25 April 2012
Dosas – Southern Indian Pancakes
My parents have recently come back from a wedding in Southern India and they have been to one of my favourite regions, Kerala. They were blown away by the delicious food and already miss the flavours of their staple, the dosa. At about the same time, Sophie has been chatting with The Curry Guy and liked his Masala Mashed Potatoes. So using some recipes from The Curry Guy, some recipes my parents brought back and Das Sreedharan, I made dosas at the weekend.
The dosas were pretty good, especially after I overruled the recipe I had come up with and added more water – I later realised from Das Sreedharan’s book that there is a mysterious and innocuous line that I had missed which basically said “add more water until you are happy with the mixture”. I added to this some Masala Mashed Potatoes and a fresh Coconut Chutney.
The only other key thing is a really good pan for making the dosas, ideally the best pancake pan you have, which if you are like me has been lovingly nurtured and cured with oil for years and years and has excellent heat transfer properties.
Curried Mashed Potatoes
700g / 1lb 8oz floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
¼ cup full fat milk
100g / 3½oz peas
3tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium sized onion, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, smashed and finely chopped
1 medium sized tomato, cut into eighths
1cm / 1 inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and grated
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp garam masala
1tsp black mustard seeds
Pinch of sea salt
How to make
Boil the potatoes until soft, then drain and mash roughly with the full fat milk.
Boil the peas until soft, then drain. If cooking from frozen, simply bring to the boil, then drain.
While the potatoes are cooking away, prepare the masala. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then fry the onions over a medium heat for 4 -5 minutes until they start to brown at the edges, then add the chopped garlic and fry for another 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and fresh ginger, spices and salt and cook over a low heat for 3 – 5 minutes, making sure it does not burn or stick to the pan.
Add the mashed potatoes and peas, and stir these into the onion masala. Cook for another 3 – 4 minutes until thoroughly infused with flavours.
These curried potatoes can be eaten with nearly anything and are a great way to jazz up excess mashed potato that has been made. They can also be used to make great curried flavoured potato patties for eating with breakfast. I love this recipe as it is easily tweaked to whatever ingredients you have kicking about, just like bubble & squeak or colcannon.
A Basic Dosa Recipe
It is quite a long process, but actually does not take a huge amount of actual working time, i.e. it is just a matter of thinking ahead.
295g / 10½oz long grain rice
75g / 3oz urad dal – dark brown lentils (I used yellow split peas, so any lentil or pea within reason works)
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
Pinch of sea salt
Sunflower oil (for frying)
How to make
Put the rice in one bowl and the urad dal and fenugreek in another bowl. Cover them in water with around 3cm (1 inch water above the grains). Leave for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain separately. Believe me it is key to keep them separate as the grinding process just will not work if done together, even if it seems more efficient. Place the rice into a blender and grind for 3 minutes, slowly adding 125ml / 4 fl oz water, giving the rice a smooth paste texture. Put the rice paste into a large bowl.
Rinse the blender. Add the lentils and fenugreek seeds to the blender and grind for 5 minutes, slowly adding 5 tablespoons of water. Add the dal paste to the rice paste and mix together. Add a pinch of salt and stir in. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for 12 hours, allowing it to ferment.
When ready to cook, add some more water to get the pouring consistency correct.
Get your best pancake pan and heat until very hot. Having a good pancake pan is vital for this, as it is in making good pancakes or omelette; weirdly the most highly promoted are not the best as you want one that has good heat transfer properties like an old steel pan that has been well oiled and greased over the years. When you have the right pan, you will know and keep it lovingly forever.
Lightly grease the pan, then pour over a ladle of batter, then using the bottom of the ladle spread over the pan; I use a jug and spiral it from the centre of the pan outwards then using the tip of a spatula spread the batter over the gaps to give a smooth surface. This bit is probably the hardest part as it often gloops up and becomes a disaster, but a little practise and trial & error and you will work out the best way. The Curry Guy suggests cutting an onion in half then using this to spread out the oil, which he says will help to stop the dosa from sticking plus giving some extra flavour – I have not tried this but I like the idea of the discrete onion flavour.
Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until crisp and golden, then flip.
Most books suggest that if you are making a filling put this onto the uncooked top surface, fold and serve, but I cook both sides of the dosa then filling and serving.
To fill the dosa, add some curried mashed potato to the centre of the dosa in a line, then drizzle over some Fresh Coconut Chutney, fold, serve and enjoy.
100g / 3½ oz creamed coconut block
¾ fresh green chilli (or more for extra heat)
2½cm / 1 inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
3tbsp plain yoghurt
Smallish handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped (should really be fresh curry leaves, but they are not easily available here in the sticks)
Pinch of sea salt
1stp black mustard seeds (ideally Indian ones for authenticity)
How to make
I began by preparing the green chilli. As we were cooking for kids as well, I topped and tailed the chillis, then removed the seeds and removed the veins inside the chilli pod. Next, I sliced it into medium sized slices.
I dry roasted the black mustard seeds in a pan, without any oil. When the seeds begin to pop and hop about the pan, I took it off the heat and tipped them into a small serving bowl.
I added all the other ingredients – coconut, chilli, ginger, yoghurt, parsley and the sea salt – into a blender. I whizzed all the ingredients up for 3 – 4 minutes, then tasted the flavours. You may need to up the chilli content or add a tad of sea salt.
This is the scooped out into the serving bowl and mixed in with the toasted black mustard seeds. This is lovely kit that adds a delightful freshness to your dosa and would go with most Indian curries.