"One of the supreme combinations of texture and flavour from the subcontinent, masala dosa is a delight. Chef Ajoy Joshi is a master of spicing and this recipe is one of his finest. A show-stopping crowd pleaser especially if you have access to a hotplate but can be adapted to a fry-pan." Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth
Very few dishes come close to the mix of the light crispy, slightly spongy dosa with its mild fermented tang, filled with the most glorious spicy potato stuffing and served with spicy sambar and coconut chutney.
- 660 g (3½ cups) medium-coarse rice flour
- 150 g (1¼ cups) split white lentil flour
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- 60 ml (¼ cup) melted unsalted butter
- 1⅓ cups coriander seeds
- 1 cup dried red chillies, broken into smaller pieces
- 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1½ tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 cm piece cinnamon stick
- 50 g unsweetened dried shredded coconut
- ¼ cup firmly packed fresh curry leaves
- 1½ tsp powdered asafoetida
- 300 g (1½ cups) split yellow lentils, rinsed and drained
- 2 litres water
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 500 g tomatoes (about 3-4 medium), unpeeled, chopped
- 2 brown onions, chopped
- 3 tbsp sambar masala (see above)
- 2 tsp tamarind concentrate
- 18 fresh curry leaves
- salt, to taste
- ⅔ cup (30 g) chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tbsp gingelly oil (Indian-style sesame) or vegetable oil
- 1½ tsp brown or black mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp split chickpeas (chana dal)
- 1 tbsp split white lentils (urad dal)
- 4 dried red chillies
- ¼ tsp powdered asafoetida
- 2½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp salt, plus extra to taste
- 18 fresh curry leaves
- 2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 kg cooked Desiree or Pontiac potatoes (about 7 medium), peeled and coarsely mashed
- ½ cup (30 g) fresh chopped coriander
Fresh coconut chutney
- 1 whole fresh coconut
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander leaves and stems
- 2 fresh green chillies, coarsely chopped
- 2½ tsp finely grated fresh ginger
- salt to taste
- 3-4 tbsp cold water
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1½ brown or black mustard seeds
- ½ tsp powdered asafoetida
- 18 fresh curry leaves, coarsely chopped
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time 36 hours
To make the dosai, in a bowl, combine ½ cup (60 g) rice flour with 2 tablespoons lentil flour and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre. Stir in enough cold water to form a batter with a dropping consistency. Cover and stand in a warm place for 12 hours or overnight.
The following day, in a clean bowl, combine another ½ cup (60 g) rice flour with 2 tablespoons lentil flour and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre. Stir in enough cold water to form a batter with a dropping consistency. Stir in 1 heaped tablespoon of the previous day’s batter into the new batter. Cover the new batter and stand in a warm place for 12 hours or overnight.
The following day, in a large clean bowl, combine the remaining rice flour with the remaining lentil flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in enough cold water to form a new batter with a soft dropping consistency. Stir 1 heaped tablespoon of the previous day’s batter into the new batter. Discard the old batter. Cover the new batter and stand in a warm place for 12 hours or overnight. By this stage, the batter should have increased in volume by about half.
Meanwhile, to make the sambar masala, heat a small saucepan over low heat. Separately dry roast the whole spices and chilli coriander until fragrant and only lightly coloured. Place the roasted spices in a bowl. Toast the coconut in the pan, stirring constantly, until lightly browned. Add to the spices. Dry-roast the curry leaves, tossing often, until crisp. Add to the spices with asafoetida, combine well and let cool. Place the mixture in an airtight jar and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months. Just before using sambar masala, grind to a powder in a spice grinder.
To make the lentil sambar, in a large saucepan combine the lentils, water and turmeric and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and mushy. Add the tomatoes and onions and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally for 30 minutes or until soft. Add the sambar masala, tamarind, curry leaves and salt and bring to the boil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the coriander. Remove from the heat, partially cover, then reheat over low heat just before serving.
To make the potato pallaya, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook for 30 seconds or until they crackle. Add the chickpeas and lentils, reduce the heat to low and stir for 30 seconds or until light golden, be careful not to burn them. Add the chillies and asafoetida and cook, stirring for 15 seconds. Add the turmeric, salt and curry leaves, and cook, stirring for 15 seconds. Stir in the onions and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring often for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the potatoes and coriander and stir for 2-3 minutes or until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cover to keep warm and set aside until serving.
To make the fresh coconut chutney, to open the coconut, carefully pierce the “eyes” of coconut with a thick metal skewer, a screwdriver or other pointed object. Drain the coconut water into a cup. Taste the coconut water to make sure it is sweet and not off-tasting and keep for drinking. Use a hammer to crack the coconut open. Turn pieces rounded side up and use hammer to break them into smaller pieces about 7 cm wide. Use a small, sharp knife to pry the coconut meat from shell. Peel tough brown skin from the coconut meat.
Place the coconut meat in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the coriander, chilli, ginger and salt and process until all the ingredients are finely chopped, adding 3-4 tbsp water if necessary to facilitate processing. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustards seeds and cook, stirring for 30 seconds or until they begin to crackle. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the asafoetida and curry leaves, mixing well. Add the mustard seed mixture to coconut chutney and mix well. Taste and add salt if necessary.
To cook the dosai, heat a tawa or heavy griddle over high heat and spread a layer of salt over the top. Heat for 3-4 minutes, then, using a clean kitchen towel, wipe off the salt. This seasons the pan.
To test if the pan in right temperature for cooking the dosai, heat the pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Combine the vegetable oil and melted butter then drizzle a little into the pan and sprinkle with water. If the water sizzles immediately on contact, the pan is ready. Wipe the pan clean. Using a flat-bottomed metal cup, ladle 80 ml (⅓ cup) batter into the pan. Use the bottom of the cup to spread the batter outwards, moving the cup in concentric circles until about 18 cm -20 cm in diameter. Drizzle the dosai with 1 teaspoon oil and butter mixture and cook for 2-4 minutes or until crisp and golden underneath. Repeat with the remaining batter and oil and butter mixture. Spoon one tenth of the warm potato filling onto the centre of the dosa. Fold in the sides and place seam-side down on serving plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and potato filling. Serve immediately with the warm lentil sambar and fresh coconut chutney.