I love dosa, that pan-cooked flatbread of India. I love it crispy and filled with a potato curry eaten with sambar and chutney. I like it meltingly soft and perfect for soaking up a wet curry with fingers tearing off chunks to sop up the wet dal or gravy and tease it into the mouth. I love the tartness that fermentation of the batter gives, watching it bubble and rise in the bowl sitting next to the stove. I love the vastness of the dosai repertoire, a dosa for every household in Southern India. I love pouring the batter onto the pan, coaxing it to spread with the bottom of the ladle. I love the telltale pattern that this makes. I love the ritual of making it. Dripping ghee on the top side, flipping it, eating the finished product.
I eat it in restaurants and at home. I use it in Indian and non_Indian ways. In traditional and non-traditional ways. I love it with any South Indian meal. I will have it with a glass of rasam, or a bowl of sambar. I will use it as a base for salad, or chunky avocado and diced tomatoes. I have layered several with parmesan cheese to eat with escarole greens. I will make it as a snack while watching TV, sprinkling spices on it as it cooks. I eat them for breakfast, a quick and healthy meal. I will put mung sprouts or cooked white peas or coconut or herbs in the batter before cooking. I will pile it high with salsa and drizzle it with pomegranate molasses or barley malt extract. I will wrap it around sprouts or avocado or greens and herbs or leftover drier curries. I layer it with tomatoes and yeast flakes. In a fusion kitchen like mine there are endless uses.
While in India there are precise and traditional recipes for dosa, I feel free to use the flours that I have at hand, in an ever-changing mix of flours, flavours and ratios. Currently, exploring the qualities of millet flour, a mix of urad flour, red millet flour and chickpea flour (besan) has become standard fare. While I love to soak and grind my own ingredients into flours, it is mostly ready flours that I use for quickness and convenience.
Many dosai can be made immediately – well, after letting the batter rest for 15 or 30 minutes if possible. But superior results are achieved if the batter is left on the kitchen counter and allowed to naturally ferment. It adds a slight tartness to the dosa which is a wonderful layer of flavour. Some added powdered fenugreek seeds will assist the process. Rice flour is traditional in many dosai but not strictly necessary to make a great end product. It does add a crispness and substance to them which is addictive. But right now I am making them without any and getting great results.
Try this yourself – take urad flour, red millet flour and chickpea flour, in the ratios of about 1:1:2. Mix to a smooth batter with water. Add a little salt. Allow to sit for 15 – 30 mins if you can, or 12 – 18 hours in a warm place if you want a tartness to it.
It is worth investing in a couple of Indian ladles if you are making dosai regularly. It is a convenient measure plus it is the best tool for spreading the batter in the pan. Also a dosa pan helps, it does not have edges, but an omlette pan is good, or any large flat bottom pan will suffice at a pinch. You can get these things at any Indian Grocery.
Take a ladle of batter and add it to a pan heated to warm. I swirl the batter in the pan a little first, somewhat like you might do with pancake batter. For this to happen effectively, your pan cannot be too hot. Then, using the bottom of the ladle, and beginning in the middle, move it in a circular motion to gently ease the batter out in wider and wider circles. Only do this once. The pattern of a spiral of circles that it leaves is the signature of a dosa.
As it cooks drizzle a little melted ghee on the top side. I love to add a little of my own spice mix or podi, heavy with powdered curry leaves and chilli, sprinkled over the dosa at this stage if I am making it as a snack with a cuppa tea.
Cook until set on the underside before flipping. I know when mine is cooked enough when it comes away from the pan and is easy to flip. If it is not yet sufficiently cooked, it sticks to the pan.
Cook the other side for a few minutes before flipping onto a plate ready to serve. You can add a few more drops of ghee if you like.