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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.

The Recipe:

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.

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Dhall can seem like a strange choice for breakfast, but some mornings I want something warm and filling that will keep me going till lunch time, but I don’t feel like oats.  This is a simple version with not too many ingredients to strain the before breakfast brain, but enough flavours to be interesting.   Dhall is surprisingly fast and easy – less than 20 minutes from scratch.

The inspiration is turmeric growing in the garden. Turmeric is really hardy and prolific in my sub-tropical climate. The deep orange roots are a super-super-food – a really good source of anti-inflamatory anti-oxidants, and there are several other ingredients on the super-foods list as well.  It is great if you are feeling a bit under the weather or as if your body needs a treat. And the lentils make it a good recipe for low GI, slow release carbohydrates for a day when you need stamina.

The Recipe

This makes one large bowl for a single hungry person, or a couple of smaller bowls.

Put a couple of cups of water on to boil and a heavy pan on to heat up. Into a food processor, put a thumb-sized piece of fresh turmeric (or a teaspoon of dried powder if you can’t get fresh) and a similar amount of fresh ginger and peeled garlic. Add one or two chilis, depending on how hot they are and how hot you like your dhall, and a teaspoon of cummin seeds and one of cracked coriander seeds, or, if you don’t have them, a smaller amount of dried coriander powder. Whizz it with a bit of olive oil to make a paste. (Or, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind the lot together).

Chop an onion and saute it with the spice mix, stirring to keep it from sticking. Add a cup of red lentils and a chopped tomato, and cover with boiling water. You will need to keep stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking and topping up the water until the lentils collapse and the dhall reaches a porridge-like consistency. Add salt to taste and serve in a bowl with a good dollop of plain low fat yoghurt and fresh chopped mint to garnish.

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