Saturday, 8 March 2014

A healthier masala dosa!

a healthier masala dosa

This crispy thin crepe filled with a spicy vegetables is a South Indian standard, but as usual, I’ve rejigged it.  Normally the mixture is curried potato chunks, but I’m inclined to find that a little too carby.  The crepe itself is made from a blended rice and bean batter, so I think enough already with the carbs, although many will disagree, I know.

The batter itself takes time to create, so thinking ahead is a must.  First the rice and beans have to be soaked overnight, then blended into a paste, then left to ferment for another eight or so hours.  The filling can be whumped up pretty quickly though, so although time is involved, the preparation isn’t challenging. This recipe makes about 8 servings.
Made a great party dish with some bubbly!

Changing the subject entirely, I’m thinking of a dinner party where it seemed that hot dogs were the main course.  Our hosts brought in a huge platter of them, along with unusually delicious accompaniments like guacamole, chopped tomato and excellent shredded cheese.  I wolfed down three, since the trimmings were so good.  To my chagrin, when I’d finally finished shoving them down my throat, the hosts brought out an even bigger platter heaped with the most delicious steaks I’d ever eaten.  Who knew they’d considered the hot dogs as a side dish?

I think of this dinner party because I pulled a similar stunt with Allison and Rita.  Only in my case, it was masala dosa and a roast chicken with a rosepetal masala.  Masala dosa is considered a light main dish on its own, but I figured I could get away with it, since neither Allison nor Rita have been to Southern India, well at least not that part of Southern India, and I knew that Rita would be especially hungry.

The Batter
¼ cup urad dal (a special black bean from India, not to be confused with other black beans)
¾ cup basmati rice
1 teaspoon fine fenugreek seed 
Dosa batter
Use a blender for a smooth batter.

The Filling
1 tablespoon ghee, or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon mustard seed
2 potatoes, cubed into small pieces
1 small onion, finely diced 
1 inch fresh ginger root, finely sliced into matchsticks
1 tablespoon garam masala or a favoured prepared masala
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced into one inch lengths
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup arugula or spinach leaves
½ lemon, juiced

If I were making this just for my own self, a few fresh chilies would have gone into this as well, but I was reluctant to blow my friends’ ears off their heads, so I kept this mild. 

spreading the dosa batter
The tricky part, spread it into a big thin circle!
First, soak the rice and dal in two separate containers.  Be sure you use enough water to keep both completely covered, even after they’ve swollen a bit.  Put in a safe place over night. 

In the morning, start the oven.  Once it’s begun to warm up, but is still below 100 F, turn it off and turn on the oven light.  Combine the rice and dal into a blender and drain the water.  Rinse and drain until the water runs clear.  Add fresh water to the 750 ml mark.  Blend for about five minutes, till the rice and dal are completely pulverized into a smooth batter.  Add the fenugreek seed, pour into a glass container with a cover, and set into the warm oven.  Leave to ferment, about eight hours.  It will get fizzy and bubbly.  At this point, I refrigerated my batter for using the next day, but you can use it immediately.

Cottage cheese, asparagus and arugula are healthy additions!
For the filling, put ghee or oil into a good sized non-stick sauce pan.  Turn heat to high, and add cumin and mustard seed.  They will splutter.  This takes mere seconds.  As soon as the mustard seed is mostly grey, add the diced potato.  Turn heat to medium and continue to brown and cook the potato.  Add the onion and ginger, (and chilies if you’re using) and continue to cook, stirring from time to time. 

Because I was also making the rosepetal masala roasted chicken, I roasted potatoes around the chicken.  When the chicken was done, I removed the potatoes, chopped them, and added them to the ghee.  Because I was using partially cooked potatoes, my dish didn’t take long to make.  If you’re starting with raw potatoes, check for tenderness.  Once tender, turn on the heat under a non-stick griddle to medium high. 

Make the crepes, then fill for serving at once.
As the griddle is heating, add the asparagus to the potatoes, stir and cover.  Let cook about five minutes.  Add the arugula and cottage cheese, stir again, cover and cook for another five minutes.  Remove from heat.

Now come the dosa shells.  Pour a ladle’s worth of batter into the centre of the griddle.  Use the back of a large wooden spoon to smooth the batter, moving in a circle, till the batter is spread in a larger, thin circle on the griddle.  This tricky step happens fast!  Have a flipper handy, but don’t pry at the crepe until you see it’s starting to lift itself from the griddle.  When you can slip the flipper under the crepe, flip it and cook the other side.  Set on a plate.  (I made three crepes in a row, so we could all eat at the same time.) 

Rosepetal Roasted Chicken, masala dosa and bubbly for an elegant ladies' lunch!
Pour the lemon juice over the filling, stir and load into the centre of the crepe.  Roll, turn over, and serve.  We had this with the rosepetal masala roasted chicken, and some bubbly.  For dessert, floral blueberry crumble. 

Because of the chicken, we really didn’t need the additional protein in the cottage cheese, but if you’re being sensible, and serving only the masala dosa for a meal, do add the cheese and as many greens as you can.  You’ll have a much healthier version of this wonderful South Indian dish. 

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