Masala Dosa

At the crack of 2012's dawn, I would like to reflect on types of cooks. Which kind of cook do you think you are? Good or bad is not an answer. The same way that there are various types of cooking which are the basic methods such as roasting, boiling etc.. Cooks too are categorised.

Some years back The New York Times analysed a research indicating 5 types of cooks. The article described them as:
• “Giving” cooks (22%), enthusiastic about cooking and specialize in comfort food, particularly home-baked goodies.
• “Methodical” cooks (18%) rely heavily on recipes, so their cooking is strongly influenced by the cookbook they use.
• “Competitive” cooks (13%) think less about health and more about making the most impressive dish possible.
• “Healthy” cooks (20%) often serve fish and use fresh ingredients, but taste isn’t the primary goal.
• “Innovative” cooks (19%) like to experiment with different ingredients, cooking methods and cuisines, which tends to lead to healthier cooking."
I am firmly anchored in the last category however he is a methodical cook and one who will never give up a recipe until it works. Sometimes it will take years and many unsuccessful, how shall I put this delicately, "Goo-dishes".

In this way, Masala Dosa became a sort of Grail. For the benefit of the readers who are not aware of this particular Indian street-food. Masala Dosa is a traditional South Indian snack often served at breakfast consisting of fermented Rice-lentil batter, fried crisp brown both sides then stuffed with a potato filling and accompanied by a coconut-chutney.

Recipe in hand, the correct type of dahl or lentils had to be found. For a while, we could have opened the pantry as a legumes shop. Urad Dhal or black lentil, not to confused with many other sort of black dhal even white ones! as I was told by an Indian shopkeeper in the Euston Road who pointed at snow white lentils assuring me that this was the true Urad/black Dhal.

Then, there was the Dosa which warranted a trip to Kerala, to observe the type of utensils used, the shape and texture. Still nothing worked, "goo-dishes" came out of the kitchen with much shaking of the head. Until, last night......

You will not get a step by step picture-story. The cook might be methodical but he, like many of us, doesn't like to share the kitchen space while preparing, chopping (that includes fingers) and working a certain kind of magic. So here are some recommendations over stolen observations.
  • A ready mixture for the Dosa is by far the easiest
  • The frying pan seems to be crucial: non-stick, nothing else will do.
  • Use Ghee to fry the batter and a rounded spoon to "fan" it in the pan
  • White dahl will do, as long as you believe that it's black.
  • Though a breakfast food, it can be served at dinner and is very filling.
  • Do not forget to soak the lentils, the day before.
Masala Dosa

Makes 8
For the Potato filling:

  • 800g potatoes, peeled, cut into 1cm cubes
  •  200g of skinned soaked and cooked split black lentils or urad dal
  • 150g onions, roughly chopped into cubes (optional)
  • 2 large, hot green chillies, minced (or to taste)
  • 2 tsps mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt or to taste
  • 2 tbsps sugar
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric

  • Method:
    Boil the potatoes while they cook until soft
    Heat oil in a frying pan, place the mustard seeds in and wait until they pop add all the remaining ingredients except for lemon, sugar, salt and potatoes.
    Allow to cook for 5 minutes and then toss in the rest cook for a couple of minutes.
    For the Dosa use a commercial mix and follow the instructions on the packet and the tips above.

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