I'm sure many of you have been in a restaurant where you have seen a waiter or waitress serving a dish to a fellow diner and immediately scoured the menu to find what it might be. This is exactly what happened for me in Diwana's decades ago when I first saw a paper dosa being carried from the kitchen to a diner in another part of the restaurant. "I want one of those whatever it is" I said and with a little investigation I located it amongst the other items on the menu and from that day on I have been totally smitten. I find it hard, almost impossible to dine in a restaurant serving South Indian food, to not order one. Who knows all the other delights I am likely to be missing out on.
I struggled for years to find a way to cook these thin, crisp delicacies. Making up the batter is straightforward and simple enough, it's the question of how to cook them. A hint many years ago about how to make my thick flat skillet even more non stick helped considerably. When the skillet is hot, simply take half a small potato, dip it in a little oil and rub the cut side on the hot surface. The combination of starch from the potato and the oil render the surface of the iron really non stick.
I will never be able to impress with the giant forms of these dosas, which when curled into an huge funnel shape and carried through a dining room, catch unaware diners like me, but I can now cook smaller ones and enjoy the delicious savoury flavour whenever I want.
For this recipe you will need;
1 cup of white rice
1 cup of urid dahl
1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon of salt
Begin by soaking the rice and the dahl, separately, in 2 bowls. I add the fenugreek seeds to the rice. Leave overnight. Place the dahl in the blender and blend until you have a smooth paste, add a little more water if you need to. Pour the mix out and repeat with the soaked rice and fenugreek seeds. This will take twice as long to blend which is why you soak them separately. Blend to a smooth paste adding more water if you need to. Add the blended rice/fenugreek seed mix to the dahl mix and whisk in the salt and enough water to produce a single cream consistency. Leave the mix covered in a warm place for the whole day. If you are not going to cook the dosa in the evening for dinner, keep the mix in a container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Cook the dosas by heating up either a heavy flat iron griddle or a very heavy based pan on a low heat for at least 10 minutes so the griddle heats up evenly and doesn't have hot spots. Taking half a potato and dip the cut end in some oil and rub the surface. Pour a ladle full of the batter onto the middle of the griddle and gradually spread the mix out to form an disc of even thickness. I find it easiest to have the mix thin enough so that the disc forms itself rather than having me do much spreading. When the surface appears to have dried out, dribble on a little (no more than a teaspoon) of vegetable oil over the surface and continue to cook until the edge begins to curl up. carefully slide a large pallet knife under the wafer thin disc and turn it over. Continue to cook for a further minute before taking it off and serving.
I find making dosa requires the cook to be pretty much on constant cook fatigues until enough of the diners are eating and there is one for the cook. From then on simply pour more batter onto the griddle and leave to cook, they usually take 4 to 5 minutes each. Its' possible to cook several of them before sitting down to dinner, stack them with a sheet of greaseproof paper in between and flash each one onto the griddle for no more than a minute to re-crisp them.