These are not the large, paper-thin fantasies served in South Indian restaurants that seem to get larger annually. They are everyday, home-style dosas (pancakes), yet the pride of South India, eaten at breakfast, lunch and snack time. As they are made with batter of fermented split peas and rice, they are nutritious and very easy to digest. Today, South Indian restaurants serving dosas can be found in many areas of Britain. And many British Asian families make them at home.
- 150 g (5½ oz) hulled and split urad dhal
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) Thai jasmine rice
- 1 tsp salt
- olive or sunflower oil, to cook
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.
Soaking time 8 hours or overnight
Standing time 20-24 hours
Wash the dal well. Drain. Add the fenugreek seeds and soak in 350 ml of water for 6-8 hours, or overnight. Wash the rice well. Drain. Soak it in 700 ml of water for 6-8 hours, or overnight.
Drain the dhal, but save the soaking water. Put the dhal in a powerful blender or food processor. Add 4 tbsp of the soaking water and blend for about five minutes, being sure to push down any dhal stuck on the sides and to push out any stuck to the bottom of the blender near the blades. Add another 3–4 tbsp of water and process for another five minutes, or until you have a thick, light cake-like batter. It should be smooth between your fingers. Transfer to a large bowl.
Drain the rice, but save the soaking water. Put the rice in the same blender (you do not need to clean it). Add 240 ml of the saved water and blend for five minutes. Again, you will need to push the rice down from the sides and make sure that no rice has collected around the blades. Add another 50 ml of the saved water and blend for another 5 minutes. You will end up with a slightly thinner pancake-like batter. The texture of the rice batter will not be as smooth as the dhal batter, and it will feel ever so slightly grainy.
Pour the rice batter into the dhal batter. Stir to mix. Leave the bowl, uncovered, in a warm place to ferment for 20–24 hours. Do not disturb it. (I leave mine inside my microwave oven.)
The next day you will see that the batter has risen and it will have bubbles in it. Add the salt and stir it in gently.
When you’re ready to cook, assemble a ladle (a flattish-bottomed ladle is best), a measuring cup, some oil, a teaspoon, a rubber spatula, a thin wooden spatula or fish slice and the batter.
Set a 25 cm non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. When it’s hot, rub the surface with a piece of kitchen paper soaked in oil. Using a measuring cup, pour 120 ml of batter into the centre of the pan and, using the back of the ladle and a very light, hovering touch, push the top of the batter out in concentric circles until the pancake is as thin as possible and about 18 cm or a bit more in diameter. Drizzle about 1 tsp of oil on top of the dosa and another tsp around its outer edge. Spread out the oil and smooth the ridges on the dosa with the rubber spatula. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the dosa is golden-red on the underside. The outer edges will have loosened from the pan and turned up a bit. If not, loosen them with the thin wooden spatula or fish slice and flip the dosa over. Cook the second side for 50 seconds or so. The dosa is now ready to be served.
Make as many dosas as you like this way. If you wish to make masala dosas, put the filling along the centre of the dosa and roll it up.
• See recipe for potato filling for masala dosa