Gramma’s Kitchen delivers delicious feast from Guyana

By | July 12, 2019

Gramma’s Kitchen is a CBC Manitoba series that invites you to document the sharing of traditional family food and family traditions with children.

Click here to share yours!


Sandra Sukhan’s childhood in Guyana was filled with the delicious tastes of homemade roti, dhalls and curries.

But as she grew older, she learned the only way to replicate those recipes was to start from scratch — her mother didn’t write them down, or even remember some of the ingredients she’d made them out of.

That all changed when Sukhan, now in Canada, became a grandmother (or “Nani,” as she calls herself).  After her granddaughter Izabel Coloma spent a childhood summer at “Nani’s” house, little Bella’s heart was as full as her stomach.

Sahana Leppky, centre, rolls out roti dough under the watchful eyes of Nani Sandra, left, and sister Sabreena, right. (CBC)

In fact, Nani’s traditional Guyanese dishes — all served with a side of love — so inspired the seven-year-old, that she had an idea.

“She wanted me to write a cookbook, filled with all the recipes,” Sukhan recalls.

“The cookbook was her idea.”

Today, all of Sukhan’s grandchildren celebrate Comfort Food from Sandra’s Kitchen, a self-published book of recipes (and stories) to keep for generations to come.

Sabreena Leppky savours Nani Sandra’s special dhall and roti. (CBC)

That’s why the CBC was delighted that Sukhan and her granddaughters invited us to her Winnipeg kitchen for our special series Gramma’s Kitchen — Guyanese style.

Click here to watch Grandma’s Kitchen, Guyanese style! 4:58

Recipe for Nani Sandra’s dhall and roti

For the dhall:

  • One cup yellow split peas, washed.   
  • 7 cups water.
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin (geera).
  • 2 tsp. salt.
  • 1 tsp. turmeric (dye).
  • 2 tsp. ground garlic.
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil.
  • 1 tsp. curry powder or garam masala.
  • 2-3 tsp. salt (or to taste).

Spice garnish:

  • 1 tbsp. canola oil.
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin (geera).
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced.

Put all ingredients in pressure cooker and start on high heat.

Turn down heat to medium-low as soon as the pressure builds up and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Remove pressure cooker from heat and let pressure drop.

Remove lid and whisk dhall until smooth and completely dissolved. Alternatively, the recipe can be made in a regular pot by cooking on medium-low heat until the split pea is completely cooked and smooth (60-80 minutes).

Adjust salt and/or water as required for a runny consistency. Add spice garnish.

Spice garnish:

Heat oil in a small frying pan. Add garlic and cumin and cook until garlic is golden brown and cumin is dark and smells slightly nutty.

Carefully add to dhall, making sure to use the lid of the pressure cooker for protection against splattering.

Roti (Guyanese type of bread): 

  •  2 c. all-purpose flour.
  •  2 c. whole-wheat flour3 tsp. baking powder.
  • 1 tsp. salt.
  • 2 c. tepid water.
  • 3 tbsp. melted ghee or canola oil.
  • Canola oil for cooking.

Put flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse about  five times.

Add water in a steady stream until dough comes together (may not require all the water). Knead for another minute until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Remove the dough to a well-floured counter and roll into a oblong 10 inches by 16 inches (25 centimetres by 40 centimetres).

Spread the three tablespoons canola oil on top, making sure it reaches the edges.

Roll from one long side in a jelly roll fashion until the dough is rolled (no need to seal the edges.

Cut into 8 x 2-inch (20 by five centimetre) pieces. Pinch the cut edges closed.

Put dough pieces in a large covered plastic container and let the dough pieces rest for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a cast iron (or regular) frying pan on medium-low heat.

On a well-floured counter top, roll out each piece of dough into a nine-inch (22-centimetre) round or to a size that will fit the frying pan. Oil the well-heated frying pan with a small amount of oil.

Put a dough circle into the pan and flip over as soon as tiny bubbles form (about 30 seconds). Brush with small amount of ghee/oil. Flip over and do the same on the other side.

Flip two more times (no more oil needed) and remove from heat.

Wrap roti in a tea towel, bunch up the towel and pound with the rolling pin until the roti is well-crumpled and soft.

Remove from the tea towel and store in a container. Continue cooking the others in exactly the same manner.

Yields eight roti.