While Mardi Gras is one of the most well-known Carnival celebrations in the United States, festivals are held throughout the world. In the Caribbean, Carnival festivals are actually spread out over the year depending on the country. Barbados is known for their Crop Over which runs from June to the beginning of August and signifies the end of the sugarcane harvest. This festival features markets, parties, music, tents, shows, elaborate costumes, and food. The biggest celebration is on Kadooment Day (on August 7th this year- the first Monday in August), the last day of the festival, with a huge parade, music, and themed costumes. If you are looking for street food in Barbados, a popular one is the Chicken and Potato Roti. Homemade roti skins (influenced from the Indian roti) are filled with a spiced diced chicken and potato mixture, then folded so it can be eaten by hand. Other meats may be used like beef and the potato is optional- but it helps reduce the amount of meat needed. Variations can also be found in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and other islands.
If available use a scotch bonnet pepper. They can be located in some areas featuring Caribbean ingredients and have a rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville units. I have yet to come across one so I used a habanero pepper. They are similar in shape, but the scotch bonnet has a slightly sweet, more fruity flavor. Make sure to use the scotch bonnet/habanero whole. Cutting it will add too much heat.
This recipe makes a few extra roti skins. The kids always end up stealing one or two while they are still warm. If you want the exact amount of roti for the filling, divide the flour and butter in half for 6 roti skins. I added butter to the dough, but shortening or oil are also common. Heat the roti just until they develop little brown spots. Don’t cook them so long that they become crisp. They need to keep that soft, flakey texture for wrapping.
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
Chicken and Potato Filling:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into about 3/4 inch cubes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons curry powder
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 scotch bonnet pepper
14 ounces potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup boiling water
To make the roti skin: In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and salt. Mix in the softened butter to create a coarse texture and slowly add water until a soft dough comes together. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth. Cover with a towel and allow to rest while the filling is simmering.
To make the filling: In a large, deep pan with a lid, drizzling the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides. Stir in the onions, garlic, curry powder, thyme, salt, pepper, and the whole scotch bonnet pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Rinse and drain the potatoes to remove any excess starch and stir into the chicken mixture. Pour in the 1 cup boiling water, cover, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Add a little more water if there isn’t enough. Remove and discard the scotch bonnet before serving.
To prepare the roti while the potatoes are simmering: Place a large, flat pan over medium heat. Lightly grease with clarified butter or oil. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a thin circle about 6 inches wide.
Add a thin circle to the heated pan and cook until beginning to puff, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side just until beginning to form brown spots, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat with remaining roti, greasing as needed. Cover the cooked roti skins with a towel to keep warm while the rest are cooking.
To serve, fill the center of a warm roti with the prepared filling. Fold the top and bottom over the filling to cover, then fold in the ends to close. Flip over so the smooth part is on top and serve immediately.