Tuesday, 15 April 2008

My Daring Darling Dosa

I’d never heard of dosa until last year when my friend Yaz raved to me about the masala dosa at Nila. It truly was a joy to behold. A wafer-thin pancake, crisp on one side, soft underbelly and stuffed with mushy spicy potatoes. Ever since I have hankered after dosa. How I have admired bloggers who dare to make dosa. Then I saw that Srivalli is holding an event to celebrate dosa.

Wikipedia describes dosa as a ‘South Indian crepe’. It seems that dosa is usually made of rice and split skinned urad dal (a type of black bean or lentil) which are soaked overnight to ferment, finely ground and then fried like a pancake. Apparently it is considered a breakfast dish but can be eaten at other times of day. Making dosa is quite foreign to me and I found Lisa’s advice very useful.

I have written before that I am challenged by Indian cooking. Lately I have made a kofta dish so spicy that E didn’t even reach for Tabasco, a dahl sadly lacking in spice, and a chappati that involved the smoke alarm (more of that another time). So I was a little wary of trying my hand at dosa. I am not good at light and fluffy food which seems likely to float to the heavens if not weighted by a good masala. Instead I turned to a red lentil dosa recipe in one of my cookbooks because the picture suggested it was made of sturdier stuff.

The biggest challenge with the dosa was timing. I needed to plan 32 hours ahead! This makes bread baking seem quick. But plan I did. Last night I got home from one of the most bleak, unrelenting, unrelaxing films I have seen for ages (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) and stood with the noise of food processor motor pounding in my head as I willed the rice and lentil mixture to become smooth. Nay chance! It took forever and then I gave up and decided I would have to live with a little gritty texture. Today I rushed home from work and checked the mixture again, hoping it might have softened overnight but it still felt more mud pie than the anticipated smooth batter.

I almost threw out the batter and swore off attempting any more Indian food. But I don’t like wasting food any more than I like giving up so I persevered. I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The itty bitty rice particles seemed to dissolve on the frypan. The dosa was wonderfully spicy and chewy. I served it with a mildly spiced chowder. It was unusual, nice, different!

I will be trying out more dosa after this one. Thanks Srivalli for the prompt I needed.

Red Lentil Dosa
(from The Complete Book of Bread and Bread Machines)
Makes 6

150g / ¾ cup long grain rice
50g / ¼ cup red lentils
250ml / 1 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped (I used parsley)
Oil for frying

Place rice, red lentils and water in a small bowl and soak for 8 hours. Drain water and reserve. Place lentils and rice in food processor and blend til smooth. Then add reserved water gradually. (Mine was more gritty than smooth and I found I needed a little water to get it to this stage.) Cover and stand for 24 hours.

Stir in the turmeric, pepper and coriander (or parsley). The recipe also suggests adding ginger, chilli or shredded coconut as optional extras. Heat a heavy frypan over medium high heat and smear with oil (I tip a few drops of oil on the frypan and wipe it around with a paper towel). Place a quarter cup (40-60ml) of batter onto the frypan and use the back of a spoon to spread it into a circle of about 15cm diameter.

Cook for about 2 minutes or until set. (Here I found my pancake experience useful as it was quite similar in that the batter thickened and air bubbles began to appear when it was ready). Turn over and cook another minute or so. I found it took on a lacy golden brown pattern on the side where it first cooked but did not go golden brown on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm.

On the Stereo:
Clear: Conveniens


  1. Johanna, your dosa looks wonderful! I love the combination of red lentils and rice in it, and the gorgeous golden color. In my experience, a little grittiness in the batter is completely OK. Also, I find that urad dal blends to a smooth creamy batter much easier than other lentils.
    There are many "instant" dosas too, that simply call for mixing flours together (and don't require fermentation either). These don't require any planning at all.
    Good luck with your future attempts with Indian cooking. I am sure you will become an expert at it very soon!

  2. Yum - The pic of your dosas really caught my eye - I really fancy having a go now!
    They look gorgeous!

  3. Wow, I have to admire your diligence and determination! I'm not sure I'd be willing to wait that long (though they do look tempting). I must try these next time we're out for Indian food--then, perhaps, I might give it a go at home!

  4. A daring dosa indeed. This looks great and simpler than I would have imagined it being. Though it still takes quite a bit of time and effort, etc.. Anyhow, this looks great! And I might even try it someday.

  5. Yay for conquering fears! And for the record, my chapati didn't set off the smoke alarm... which led us to discover that it's defective. It's not you; it's part of the learning process!

  6. Gosh, they're rather lovely, aren't they?

    Haven't braved dosa's because of that 36 hour prep time, but really, it looks well worth the effort!

  7. I love cooking Indian food, but have never been game to try dosa. I once made some rather disastrous pooris and haven't tried Indian breads again. Your dosas look gorgeous though Johanna. Well done.

  8. I'm glad the time investment paid off, they look delicious and perfectly prepared. The fact that they are crepe-like is appealing to me as I don't eat eggs and this would be a great substitute.

  9. I think your dosas look like they tasted wonderful. Lovely header image. A fine job, especially considering it was your first try.

  10. I've never heard of dosas before either but they look great!~ gotta try one sometime

  11. Thanks for the wonderful entry..its nice to know that you enjoyed...as nupur said there are quite a few that can be made instant...I hope this round up will give you ideas on instant dosas!

  12. These are yummy, although I have never made them myself. Yours turned out perfectly.

  13. That really does look amazing and well done for persevering±!

  14. Funny that you should post this recipe as I came back from Nice (on the French Riviera) with a fancy for socca. Socca is a thick pancake made with chickpea flour and backed in a very hot oven. It is made and eaten in the streets on market days, with a generous sprinkle of pepper on top.
    It is much easier (and far quicker) to make than dosa, albeit certainly more bland in taste.

  15. thanks Nupur - that information is very helpful to a novice like myself - I hope to try dosa with urad dal some times

    thanks Kittie - they look good if you keep them the right way up :-)

    thanks Ricki - try this if you get a chance - it is vegan and gluten free and tastes fantastic - what more could you want!

    thanks cookinpanda - yes it was simpler than I imagined and didn't fall apart on me

    thanks Neen - setting off the smoke alarm just before the end of day light savings meant I didn't have to check it was working!

    thanks Lucy - it does take some planning but isn't terribly onerous so I would recommend you give it a go

    thanks Kathryn - I think these worked better than my chappati - apart from the texture (which nupur has been very reassuring about) it wasn't terribly difficult

    thanks LisaRene - a good eggless 'crepe' to try (and am sure the round up with have lots of good ideas)

    thanks Lisa - was very inspired seeing your dosa!

    thanks Lina - once you try these you wont look back :-)

    thanks Srivalli - am looking forward to the round up now I have had a taste of making dosa - am eager for new ideas

    thanks Katie - you sound like you appreciate a good dosa :-)

    thanks Pixie - it was one of those times I was glad I hadn't just chucked it in the bin

    thanks Nathalie - socca sounds v interesting - will need to look out for it (are you blogging it?)

  16. Will do. I'll let you know where and when to find it (probably just a picture on Blogger and the recipe on LiveJournal as usual).

  17. Yum! Your dosa look delicious! I'm so sorry I didn't see this event earlier-- I would have loved to have tried my hand at dosas (and I might anyway!).

  18. Yes, yes! These are a must try!

  19. thanks Nathalie - would be most interested to see it!

    thanks Ann - try the dosa if you have any inclination and you will love it! you might even get some other ideas and inspiration from srivalli's round up

  20. Hats off! Johanna! I feel the same way about new recipes, so can understand how you felt!! But yours has turned out great - I use a wet grinder and that makes a difference! Do try other Indian dishes - some are really quick and easy!

  21. What do you recommend to serve with this? I just soaked the lentils and the rice so we can eat it for dinner tomorrow night. I am excited!

  22. hi malilies - hope you love these too - we just had them with a chunky soup - am sure they would go well with most curries or soups - but I am no expert and suggest you check out srivalli's round up on her blog


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