|Classic Masala Dosa with coconut chutney and lentils|
Pancake day was almost a week ago I know, but it’s taken me almost a week to make these Indian pancakes. Most cultures have some kind of pancake dish, and the Indian take on it is worth trying.
In Southern India they eat the Masala dosa, those long crispy thin crepes containing potato curry, traditionally served with coconut chutney and a lentil sauce.
I was inspired by my visit to Prashad vegetarian restaurant near Leeds where I enjoyed their ‘sour dough’ Masala Dosa, one of the best I’ve ever eaten. So when I embarked upon this savoury pancake , I used their recipe from their excellent book ‘Prashad’. Attempting this recipe is not for the faint-hearted: the components of the batter require soaking, grinding, frothing, fermenting and finally, cooking in a special pan. Unfortunately their recipe, which I followed to the letter, did not produce something as good as I ate in their restaurant.
The problem with cookbooks, especially those by restaurants and professional chefs, is that they are making all sorts of assumptions. Just because you can cook something superbly doesn’t mean you can explain it, with no steps missing, to the home cook. Writing recipes is very hard, I’ve missed out steps myself and sometimes only realise later. But we have a responsibility to readers, who’ve spent their money on ingredients and taken the time to try the recipe, although publishers, pushed for money, rarely pay for recipe testers except for big-time telly cooks.
It is said that the average cookery book buyer will only cook 3 or 4 recipes from a cookbook. Further, I’m willing to bet that not many readers tackle the tough ones. In my book Supper Club, there are a couple of recipes that I warn the reader about, saying, set aside some time for this, such as the timpano (giant pasta drum). I wonder how many people have actually attempted to cook it?
After my first attempt at Masala Dosa went wrong, flavourless and with the wrong texture, culminating with me sobbing into my batter on Saturday night, I spent several days looking at other Dosa recipes and Dosa YouTube videos. The Prashad recipe wasn’t bad but needed some tweaking and I hope I’ve put in some extra information that will help you succeed at home. It does take time to make, but the final results were well worth it.
There are different types of Dosa:
- Masala which is the classic kind found in most Indian restaurants. The original came from Karnataka, north of Mangalore, in Southern India.
- The Masala Dosa from Mysore, not very far away, is on the other hand, spongier and less cooked on the inside.
- Rava Dosa: made from semolina, softer and less crispy, with holes in.
- In Sri Lankan and Singapore it’s called a ‘thosai’. The Sri Lankan hopper has a similar basis.
- It’s also related to the Ethiopian injera bread which is fermented and bubbly, and like Dosa, a receptacle for curries.
- And with the same batter you can make Idli and Uthapam.
- Dosa can also be made sweet, with jaggery.
|You can’t get it thin and light UNLESS it has fermented.|
|Traditionally you put a potato curry in it. Some places you spread a tomato chutney on first.|
275g broken rice or par-boiled rice (can be found in Indian shops under these names)
65g Urad Dhal (white lentils) Buy skinless, preferably whole. I used split which aren’t as good but work.
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
When you come to grind it you will need 300ml of water.
Place your chutney or potato curry in the centre. I don’t see why you can’t add any curry you happen to be making to a Dosa, although traditionally it’s a potato curry.
I once went out with a man who said that Uthapam and Janssen’s Temptation were his favourite foods, neither of which I had tasted at that point. He was a complete wanker but he did have a great palate. Better than this date or this one. Yes I’ve got a whole collection of disastrous dinner dates.
Anyway, forget men, make an Uthapam, which is frequently referred to as a kind of Indian pizza, but having made it, it was more like large shallow subcontinental crumpet. It doesn’t need to be spread out in the same way as the dosa. The dough on top doesn’t need flipping over. It’s one of the best things I have made in ages.
I made it with onions fried in ghee, with mustard seeds and curry leaves. You could try garlic, paneer and tomatoes for that pizza feel.
Ingredients for one Uthapam:
2 tablespoons of ghee
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 medium onion, red or brown, sliced finely into circles
1 thinly sliced green chilli
A large pinch of curry leaves, either fresh or dried
Dosa dough, half a ladle
Pinch of salt
Heat the ghee in a small frying pan. Add the cumin seeds, then the mustard seeds. Let them pop.
Then add the onion, chilli and curry leaves until the edges of the onion are golden and the centres are soft.
In your tava or flat pancake pan, add a little ghee, then put in half a ladle of the Dosa dough. The circumference should be about 8-10 cm’s (4/5 inches) and half a centimentre thick (1/4 inch). Let the bottom cook and add the onion on top.
You will see the dough bubble like a crumpet.
Add a pinch of salt and eat it all up. Then, probably, make another one and eat that all up too. Mmmm..
|Uthapam with fried onions, curry leaves, coriander, and green chilli|