Pepper roti is one of those delightful dishes which became popular after I left the islands for North American shores. I was only introduced to this a few years back when my cousin hosted us for dinner during one of our Carnival visits and I immediately fell in love with it. What a treat! Stuffed with freshly grated vegetables and creamy from the addition of New Zealand cheddar, the layers of roti is really something you must try at least once. With moms help.. let’s go through the steps in making classic Trinbagonian pepper roti!
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon butter
1 – 1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon veg oil
1 scotch bonnet pepper finely diced (no seeds)
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated potato
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar aged)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
1/2 cup sweet pepper (bell pepper) grated
Note: for the filling you can always add ingredients you like.. even more scotch bonnet if you want it even more lethal!
First we need to make the dough for the roti (basically the same as we did with buss up shut or paratha roti) . In a large bowl place the flour, salt and baking powder and give it a good mix. Then start adding some of the water and start kneading… add more water as necessary to form a smooth and somewhat soft/firm dough.
Cover the dough with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes. Then divide into two dough balls, dust your work surface with flour and with a rolling pin, roll out to a circle. With the aid of the pictures below and by watching the video directly below the post, you can follow along. In a small bowl place the butter and oil and mix well.. the butter should be soft. You’ll need a small brush (pastry brush).
After rolling out one of the dough balls flat (about 12-14 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick… the size of your tawa), make a cut from the center out. Then brush on some of the oil/butter combination over the surface. Now, roll to form a sort of cone.
Then tuck in both ends to seal. This will give the roti the layers that paratha or buss up shut roti normally have when cooked. Tap town to sort of flatten, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for about 10 minutes.
Prepare the filling in the meanwhile (grate, chop etc).
Then place it all in bowl and mix it evenly so when we spread it on the roti we’ll have a uniform blend.
It’s now time to get back to the dough. On a flour dusted surface, roll out one of the dough balls the size of your tawa (tawa is the baking stone (iron) we’ll be using to cook this on the stove top). With your tawa on a low flame, brush on some of the oil/butter mixture onto the tawa, then place the rolled out dough onto it. The oil will prevent it from sticking, help develop color and give it a sort of fried exterior when fully cooked. Now top with the filling as evenly as you can, but leave about 1/4 inch off the side bare. This way we can seal the roti when we add the other layer.
Roll out the other dough ball the same shape and size as the previous one, then gently place on the one on the tawa. It can be a bit tricky! Then using a fork, press down on the edges to help seal the pepper roti.
By this time the underside will start developing some colour and firm up a bit. Brush some of the oil/butter combo on the top layer we just added, then try to flip the roti so the raw side is now sitting on the tawa. Turn the heat up a bit, so we can cook the inside of the roti with it’s stuffing. I’ve seen some people blanch the grated carrot and potato, but since we grated it finely.. you should be fine. After 3-4 minutes, brush a little more oil/butter on top and flip back so the original side is on the tawa again. Give it a minute or tow and you’re dun!
You’re looking for a golden crust, with a lovey creamy filling as the cheese melts and the other ingredients cook. Give it a minute or two to cool before slicing so you don’t end up with a mess! You can multiply the recipe if you want to make enough for large crowd. I guess this is a Caribbean version of quesadilla? Serve warm and do tell your guests to expect the kick from the finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper.
Side note: You can use a griddle or non stick frying pan (with low sides) to cook this pepper roti if you don’t have a traditional baking stone or tawa.