Sunday, April 28, 2013
This is a post that has taken ages to finally get on the blog. As difficult as it has been to get posted is as easy as they are to make. Dosas are a uniquely Indian flatbread and come in many flavors and combinations of rice and lentils - some thick and the size of pancakes and some crepe thin, crispy and larger than dinner plates. These dosas are made by soaking and grinding rice and lentils into a smooth batter and then fermenting the batter to give it a delicious tang - a bit like sourdough bread. This makes them a good starting point for traditional fermented foods. I like to make them this time of year when my kitchen is warmer and fermenting is quicker.
Several years ago I was part of an online health board and one of my board-mates was a lovely Indian woman named Sangeetha. When she learned that I love Sri Lankan and Indian food she asked if I had ever made dosas before and proceeded to teach me by email. She taught me a plain version and one her kids called pizza dosas. Today's post is the plain version and I'll post the pizza dosas soon.
While the process is super simple you need to plan in advance because you'll soak for one day and ferment overnight. You can see that I'm soaking the rice and lentils in separate jars and each jar has a pinch of fennugeek seeds. The jars look a bit cloudy but the rice and lentils were each rinsed very well.
The lentils look almost white yet they are called black gram dal or urad dal and can be found in every Indian or Asian market in our area. You can use any lentil, only the color will really be affected.
After twelve hours the jars are rinsed with fresh water and left for another twelve hours. At this point some of the water is drained and it's time to grind the soaked rice and lentils. I have used a regular blender, an immersion blender and my Vitamix. The Vitamix obviously grinds faster, but all will work. You'll need enough water in the jar to keep the mixture liquid - like a thick cream or pancake batter.
Once the mixture is blended, pour it back into clean jars and put the lid(s) on loosely. I've put the blue jar between the two jars just to give you perspective on the fermentation. You can see the batter is almost as high as the blue jar here. I set the jar out about 9:00 p.m. on Friday.
Here's what it looked like by mid-day Saturday. You can see the batter is naturally fermenting and has grown considerably. You can also see air bubbles throughout the jars letting you know the fermentation is complete.
Do keep an eye on your jars as they start to expand, as they can easily bubble up over the top!
Next step is to add a bit of salt and get cooking! One key ingredient is your cooking oil. I only use coconut oil for cooking my dosas. In fact, it's the most used oil in my kitchen.
The pan you use is very important. A stainless steel skillet will get sticky no matter how much oil you use. I don't have non-stick pans because I'm concerned about the chemicals leeching into our food. The only pan I use for dosas (and making tortillas) is my cast iron pan. A well seasoned cast iron pan is better than any non-stick pan I've ever used.
1 cup Rice - I use Organic Basmati
1 cup Lentils - I use Urad Dal or split Black Gram Lentils
Pinch of Fennugeek seeds
Sea Salt - added after fermenting
Coconut Oil for frying
Using one jar for the rice and one jar for the lentils, pour each into their separate jars and rinse thoroughly under running water being careful to not let the rice or lentils flow out of the jars as you pour off excess water. When the water runs clear fill each jar with filtered water and let sit 10 to 12 hours with lids on.
Rinse and refill each jar, put the lids back on and let sit for another 10 to 12 hours.
Now that the jars have sat out nearly a full day you can start your batter. Pour off some excess water, leaving the water level just about even with the rice and lentils. I actually doubled the recipe in the photos above so I couldn't fit both jars into my blender at once but you should have no problem doing so. My Vitamix plows through the mixture quickly but you may need a bit more water if you're blender is having trouble mixing the rice and lentils into a batter.
Just like a pancake batter is thicker than a crepe batter the thickness of your dosa batter will affect the thickness of the cooked dosa. I have better results with a pancake consistency.
Now put your batter back into the clean jar(s), put the lid on and give it some time to ferment and get bubbly. I put my jars out about 9:00 in the evening and by lunch time the next day that had risen and were nice and bubbly. Since I wanted to make them for dinner I added a teaspoon of sea salt to the mixture and popped it in the fridge until dinner time. This slows down the fermentation. The batter will keep a couple of days in the fridge.
Heat a cast iron pan on medium heat and add a spoonful of coconut oil to the pan. Spoon about a half cup of batter on to the center of your skillet and swirl it out to spread it a little thinner.
You can see that just like a pancake bubbles are forming and as soon as the edges are set you can flip it over. Notice they don't get brown, just a little golden. It will take just a few minutes on each side.
When finished place on a paper towel lined plate and stack.
Make sure your pan is well greased between dosas.
Although I know dosas are often served at breakfast in India we love them with fiery cilantro chutney and something hot off the grill or to sop up some Cashew Curry or Sri Lankan Lentils.
Do you enjoy dosas? Do you have a favorite recipe to link? I'd love to see it. If you haven't tried them before I'd encourage you to make these - I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does.