... where he cooks up fam­ily feasts such as this masala dosa for the Ker­alan Onam fes­ti­val – this week­end

The Guardian - Cook - - A Cook’s Kitchen - Vivek Singh’s new cook­book, In­dian Fes­ti­val Feasts (Ab­so­lute Press) is out now

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.

Masala dosa

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.

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