Sri Lankan roti is very different from Indian roti; it’s much thicker and harder, and usually has freshly scraped coconut (pol) added to the mixture. The best roti I tasted was at Monaragala Prison. The inmates added coconut, green chillies, onions and curry leaves to the mixture. They didn’t use any coconut oil, as it’s too expensive for prison cooking, but most recipes call for some because it prevents the roti from sticking when you cook it, so I have added a little to their recipe. I have also added bicarbonate of soda, which is used to lighten the texture, although for security reasons it is not allowed in the prison.
Place the coconut into a bowl with the onion, curry leaves, chillies, salty water and coconut oil; mix well with your hands. Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda, then mix in 185 ml (
Work the dough into a large ball, making sure there are no cracks. Rub a little of the extra coconut oil over the dough ball so it doesn’t dry out. Take a handful of the dough and roll it into a ball, the size of a tennis ball, smoothing out any cracks. Rub with a little oil. Repeat with the remaining dough to make six balls.
Heat a tava (flat cast-iron roti pan) or a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Take a ball of dough and flatten it on a lightly oiled surface (or in your hands) into a disc about 13 cm (5 inches) in diameter and 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick. Place the disc of dough on the hot tava and use your fingertips to flatten it a little more, to about 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter. Cook for 3-4 minutes until it starts to colour, then flip it over and cook the other side for a further 3—4 minutes until light golden and crisp. Serve with seeni sambol, lunu miris or any thick curry.
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