One of the interesting things I’ve got out of this nearly-a-year-now of Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes is how often all that is needed is a bit of pre-thinking to allow fast, easy weeknight vego recipes. I guess it’s because besides eggs, the main vegetarian protein foods are beans or ferments. Beans from scratch are really really cheap and healthy, but they need you to think of them a day in advance to allow soaking. This recipe uses lentils and brown rice, and needs a full 24 hours of prescience to allow them to soak and lightly ferment. It’s not work – all you have to do is add water – but it is thought.
Dosa are basically a thin, crispy pancake made from a rice and lentil mixture fermented like sourdough. It’s amazing what a difference the fermenting makes to the flavour and the crispy texture, and it also increases the vitamin B and C content.
It’s a staple in southern India, where traditionally it is made with black lentils (vigna mungo). One day soon I’m going to try growing black lentils. I’ve never been to India (one day), and I make it with the easier-to-get in Australia red lentils, that I usually have in the pantry. They make a very pretty pink batter. My sister makes it with green lentils, or mung dal. I think the concept is that it will work with any kind of lentil.
Makes 6 dosa – enough for 6 kids or 3 big active blokes.
Start a day in advance.
Soak ¾ cup raw brown rice and ¼ cup red lentils in one cup of water overnight or over the day (8 hours or so).
Blend the mixure to make a smooth batter. This is slightly hard work for a food processor, but nothing a decent one can’t handle. The rice and lentils are well softened by the soaking.
Leave the blended rice and lentils mix in a bowl, covered with a clean cloth, on the benchtop for 12 to 18 hours. It will expand with a bubbly texture, like bread dough, and smell clean and yeasty.
Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of ground cumin to the mix, and enough water to make a crepe-like batter that will pour, but only just – how much will vary but around ¹/3 cup.
Heat a heavy frypan and add a little oil or traditionally, ghee. Light olive oil is good for frying like this, because the refining that makes it light (flavoured, not calories) also gives it a higher smoke point and makes it better for frying.
Pour in a sixth of the batter, spreading it by tilting the pan and using the back of a spoon to give a thin pancake about 15 to 20 cm (6 – 8 inches) across. Cook on a medium-high heat until the pancake is set and golden, then flip and cook the other side. Add a little more oil and repeat. If you are making lots, you can have two pans going at once, or make them pikelet size. If you make them too large (or if you use too much lentil and too little rice, or if you don’t ferment long enough) , they are hard to flip without breaking.
Serve hot with chutney, salsa, pickles or sauces. I served these with a hot pumpkin chutney, tomato salsa, and the first of many cucumber, mint and yoghurt raitas for the season.