We are headed to India next February to study for a month with Sharath and Saraswati at KPJAYI in Mysore. Alex and I went to Encinitas to do led classes with them last April and really enjoyed it. So the next logical step seemed to be to plan a trip to India. Well, Alex might disagree, he is rather petrified at the thought of a 24 hour flight with a toddlington and then the prospect of taking care of him in India. I, however, am much more excited about it and am hoping that the traveling will agree with Walter and he will have a lovely time (he LOVES Indian food so I think he will do just fine). Additionally, the uber planner that I am, have decided that I would like to try have another munchkin and that they should be about 3 years apart so this is my last hurrah to enjoy being in charge of my own my body before I give it over to grow another munchkin. Needless to say being pregnant makes my practice a wee bit more difficult.
I have always really liked Indian food, but I have been somewhat reluctant to do much cooking because of a vague sense of unease and possibly doom. I am a good cook in the sphere of pretty basic American fare. I even branch out from time to time and do other cuisines, but generally, I admit only when I have a really good recipe. With a dish I am used to, I feel like even if I totally screw it up, I know enough about the ingredients and the spices to fix it and make it edible. However, with Indian food, I feel like I am pushing my culinary technical skills and I just don’t have the feel for the spices and ingredients to fix a dish once I have messed it up. That being said, a couple of years ago I received, Eat-Taste-Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living for my birthday. Ayurveda is the Indian health-science that accompanies yoga. It prescribes certain foods based on your dosha (kind of like a personality test, but for you body). The cookbook does basic Indian dishes, and other modern dishes. So over the past couple of years, I have made a couple of recipes from the book. I admit that I have two basic problems with the book: it doesn’t have near enough butter (or I would settle for ghee!) or cream in the dishes and it assumes that I know more than I do about Indian cooking. After cooking almost everything in America’s Test Kitchen’s current season, I am a bit spoiled and expect my directions to very exact! However, I have decided recently that with our upcoming trip to India I am going to try to add one Indian dish to our menu each week. So here goes the first dish….I will warn you that this is an all day cooking event and you need to start things soaking the night before.
Trumpet Dosa with Potato-Coconut Subji and Cilantro Dip
For the dosas:
3 c. white basmati rice
1 c. urad dhal (black lentils)
2 t. whole fenugreek seeds
Ghee (see recipe below) for frying
For the subji filling:
1 T. ghee
2 t. fresh grated ginger
1 t. mustard seeds
1 T. korma powder (see recipe below)
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 c. frozen green peas
½ c. sliced leek
2 c. chicken stock (or veggie stock if you would like it to be veggie)
6 T. coconut milk
2 t. lime juice
½ t. salt
1/3 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
For the dip:
½ c. chopped cucumber
½ c. chopped fresh cilantro
4 T. coconut milk
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. lime juice
½ t. maple syrup
1 t. grated fresh ginger
¼ t. turmeric
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
So let’s begin at the beginning….start this the night before. Just one little note before we start. Having a toddler has forced me into doing all my prep work first and then doing the actual cooking. This works well for me because I can always stop chopping play with Walter, convince him to go find a truck and chop more. Then once everything is chopped and in its own bowl (just like the cooking shows!) I can scoop Walter up, put him on my hip and we can cook and stir together which he loves. I have also noticed that it helps to have everything at my fingertips to throw in exactly when it is supposed to be put in. Then nothing gets over or undercooked. ‘nuf said.
Wash the rice and dahl separately until the water runs clear. This will happen for the dahl very quickly and will take 7-8 rinses for the rice. Place the rice in one bowl and the dahl and fenugreek seeds in another. Cover them with water until there is 2 inches of water above the rice and dahl. Soak overnight.
Drain the rice and dahl. Put the rice into the blender and add some water and blend until it is a thick paste (but thin enough that you can actually blend it). Then pour the rice into a bowl. Repeat with the dahl and fenugreek seeds. Then mix the dahl into the rice and cover the bowl with a damp cotton cloth and allow to sit in a warm place for 2 hours.
Next, prepare the subji filling. Heat the ghee in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and mustard seeds. Saute, stirring constantly, until the seeds pop, about 1-2 minutes. Add the korma powder and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, peas, leeks, vegetable stock, coconut milk, lime juice, salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 20 minutes).
While the veggies are cooking, take all the dip ingredients, throw it in the blender and blend until smooth. Transfer it to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you are ready to eat it.
Now start making the dosas. Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat. Add water to the dosa mixture until it is pourable. You want this to be fairly liquidy so keep adding water. If the dosa mixture is too thick the consistency is all wrong when you cook them. Brush the griddle with ghee and ladle in a thin layer of batter to form a pancake about 9-10 inches wide. Then let it cook until you can see the top doesn’t look as liquidy and is cooking (it is a lot like cooking pancakes!). It usually takes about 1-2 minutes. Then flip the dosa and cook the other side until it is golden brown. Brush the griddle with ghee and start again. If you are making the dosas ahead, you can put them in the oven at 200° to keep them warm.
To serve, put the veggie filling inside the dosa and wrap it up and serve it with the dip alongside.
1 lb. or more unsalted butter
This stuff sells for close to $10 a pop at Whole Foods. You can buy good organic butter for half that, so make your own ghee and feel very virtuous!
Cut the butter into cubes and put it in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When all the butter has melted, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes, the butter will begin to form a white froth on its surface and will create popping sounds as moisture evaporates from the butter. During this stage, it is important to keep stirring it at regular intervals.
After about 10 minutes, the froth will begin to to form a layer on top and start to sink to the bottom. Turn off the heat and skim off the foam with a spoon. Then pour the ghee through a fine sieve and into a jar to store it in. Ghee is best stored at room temperature and is said to get better with age so don’t worry about how long it takes you to use up! The key to keeping the ghee fresh is to always dip into it with a clean spoon to keep it from getting contaminated.
1 T. whole coriander seeds
1 T. whole cumin seeds
1 T. whole fennel seeds
1 T. whole mustard seeds
1 T. whole fenugreek seeds
1 T. whole cardamon seeds
1 T. poppy seeds
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 T. ground ginger
1 T. ground turmeric
1 t. ground cloves
This recipe can easily be cut in half to cut it down. Take everything and put in a spice grinder (or your mortar and pestel if you are feeling very ambitious). I just cleaned out our coffee grinder and used it which worked just fine. Take it out of the spice grinder and put it into an airtight container to keep it fresh.