Moringa Bati

In my recent trip to Rajasthan, I got to know bati quite intimately. Pankaj, a friendly local, exposed me to these delectable, roasted rolls at a restaurant, at a dhaba and even at a streetside gig (scroll down for pics). Quite impressed, I almost schlepped a large bati-pan back home to New York. [Update: Pankaj approved this post!]

The whole-wheat roll, more of a country food (in contrast to royal cuisine), is usually elevated by copious amounts of ghee. What I present here is not your mother’s bati: I replace the dairy fat with another – cheese. With stunning results. The cheese provides an inimitable je-ne-sais-quoi, apt for both a savory as well as sweet accompaniments.

Moringa is a common member in the Indian pantry. What is unusual is the powder form of the leaves now available in over-priced jars. Touted as a superfood, it has the optics of matcha (Japanese green tea) including the grassy flavor and a hint of bitterness. Moringa marries the batis well, pushing the latter’s health-index off the charts. This goes very well with kalamata-hummus, a reinterpretation of the classic dal-bati duo.

I pair the moringa-less bati with a Sicilian jam (thanks to Filippo). This unusual confiture is made from Indian Fig and coffee beans. BTW, the fruit’s name is a misnomer, thanks to history.

Enjoy the batis as hors-d’Ĺ“uvre or as dinner rolls!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

An oven or just a toaster oven.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ajwain seeds (carom) + 1/2 tsp salt
  • Leavener: 1/8 tsp baking soda + 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano + 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 tbsp yogurt (2% fat) + little water to make a dough
  • Optional: 2 tsp Moringa powder

METHOD

Make a soft dough with all the ingredients. Rest the dough for 10-15 minutes. Make 8 lemon-sized balls. Place on a baking tray, lined with silicone mat or parchment. Brush the balls with cold water.

Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes. Rotate the tray and bake for another 10 minutes (until nicely browned). Serve hot.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
  1. Absolutely simple to make. The flour I use here is atta, the durum flour that also has some bran in the mix (from the Punjabi diaspora in Canada).
  2. You can serve the batis with your usual spread, or with your meals -lunch or dinner, as it was originally intended ala the classic dal-bati combination.
  3. Batis can also be poached in water. Then they are deep-fried for a crusty outer surface.
  4. The amount of cheese in the recipe is just enough to give a hint of savory without being cheesy. But if you prefer cheesiness, you can double the amount of cheese.
  5. The ajwain provides an accent just like caraway to rye breads.
  6. The soda in the dough and the water-glaze on the surface, help brown the roll.
  7. Pankaj suggested using commercial Eno as the leavener. Eno is a combination of baking soda, citric acid and salt and is easily available in the Indian markets as a solution to indigestion. Perhaps because this is a more sanitized baking soda, many Gujarati/Rajasthani homes have been using this as a leavener for decades. Did Tarla Dalal (the Julia Child of India) start the trend?

Moringa version, in a toaster oven:

Dhaba bati: slow-cooked submerged in ambers, then cleaned, dunked in ghee and served on a thali.

(Left) Streetside bati accompanied by incredible functional (ass-to-grass) squats! (Right) Torn-up, deep-fried bati in a thali in a restaurant.