Now comes the fun part. Add your potatoes and chickpeas and bay leaves to your tender onions. Cover with water and add your boullion cube if you need extra salt. You will be adjusting the salt, pepper curry and cumin to taste. This will slow boil for about an hour until the potatoes resemble a stew texture. Once it is thick and slurry, add your chicken to the pot and slow braise over night. Here you can taste and add additional flavor when necessary. The key is to let it cook low and slow, releasing all the flavor and most importantly, you have an off the bone tender chicken. Side tip: Rock sugar. You can find at any Asian Market. It's a wonderful additive for this step if you can get your hands on it. 2 little morsels to the pot will add a nice sweet to the savory. But if you do not have, it's not necessary.
- Once the chicken is slow braised and your flavors are to your liking, you need to remove from the bone. It's a tedious step, but a necessary one; which is why I allot a yield of 24 hours for cooking. Remove your chicken and your bay leaves from the pot and let cool. Extract all the meat and place back into the pot. Set aside bones for a rainy day and make a delicious stock out of them. At this point you have a curry stew. It's ready for either a store bought tortilla wrap or you can make your own. You can also substitute with a homemade naan or top over rice. Fill your desired wrap with your stew and add scallions for garnish and scotch bonnet for an additional punch in heat and flavor.
I truly hope that this recipe warms your tastebuds as well as your soul. It is with utmost guarantee your home will smell of the aromas of the Caribbean and your family will appreciate this comfort food no matter what season. It pairs well with Football games, neighborhood gatherings and a good cold beer!
Food is life, life is sacred and sacred is my recipe I gift upon you. Stay well and keep on cooking!