My first memories of Indian cuisine are of our summer vacations in Durban, South Africa, where there is a large Indian population. We would leave as early as 3 o’clock in the morning (the three of us kids still in our pyjamas) and drive over six hours to the closest beach on the Indian ocean. There we enjoyed the fine white sands of Durban beach and we body surfed the waves which could reach 10’ high - quite an imposing sight for a youngster. Those were wonderful and carefree times for a skinny kid growing up in South Africa. But we also got our obligatory annual sunburns (smear on more baby oil, Mom – ouch! Who knew any better?). Then there was the occasional jellyfish (if only I had let that one swim away and didn’t try to push it away from me – ouch!) and the beached Bluebottle or Man O’ War (you said it was dead so I didn’t think stepping on the tail would hurt – ouch!) Wonderful and carefree times, as I said.
But even as a child, I enjoyed the food. A spicy stew called ‘Lamb curry and rice’ was a very popular dish served in hotels. It consisted of ground lamb sweetened with sultanas (golden raisins) and spices, and topped with coconut and fresh banana slices. It is a vivid memory, even today! The Victoria Street Indian market was a feast for the eyes and offered amongst many souvenirs a variety of colorful Indian spices, curries and masalas (a mixture of herbs and spices). I looked forward to our visit every year.
Fortunately for me, Houston has an abundance of very good restaurants specializing in dishes from every region of India. I don’t cook Indian food often but I love it so much that I think it must be my favorite ethnic cuisine. So I was very excited about this challenge and couldn’t wait to permeate the house with the heartwarming and pungent aromas of garlic, cumin, turmeric, chilies, coconut milk and curry powder.
Curry powder – music to my nostrils! Shunned by most Indian chefs, it is a key ingredient in the Coconut curry sauce below. It is an English blend of spices readily available in grocery stores and contains a substantial amount of turmeric. It became a convenient way for the British to replicate the savory dishes they enjoyed during the British occupation of India. I recently worked for an outstanding youth soccer club – Albion Hurricanes FC. The general manager is a smart Englishman who would occasionally bring ‘Fish pie’ to the office for lunch. With the marked aroma of curry in the air, salivating, on my part began immediately, and I think I would have attacked if he didn’t offer me any! Thanks for sharing, Mark! BTW I’m still waiting for your mother’s recipe.
Dosas are part of this month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge. A VEGAN dish which came together surprisingly quickly is oh sooo delicious even when the three parts are eaten separately. The recipes are totally animal-product free (no meat, no milk, no eggs), and are very low in fat. Delicate dosas (crepes) stuffed with a spicy garbanzo filling and topped with a wonderfully fragrant coconut sauce and my addition of a simple mango salsa - I could eat like this every day. Who needs meat and dairy?
Wait…I draw the line at dairy! I couldn’t possibly live without my cheese and yoghurt! Yoghurt could be a cool contrast to the spicy filling and sauce and I might include it next time (no veganism for me quite yet, thank you!)
Here’s the Daring cooks party line: Debyi, our Daring Cooks host, from http://www.healthyvegankitchen.com chose something that could be easily adapted to be animal and gluten-free as well as tasty. She and her husband had the pleasure of visiting one of the Fresh Restaurants (www.freshrestaurants.ca) in Toronto, Canada during a business trip. She chose Indian Dosas from reFresh: Contemporary Vegan Recipes From the Award Winning Fresh Restaurants cookbook by Ruth Tal with Jennifer Houston.
Typically, dosas (crepes) are made from lentils and rice left to ferment overnight, then ground to form a batter the next day. They can be coarse and ‘stiff’. These dosas are made with spelt flour and produce a decidedly different texture: soft, lacey and very delicate. My friend, Jessica, and I cooked together and found ourselves using pieces of the soft dosas to scoop up the sauce (Ethopian style) and stuff it into our mouths…sweet!
This dish comes in 3 parts: the dosas, the filling and the sauce. Being me, I added a 4th part – a simple and cooling mango salsa as a topping. The filling and sauce can be made ahead and frozen, if necessary. You can also serve them as a main course with rice and veggies. My changes in the recipes are in blue.
Dosas from reFresh (makes 8-10 crepes to serve 4)
1 cup (120gm/8oz) spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
½ tsp (2½ gm) salt
½ tsp (2½ gm) baking powder
½ tsp (2½ gm) curry powder
½ cup (125ml/4oz) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.) I accidentally bought vanilla flavored almond milk and fortunately the aroma was only evident during the cooking phase, but not at the tasting. Whew!
¾ cup (175ml/6oz) water
cooking spray, if needed I used olive oil
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, slowly adding the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth. I added more almond milk because I wanted thinner dosas, I’d say up to 1/4 cup more.
2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray your pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, if needed.
3. Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan and turn the pan in a circular motion until the batter spreads into a thin, round crepe. When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter.
Fill each of the dosas immediately with 2-3 tablespoons of the Curried garbanzo filling as they have a tendency to stick to each other if stacked when hot. You can roll them or fold them twice to form a triangle, as I did. Pour about 3 tablespoons of the Coconut curry sauce on top of each dosa and top with Mango salsa and slivered almonds, grated coconut, or chopped cucumber, if desired.
Very lacey, light and tender dosas
Curried Garbanzo Filling
This filling works great as a rice bowl topping or as a wrap, so don't be afraid to make a full batch.
5 cloves garlic
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced Love my veggies, so I added an extra carrot.
1 green pepper, finely diced (red, yellow or orange are fine too)
2 medium hot banana chilies, minced Couldn’t find banana chilies so I roasted 2 poblano chilies for a nice kick!
2 TBSP (16gm) cumin, ground
1 TBSP (8gm) oregano
1 TBSP (8gm) sea salt (coarse)
1 TBSP (8gm) turmeric
4 cups (850gm/30oz) cooked or canned chick peas (about 2 cans)
½ cup (125gm/4oz) tomato paste I used an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce instead.
1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the garlic, veggies, and spices, cooking until soft, stirring occasionally.
2. Mash the chickpeas by hand, or in a food processor. Add the chickpeas and tomato paste to the saucepan, stirring until heated through.
Coconut Curry Sauce
This makes a delicious sauce as a separate meal with basmati rice; and it freezes well!
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ (2½ gm) tsp cumin, ground
¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)
3 TBSP (30gm) curry powder
3 TBSP (30gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose gluten-free flour)
3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth
2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut milk
3 large tomatoes, diced
1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, or until soft.
2. Add the spices, cooking for 1 minutes more. Add the flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
3. Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the coconut milk and tomatoes, stirring occasionally.
4. Let it simmer for half an hour.
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients and top the dosas with a spoonful.
Dosa Toppings, optional
¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
¼ cup (125gm) grated coconut omitted it
¼ cucumber, sliced omitted it as well