There’s only one other person in the world whose cooking I miss as much as my mother’s. This is Gayathri Marulidhar, a beautiful, kind-hearted woman from Mysore, Karnataka, South India, who has become an aunt to me. It has been a blessing to eat her delicious cuisine since we first met in 2006.
During my recent trip to India, Gayathri prepared one of my favorite breakfasts: ragi roti served with coconut chutney. Ragi, or finger millet, is a nutritious, earthy grain used frequently in South Indian cooking. Originally native to Ethiopian Highlands, it has been harvested in India for about 4,000 years. In the United States, you can find it online or at specialty stores. If you’re in Manhattan, visit Kalustyan’s on Lexington Avenue.
In India, traditional recipes are generally passed on through hands on experience in the kitchen. Ingredients are generally eyeballed versus meticulously measured. I’ve learned so much from Gayathri and will do my best to share this recipe in writing with you! Remember: Practice makes perfect! My first few rotis definitely didn’t look like this.
Coconut Chutney (feeds 6-8)
This is a standard accompaniment to many South Indian dishes.
- About 1 ¼ - 1-½ cups of freshly grated coconut
- 8-10 Green Chilies (This is for pretty spicy chutney. Adjust according to taste and depending on variety of chili)
- About 10 fresh curry leaves
- 2 tablespoons of sunflower seed oil (or substitute with other vegetable oil)
- 2 teaspoons of mustard seed
- 1 pinch of hing (Asafoetida) (this adds flavor and aids digestion. If you don’t have
hing, just omit)
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
- About 1 tablespoon of dry roasted half chickpeas (chana dal)
- 1-½ teaspoons of salt (more or less to taste)
1. Dry fry the chilies and curry leaves for about 1 minute
2. Add oil, after about 30 seconds, add mustard seeds
3. Sauté until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add hing. Turn off heat.
4. Add chilies, curry leaves, and chickpeas to a blender. Add coconut and salt.
5. Next, add a small amount of water and blend all ingredients together. Maintain a slightly course texture.
6. Add the coriander. Blend again until slightly smooth.
7. Stir in remaining mustard seeds and oil. Put aside until ready to serve.
Ragi Roti (feeds 6-8)
- About 2 ½ cups ragi flour
- About 2 cups finely chopped onion (the Indian onions are red, but they are less pungent then our red onions. I recommend using yellow onion)
- About ¾ cup freshly chopped coriander.
- ¼ cup finely sliced green chili. More or less to taste.
- 1 cup freshly grated coconut (if needed, you can buy pre-grated)
- 2 teaspoons salt, according to taste
- 1 pinch of hing (Asafoetida)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1. In a large bowl, put ragi flour, salt, cumin seeds, hing, and grated coconut.
2. Add wet ingredients (onion, coriander, chili)
3. Mix by hand (or spoon)
4. Add a small amount of water and continue mixing. Add water and mix until a soft, cookie-batter-consistency-like dough is made.
5. Heat a large oiled skillet (in India a tawa is used) on medium heat.
6. Take a medium sized handful of the dough and make a ball. Place this on the skillet and carefully use your hand to form a thin pancake-like shape.
7. Apply a small amount of oil on the roti and cook about 4-5 minutes.
8. Then, carefully flip using a spatula. Cook for another 4 minutes.
9. Transfer onto a plate, folded in half.
Serve with coconut chutney. Gayathri also prepared an eggplant and pepper palia, or sauté dish, and a dollop of ghee (clarified butter).
Feel free to comment about your favorite South Indian dishes and links to recipes.
Or, ask questions!
Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.