Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dosas and Sambar (after a six month wait)

This recipe has been a very long time coming.  About 6 months ago, my friend Geetha took me to Pavani Express and introduced me to dosas - crispy rice and lentil based crepes filled with various curries.  I was in love and we went back several times before Geetha mentioned that she could teach me to make them.  Yes, please!  It took many attempts to find a weekend that we were free to meet and then when we finally made the dosas, I forgot my camera.  No loss, though, it just meant that I "had" to make them again at home.

The biggest challenge with dosas are remembering to start the batter a day before to give it a chance to ferment (think of it like sourdough bread).  The end result has an oddly grassy smell that I found to be quite nice.  The dosa batter does require a somewhat unusual ingredient - urad gota - which seems to be a type of lentil, but it was cheap and easy to find at our local Indian market.  While there, you may want to pick up some dried or fresh curry leaves (Geetha shared some of her special stash with me!).  Everything else you will need should be available at a well-stocked grocery store.

Along with the dosas, it's nice to serve some sambar (lentil soup) which is quick to make - especially if you add in frozen, mixed veggies.  Start the lentils simmering while you make the filling for the dosas.  I had some sweet potatoes and cauliflower on hand so I substituted those in for the potatoes that are commonly found in the filling.  Lastly, you should make the peanut and spicy tomato chutnies.  I know this seems like a lot, but they are completely worth it and everything except cooking the dosas can be made the night before and reheated.  Once the filling and lentil soup are ready, it's time to make the dosas.  

It may take a few tries to get the dosas right, but we had lots of extra batter, so don't sweat it. My favorite tip from Geetha was to use the end of a potato to lightly oil the nonstick pan.  Get the pan over medium-high heat and pour on about 1/3 of a cup of batter.  Use the back of a measuring cup to make it as thin as possible without creating large holes.  You only cook the pancake on one side, so once it starts to get brown along the edges, smear on spicy tomato chutney.  Place a dollop of filling in the middle and fold over the edges.  Straight out of the pan, the dosas are amazingly crispy, but they start to get soft within minutes so go ahead and eat them right away as you are cooking more.  And you will want a lot of them.

These recipes are my adaptation of the notes that I took from Geetha.  I hope they work for you, but if they don't, it's totally my fault, not hers.  Her dosas are crazy-good.

Lentil Soup (Sambar)
Serves 4-6

1 c. dried lentils
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1.5 c. mixed frozen vegetables
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
5 curry leaves
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. sambar powder OR a combination of cayenne, coriander, and garam masala
1 tbsp. oil

1. Cook all spices in oil.
2. Add lentils, tomatoes, and 3 cups of water until lentils are tender (30-60 minutes).
3. Add veggies and salt, simmer until veggies are tender.

Peanut Chutney
Serves 4-6

1 cup peanuts
2-3 dried red chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp coconut (optional)
heavy pinch of salt (if peanuts aren't salted)

1. Toast peanuts in a dry skillet until browned.
2. Combine all ingredients in a blender with enough water to form a thick paste.
3. I include a bit of coconut in my version because it tastes to me like that is how Pavani Express does it.  Geetha doesn't include it in her dip.

Spicy Chutney
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp oil
2 onions, chopped
1/2 tomato
2 cloves garlic
3 red chiles
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt, to taste

1. Cook onions, garlic, and chiles in oil until onions are translucent.
2. Blend all ingredients with just enough water to form a thin paste.  Add cayenne pepper until it is as hot as you can stand.  Remember that this is a condiment and will be distributed thinly on the dosa.

Serves 10+

3 cups long grain rice
1 cup urad daal
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 cup cooked rice
1 tsp. salt

1. At least 24 hours before making dosas: Soak rice and urad daal for 12 hours in cold water.
2. That evening, grind soaked rice, daal, cooked rice, and fenugreek seeds with enough water to make a pancake-like batter.  Let sit 12 hours at room temperature before adding salt and making dosas.  If you aren't making them right away, the batter can sit in the refrigerator for a few days, but be aware it will become slightly more sour as it continues to (slowly) ferment.

Dosa Filling
Serves 8-10

1/2 head of cauliflower
2 small sweet potatoes
1 onion, diced
4 dried hot peppers, chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tbsp. ginger, minced
5 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp. cayenne
4 tsp. corriander
1 tbsp. garam masala
1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
salt, to taste

All of these amounts should be adjusted to your taste.  Geetha just eyeballs it, so I did too.

1. Steam cauliflower and sweet potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces.
2. Fry mustard and cumin seeds in about 2 tbsp. oil.  Add onion, garlic, and ginger.  Cook about 3 minutes or until onion is translucent.
3. Add curry leaves, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.
4. .Add remaining spices and 1/2 cup of water.  Cook until water evaporates.
5. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

This was an epic post, but well worth it.  I'm so in love with dosas.  Discovering new foods makes me feel like a kid again!

1 comment:

  1. Heavens! So many recipes!
    I don't care for spicy foods, but I do love lentils.
    Ellen, you are amazing!


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