The Daring Cooks Challenge for September 2009 was hosted by Debyi from The Healthy Vegan Kitchen. The challenge she selected was Indian Dosas, or at least it’s meant to be. However, what you see pictured above is neither Indian nor dosa. You’ll see what I’m getting at when you read on.
Before I begin the post in earnest, I feel it necessary to confess a strong food-related intolerance that I have, as it influences the direction and tone of this post relative to others you may read. You’ll notice as you read on that within the post, I choose to use gluten-free flour for my dosas. However, I do not suffer from celiac disease, and thusly, gluten is not the something I have an intolerance for. My food-related intolerance is that of veganism.
I have issues with vegans. Not so much with the food they choose to eat; what they eat is their own business. It’s more to do with the fact that, to date, I have yet to have met or encountered a vegan in some form or another that didn’t try to impose their philosophy onto others. This challenge was no different to those circumstances. I won’t spend too much time dwelling on the details. However, suffice it to say, there was no attempt to cater for vegetarians and omnivores alike, even in a token fashion. It was stated quite clearly that it was a requirement of the challenge to do things the vegan way.
Rather than adopt a “to hell with this rubbish” attitude and skip the challenge all together, I decided to put my intolerance to one side and stick to the challenge as presented, veganism and all. Actually, I took it one step further and went gluten-free. Heck, I figured I’d come this far, why not go all the way. Afterall, this is meant to be a challenge.
Speaking of challenge, the recipe for the “Indian Dosas” consists of three main parts – the dosa pancake/crepe, the filling of chickpea/garbanzo (depending on which region you come from) and the coconut curry sauce.
Before I get into the ingredients and method of preparation, do not be deluded into thinking that the following is by any stretch of the imagination a recipe for dosa. It’s not. However, I’ll refer to it as such to avoid confusion. Actually, I’m rather surprised that a genuine recipe for dosa was not used as, not only is the original recipe prepared in a vegan-friendly manner, it would have actually have been a challenge worthy of the Daring Kitchen. If you want a more to true to life recipe for dosas, try doing a Google search on “dosa recipe” (with or without quotes) and see what you come up with. I’ll continue with the recipe as presented.
Ingredients (makes approx. 8)
The mise en place for the dosa consists of (from top left bowl to bottom right dish):
- 1 cup (120gm/8oz) all-purpose, gluten free flour (spelt flour was the original option)
- ½ cup (125ml/4oz) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.)
- ¾ cup (175ml/6oz) water
- ½ tsp (2½ gm) baking powder
- ½ tsp (2½ gm) salt
- ½ tsp (2½ gm) curry powder
- Oil (optional)
Apologies for the blown out photo. Just imagine that there are ingredients in the white bowls. They’re there, trust me :)
- Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
- Combine the wet ingredients of water and almond milk together.
- Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing it in as you go with a whisk.
- Once a smooth batter is formed, allow it to rest for 30 mins.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.
- Ladle approx. 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin, round pancake.
- Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter.
It took a fair number of attempts to get the dosa just the way I wanted it. The above image shows a number of my less than successful attempts. Starting from the top left working clockwise:
- Ladled into the pan without thinning it out.
- Thinned out with the back of the ladle.
- A portion of the batter thinned out with more almond milk placed into the pan and moved around to allow the batter to run. This reminds me of those silhouette puzzles. How many faces can you make out? :)
- Dosazilla, anyone? This one was created using the back edge of a bowl scraper to thin out the original recipe batter in the pan.
The dosazilla was the closest to being somewhat palatable as the rest were generally gummy and/or unappetising.
Using the back of a bowl scraper and after a few more attempts I ended up with the above dosa, which services just fine for this challenge. The end product as pictured above was soft and spongy with nice crispy bits in the darkened areas that were really thinned out.
The only bit of advise I can offer if you choose to follow this recipe is to work quickly and thin out the batter evenly as soon as it hits the pan.
The mise en place for the chickpea/garbanzo filling consists of (from the top left going anti-clockwise):
- 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1 green capsicum/bell pepper, finely diced (red, yellow or orange are fine too)
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- A collection of spices which includes:
- 2 TBSP (16gm) cumin, ground
- 1 TBSP (8gm) oregano
- 1 TBSP (8gm) sea salt (coarse)
- 1 TBSP (8gm) turmeric, ground
- 2 medium hot banana chilies, minced & 5 cloves garlic, likewise minced
- ½ cup (125gm/4oz) tomato paste
- 4 cups (850gm/30oz) cooked or canned chick peas (about 2 cans)
I’d decided not take the advice given by the challenge host and make a full batch as indicated above. A half batch was what I worked with (which is what’s pictured above) and that was perfectly fine for the number of dosa that I’d ended up making.
- Heat a saucepan or frying pan to low-medium heat and start by sweating off the onions, carrots and capsicum in a little vegetable oil until they’ve just softened.
- Add the chili and garlic. Cook for around a minute.
- Add in the spices and cook for another minute.
- Add the tomato paste. Cook off for a minute or two.
- Add the chickpeas/garbanzo beans and stir around until heated through and softened.
The original recipe called for mashing the beans into a paste before incorporating. This didn’t make much sense to me as there would have been no textural contrast to this dish if I’d followed the recipe as it was written.
What you end up making with the chickpea/garbanzo bean filling is something akin to a chana masala i.e. chickpea curry. However, the resemblance to chana masala, or in my opinion Indian food, stops there. Despite that, this ended up being the best tasting part of the dish and is something that I wouldn’t mind making again. Though next time around I’d go with a more true-to-origin recipe of chana masala. It eludes me why something closer to an authentic chana masala recipe wasn’t used in the first place as, with the substitution of vegetable oil for ghee, this too would have been vegan friendly.
A couple of things to note when making the chickpea/garbanzo bean filling. When it comes time to incorporate the spices (Step 3), I found that I had to add more oil, as the spices were sticking to the pan and I feared that they would burn. I think the additional oil worked out to be around a tablespoon’s worth. If you’re working with a non-stick pan (which I wasn’t) you may find that it’s not required. Likewise, when the chickpeas/garbanzo beans were added, the mixture ended up being too dry to my liking and hard to incorporate. In this case, I’d added a few splashes of vegetable stock. Not a lot, though. Just enough to loosen the mixture up.
The mise en place for the coconut curry sauce consists of (from top left carton to bottom right dish):
- 3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth
- 2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut cream (the original recipe called for coconut milk)
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 3 TBSP (30gm) all-purpose GF flour (originally spelt flour)
- Spice mix consisting of:
- ½ (2½ gm) tsp cumin, ground
- ¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)
- 3 TBSP (30gm) curry powder
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- vegetable oil (not pictured)
As with the recipe for the filling, I went with a half batch. Actually I could have probably gotten away with an eighth of a batch as there was a plenty of sauce left once the dosa and filling was used up.
- Over a low to medium heat, sweat the onions in a little vegetable oil until they become soft and translucent.
- Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so, making sure that the garlic does not brown.
- Add the spices, stir in to incorporate and cook for a minute or so.
- Add the flour and likewise cook for around a minute, stirring constantly, essentially building a roux.
- Pour in the vegetable stock a little at a time, incorporating fully into the mixture each time before adding more stock.
- Once all the vegetable stock has been incorporated, stir in the coconut cream and tomatoes.
- Turn the heat to low and simmer for around 30 minutes.
The coconut curry sauce was the thing I was least happy with. Everything was fine up until the step when the coconut cream and tomatoes were added (Step 6).
Actually, I was rather please up until that point. Not just with the way it all came together but with the fact that it closely resembles a Japanese style curry, something I’ve been wanted to learn how to make for some time. Once the coconut cream and tomatoes were added, everything went south. It went from tasting nice and authentic (albeit authentic Japanese) to something that resembled westernised Indian food (a poor attempt at that) and rather ordinary tasting. I don’t think the use of coconut milk, instead of the cream I chose to go with, would have saved this.
One thing to note, I prepared the tomatoes in a concasse fashion i.e. removing skin, deseeded and diced. In hindsight, I should have doubled the number of tomatoes required as you lose a lot of volume when you deseed. In my attempted of the coconut curry sauce, the tomatoes lent little flavour or texture to the dish. Just some random lumpiness from time to time.
I present to you the completed dish – Minature Crepes with Curried Chickpeas and Curry Flavoured Coconut Sauce. I’m loathed to insult my Indian friends by referring to the completed dish as an Indian Dosa.
Plating up the dosa is pretty straight forward. Add the filling into the dosa and wrap. Pour the curry sauce on top. Ok, that’s not quite how you’d serve up an authentic version of dosa but why make an attempt of authenticity now when there hasn’t been any thus far? Having gone back and read the fineprint, I actually could have gone with the authentic version of both the dosa and chana masala but it’s a little too late for that now. Wish I’d seen that earlier!
My original intent with plating the dosa was to present them in the fashion of a taco. Unfortunately, the dosa were not able to hold the shape and stand upright. I settled for a look that was inspired by enchiladas/cannelloni. You may notice that the plated dosa are tiny. I used a cookie cutter to shape rounds out of a larger dosa and then put them back into the pan with a little oil to crispen up and get those wonderful brown bits.
How does the end result taste? Do I really need to say?
Well, there you have it. The challenge was accepted and seen through until the very end. Surprisingly, I found that there were some positives to take away from the experience. For that I’m thankful for Debyi. I’d learned that a dosa and chana masala, with the substitution of vegetable oil for ghee, are vegan friendly dishes. Something useful to know if I ever have to cook for a vegan. I also learned how to make the base for a Japanese style curry.
For the vegans that have made it to the end of the post, I hope that you appreciate that an omnivore with a strong intolerance for vegans was open minded enough to attempt to walk in your shoes and stick to the challenge as stated. I just hope that you’ll be likewise open minded enough to try and walk in someone elses shoes one day by attempting a challenge that is meat or vegetarian based as stated, and see what you learn from the experience.
Wishful thinking I know :)