... where he cooks up family feasts such as this masala dosa for the Keralan Onam festival – this weekend
nam is a Hindu harvest festival celebrated all over Kerala and lasts for more than 10 days. It is celebrated specifically by Keralites to remember their agrarian past and as a way to thank God for their blessings. The most important day of the festival is called Thiruvonam and is characterised by a big vegetarian feast or sadhya. This consists of rice and 20-30 accompaniments. These side dishes are served in a particular sequence on a banana leaf, and consumed in a specific order: lentil-based dishes to begin, and yoghurt-based ones to finish. They can be broadly classified into eight types of dish: pickles or chutneys, fries, stir-fries, stews, starch, lentils, soups and desserts. Water served with the meal is usually simmered with cumin, dried ginger or the bark of an acacia tree.
South-Indian dosa pancakes, served with spiced potato filling, are served as breakfast, as a snack or as a main meal at any time of the day, all over the country. Several good Asian stores now sell readymade packs of batter, saving both time and mess. The same applies to grating coconut from the shell – frozen grated coconut is also becoming increasingly easy to find these days.
Serves 6-10 For the pancake
50g split urad dal (black gram) 150g basmati or dosa rice (parboiled rice is available in most speciality ingredient stores) 1 tsp salt Vegetable oil, for frying
For the filling
2 tbsp vegetable oil 1 tsp black mustard seeds 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves (optional) 2 red onions, chopped ½ tsp ground turmeric 2 green chillies, finely chopped 25mm piece of ginger, finely chopped 1½ tsp salt 2 large potatoes, boiled in the skin, peeled, and grated or crushed by hand
1 If you are making your own pancake batter, soak the dal and the rice together in water for at least 3 hours. Drain and blend together in a food processor to a fine paste, adding enough water to make a smooth, spoonable mixture. Leave overnight to ferment in a warm place (about 35–40C – eg leave covered in a warm oven 20 minutes after you’ve switched off, to get it started). The dosa batter is ready when bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the batter.
2 To make the filling, heat the oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and let them crackle and pop for 30 seconds. Add the curry leaves (if you are using them) and onions and saute for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the turmeric, chillies and ginger and saute for 1 minute. Add the salt and the grated potatoes and mix well. Set aside at room temperature.
3 To make the pancakes, add the salt to the batter and mix well. Heat a nonstick frying pan over a medium heat, smear the base with a few drops of oil and pour in a small ladleful of batter (about 60ml). Using the ladle, spread it out into a thin, circular pancake. The thinner the pancake, the crisper it gets, but this needs some practice. Drizzle a few drops of oil over the top while the pancake cooks. Normally, dosas are cooked on one side only; however, if yours are thicker, it’s okay to cook on both sides. When crisp and golden, spoon about 50g of the filling into the centre of the pancake and fold it over. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling. Enjoy with chutney.