The Vegan Friendly Masala Dosa Making Class with The Naan-Americans Home Kitchen

Dosa is a popular Indian breakfast dish. Indigenous to the southern part of India, this crispy rice and lentil crepe has now gained popularity and is widespread across the world.

 The dosa and its manifestations can now be seen in many Indian restaurants across the globe as well as food trucks and street food festivals in popular cities like New York, London, Boston and more.

 The classic representation of a Masala dosa would be the large perfect round shaped crepe, crisp and golden in the bottom and a white soft mesh-like texture on the top. This now is generously smeared with the red garlic chutney and filled with the classic Onion-Potato filling and served with either sambar or coconut chutney or both on the side.

 Despite its popularity and it’s ubiquitous nature, the Dosa making is still an art. One needs to know the tips and tricks to get that perfectly thin, round, golden, soft, crispy dosa. As easy as it may seem, the spicy potato filling needs some tweaks and tricks, love and care,  to make it juicy and delicious and not dry and bland.

The cooking classes and culinary events with The Naan-Americans will help you with just that. Our goal is to show and teach our guests the small nuances, the tips and tricks, the hidden idea behind a recipe so that our guests can go back home and recreate the dish with confidence and ease.

 

 

Our latest Masala dosa making class was one such beautiful experience. Our guest Erica is a lover of Indian food. She frequently dines at Indian restaurants and has even tried to cook some Indian dishes at home. She mentions that she probably has the largest Indian spice collection in her kitchen. Her only concern would be that since she is Vegan she always needs to make sure the restaurants don’t serve her dishes that are cream based or even throw in a dollop of butter on top of her Rotis or Naan.

This was her first Masala dosa making class. She was excited because everything in here was Vegan. There was no room for error. The class met all her requirements. No dairy, No meat. Just perfect. She had a vegetarian host-instructor for the night who is from the Southern part of India and knows the in and out of Dosa making.

And what a beautiful evening it was. Our guest was super excited to attend this class while getting a chance to free herself a bit and get that Me-time, that we all sometimes crave for.

She was ready to get her hands on the Dosa making starting with the potato filling. The instructor had few things prepped ahead of time and had displayed the whole ingredients needed for their cooking party this night. Soon enough the spicy potato mixture was cooking in the Kadai, the aroma of the sweet onions filling the tiny kitchen. The guest was proud and happy to learn this new dish which was good just by itself.

Methi Thepla

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Methi or Fenugreek is often considered as a superfood in India. It is believed to have cooling properties. It is very therapeutic. Breastfeeding moms are often seen consuming fenugreek seeds in quite high amounts, as it is believed to increase milk supply. I have tried it too , and I must say it works!

Because of its cooling properties fenugreek powder is added in spicy pickles  to compensate all that heat from the chilli powder. I remember my grandmother using fenugreek to help her digestion. Just before bedtime she used to make herself a glass of cold buttermilk with little salt and  adding some freshly powdered fenugreek seeds.

I just so love methi too. It is so fragrant and therapeutic. Be it the seeds or the leaves, I love to use them quite often. The leaves are very tender and fragrant and hardly bitter . The seeds carry a nutty and  quite bitter taste but the bitterness subdues when we dry roast them . And that aroma!!! ….

I always wish that methi was available in American supermarkets. Unfortunately it is not and I always have to visit the Indian store to grab a bunch or two and always will have to make a choice of what to make out of Methi. Those are hard choices to make, as anything made out of Methi  leaves is absolutely delicious.

There is a whole array of dishes both South and North Indian that uses fresh Methi leaves in its cooking. Parathas, rotis, gravies,curries, fritters, dals you name it!

This time I chose to make Theplas out of Methi. Theplas are similar to rotis or parathas. They have all spices incorporated in them and typically needs no side dish to go with it. They can be enjoyed as a snack, brunch, lunch or dinner. Kids Love them too. Just pay attention to the spice levels when making for kids. It makes a great lunch box recipe too.

The process is quite simple and here is how to make theplas out of these ever green Methi:

What we need:

2 cups of whole wheat flour

2 tbsp gram/chickpea flour

1 cup of finely chopped fresh methi leaves

2 green chillies

1 tsp cumin/coriander powder( optional)

1tsp turmeric

salt

Method:

Combine all ingredients together.

With little sprinkles of water, knead into a soft dough.

Divide into equal sized balls

roll them into round rotis

On a hot griddle roast them by sprinkles of oil.

Serve warm or not so warm with yogurt.

 

 

About being authentic.

It is very natural to imitate. That instinct to be wanting to be “like” someone else. Someone who is better than us. We all do that. Try to be like someone else. Mostly because, when we are surrounded by people who are doing better than us, we often feel low and inadequate and the pressure builds to be good and achieve success “like” others.

This is so true especially in the world of blogging. I will tell you my story.

I started a blog because I wanted to have a blog. Not because others have their own blogs.

But over the period of time, when I started browsing hundreds of others’ blogs and noticing how great they were, be it their writing , be it their photographs or just their post titles, I felt awful. I felt  ” I am pathetic”. This feeling is strong, especially when your readership is so low and when the clicks on your blog is almost close to zero.

 

But then something happened. Something dawned on me. And it happened TODAY.

In today’s morning show, the popular blogger of Smitten Kitchen was featured on TV. She is the famous food blogger with her famous site, I realized. I was further intrigued when the TV segment featured her famous kitchen on TV. Her kitchen is famous, famous for being teeny tiny!!! Her kitchen looked like a warm, cozy place where you can find solace by making your favorite comfort foods and just enjoy them even if you are alone!

My curiosity rose and  in the afternoon I visited her site. This was the 10th time I was visiting her site. 9 times before the TV feature!

And what I read there caught my attention. She writes, “food has to be accessible”. And “she does not believe in fancy ingredients like an expensive bottle of pink Himalayan salt”.

I realized there was a song beneath these lines. A song of authenticity. A song of originality. A song of what she believes in. And that is what differentiates her and makes her unique. So unique to be featured on the TV show!

I took a deep breathe, refreshed my thoughts and came to a conclusion. Imitating, trying to BE Like someone else due to mere pressure to succeed, will not take me anywhere.

There is great strength in being original, being authentic, being yourself. Drawing inspiration from others is one thing, but completely trying to live other peoples lives while losing complete focus on yours is nothing short of ridiculous.

SO here I am. The new me. Trying to be myself again. In this humble blog of mine. Renewing and reflecting in what I believe in related to food and life. Mainly because when food and taste  is such a personal thing, it does not make any sense to imitate others.

Not Your Typical Dosa

So what goes in a typical dosa? Can you tell?

Great!!! You all are right!!!

The typical ingredients are, Urad dal (a.k.a Black gram dal), Rice, Poha (a.k.a flattened rice), and Fenugreek seeds. But you guys, this is NOT your typical dosa!

This is the most simplest, less time consuming and almost instant dosa. The taste??? You ask?

Superlicious, delicious!!!

It has the crispness, the aroma and softness of any other good dosa.

So what is in this Non typical dosa? I will tell you…soon 🙂

All great discoveries happen by accident. Do you agree?

In this case, it was partly an accident and partly inspired. I had read in many places about new ways of making dosas. Like in this recipe.

And, it so happened that one day I went ahead and soaked some Urad dal, thinking i will make some smooth Idlis. But, life got in the way and I could not make them.  So the soaked dal kept waiting in the corner of my kitchen counter top.

The next day I just rinsed and washed the dal and grounded it into a smooth paste using my wet grinder.

Now what? I thought. “Never mind if I did not make any Idlis. I can still make dosas!!!”, I said to myself and that is how my Non typical dosa was born.

Indredients:

1 cup whole Urad dal(black gram dal) soaked for 6 hours/overnight

2 1/2 cups of rice flour

1/4 cup of very fine Sooji rava( Semolina)

salt

Method:

Grind the soaked Urad dal in the grinder or mixer into a very smooth silky paste adding enough water.

Transfer the batter into a large vessel.

Add the rice flour and sooji rava and mix REALLY well. Pay attention to the lumps. Mix well until all the lumps dissolve.

Cover the container and let it ferment overnight.

The next day, mix well , the batter, adjusting the consistency with water. The batter has to be of pouring consistency(just like the regular dosa batter)

Add salt

On a hot griddle, pour a ladle full of batter and spread into a circle, to make the dosas. add a tsp of oil around the dosas.

Once the edges turn golden brown, fold the dosa and remove it on a plate.

Enjoy them with chutneys or butter or pickle.

Spinach Rotis

What gives me motivation to write a blog post?

Motivation! That is right! It takes a lot of motivation to keep  your blog updated.

I have been reading all over the web about how to increase traffic to the blog and how to get your blog noticed. And in most cases, it is said that, it is really important to write well AND write frequently.

But how? Where is the time? where is the motivation?

With two kids around, it gets really hard to do the most basic chores in your day-to-day routine, let alone coming up with a blog post.

A few weeks ago, I was on a cooking spree. I was just whipping things up in my kitchen like a robot. I was so inspired and enthusiastic to cook new dishes and just display them in front of my Hub. I had fresh ideas, innovative dishes on my mind and was dreaming day and night about how I can post all of them on my blog with great pictures. Not everything made it to the blog, but those that have made  it were a result of great enthusiasm. But, all of a sudden , I don’t know what happened, all my spirits went down, just like the air out of a balloon. I felt dull, withdrawn and lazy even to make myself a cup of coffee.

But since food is a basic necessity, I did cook everyday but there was nothing great about it. Just a simple rasam sometimes or the same Baath that I have cooked probably a zillion times so far.

The weather played a major factor too. There were continuous HOT days here in Boston. We had heat wave warnings and it was pretty bad. With the weather so hot ,usually we do not feel like eating much. so we snacked and munched on slices and slices of watermelons and cucumbers. We cooled ourselves with a small helping of yogurt rice during the night.

Things have gotten better now and slowly my attention is turning towards my poor blog. I said to myself, ” I have to do it”. “no matter what”.

Now I had to get motivated myself to cook and blog about it. I thought I will try this strategy.And I did. And it worked pretty well,coz you are reading this post 🙂

I watched regularly all cooking shows on food network. I read quite a lot of food blogs and ogled at  the beautiful pictures. I browsed through many food websites and just read the names of many many dishes. It evoked my senses. And before I knew it, I was drooling in my mind imagining and tasting some spicy dishes. I also made  a “cook to blog list” while I was watching one of the food network shows.  Next thing I know, I found myself in the Indian store shopping some nice stuffs. My brain was recharged. My senses evoked and my mind motivated.

I physically got up on my feet and headed towards the kitchen with great vigor and made these truly delicious Spinach rotis.

Hope you all will enjoy!

Spinach Rotis:

2 cups of whole wheat flour( I used Sujata atta)

2 cups finely chopped baby spinach

1 tsp turmeric powder

3 cloves of Garlic finely grated

6 green chillies, finely chopped

salt

2 tbsp oil

water for kneading the dough.

Method:

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and knead into a soft pilable dough using little water at a time.

Once the dough is ready, take small portion of the dough and roll them into thin rotis.

On a hot griddle, cook the rotis until they turn a little golden brown on both sides.

You may  use some oil on the sides of the roti while it is cooking.

Once it is done, serve it with pickle of your choice and some cool yogurt.

Note: This roti tastes equally good when eaten cold too. You can store them in a wrapped aluminum foil or in another box for later consumption.

Green gram Khichidi

Khichidi. A comfort meal. You might have heard that line a gazillion times before. And why wouldnt you? Because it is indeed a comfort meal. A one wholesome pot of sheer satisfaction. A sick day’s soothing medicine.

Khichidi, traditionally a combination of rice and moong dal, cooked to a creamy consistency. spices may include and vary from just cumin to ginger, garlic , cinnamon and cloves!

But it is always the simplicity that does the trick. So just spicing up with cumin and crushed black peppers is enough to work wonders for your tastebuds.

In this particular recipe instead of yellow moong dal I have used the green moong.  It just makes the dish one level up, healthier! Also, the spice girl that I am and since I love green chilies, I have added them in this recipe.

So read on, and find your way to seventh heaven!

1/2 a cup of soaked green gram

1/2 a cup of  Jasmine or sona masuri rice

1 tbsp finely grated ginger

2 green chillies finely chopped

1 tsp cumin

1 pinch turmeric

and a generous pinch of Asa foetida

2 tbsp oil

4 cups of water.

First, soak the dry green gram in water for atleast 2 hours. the longer you soak , the creamier it cooks.

In a wide pressure cooker, add 2 tbsp of oil or ghee.

once hot add, cumin, ginger, turmeric, asafoetida and green chillies and saute for 2 minutes.

Next add the soaked green gram and the rice and fry for 2 more minutes. add salt.

Lastly, add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  finally close the lid and pressure cook until 3 or 4 whistles

Serve hot with more ghee and yogurt on the side.

Note: It is important to put equal proportions of rice and dal for the khichidi. also it is important to make the consistency creamy or watery. Because with time, the dish gets way too thick and it does not feel good.

Ghee or clarified butter is vital for taste enhancement. However, if you want to keep your fat intake in check, substitute with oil.

Lima beans Upma

Floyd Cardoz, Winner of the Top Chef season 3  makes the Humble Upma winning 100,000$.

This was last year in June 2011, the Top chef season 3. But when ever I think of this win I feel ” Gee, these winners do the weirdest and the least expected thing”.

This guy takes the simple of the simplest everyday dish from southern India, adds the most unexpected vegetable- The wild mushrooms, uses the chicken stock , gives the dish a whole new twist with coconut milk, makes it his own and Lo! we have a winner!!!

Its pretty amazing how these simple little twists what we call “innovations” makes an ordinary into extra ordinary. It also assures me, time and again, that we all have that creative factor deep with in us. It is just that we have to believe and explore with in ourselves, and there is no doubt we can do extraordinary things!

Now about my Upma, which was a winner in my home 🙂

I made this as a “quick fix”.    Upma or Uppittu, generally is a quick fix in most households in South India. It is a common breakfast dish served everywhere, from homes  to restaurants to household functions to wedding ceremonies.

It is most versatile, takes zero to many vegetables, it is very tasty,  very filling depending on how many veggies go in to the dish. Since it is made from cream of wheat, it generally fills you up very quickly, giving it the name of “concrete” by many folks  🙂

I really cannot believe there are Upma- haters too! I have come to the  conclusion that they hate it only because they are not doing it right. I guess they think, since it is simple, its boring!

A good upma, like any other good dish, needs some care, some make up, some fine tuning, some sharpening and it has the ability to win 100,000$!!!! helloo..

Let me take a moment to mention that my Mom is a maker of super -tasty upma. Avarekaalu( surti lilva bean) upma is her expertise.

The star ingredients of Upma are the green chilis and ginger. Black pepper and Cumin play a vital role too and of course the garnishes like cilantro and freshly grated coconut, take the Upma to a whole new level!

My upma above was, as I mentioned, a quick fix. That means, I had 1/2 and hour, I peeked into the fridge, I see no vegetables, I peeked in the freezer, I had Lima beans!

I thought, Lima beans, onions, tomatoes…..Lima beans Upma it is gonna be!

What  we need:

1 cup of coarse Semolina/ suji/ Rawa

1 onion finely chopped

1 tomato finely chopped

1 cup of Lima beans

6 green chillis finely chopped ( I like it spicy)

1pinch turmeric

1tsp mustard seeds

1tsp cumin seed

1/2 inch ginger, finely grated

Cilantro, finely chopped for garnish and lemon juice.

3 cups of water, for creamy consistency. Use 2 cups if you want  coarse consistency.

5 tbsp oil

Method:

In a thick bottomed pan, roast the semolina with a few drops of oil. roast it on a medium low flame, just until the semolina starts changing color and you have a nice aroma of the same. STOP if the semolina starts to get golden or dark brown. Ouch, you burnt it!!!

Once roasted, transfer it to another plate and let it cool.

In a pan heat 5 tbsp of oil. use MEDIUM HIGH flame. Once its heated, add mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric, green chillis and ginger and roast for 2 mins. Then add onions and fry till translucent. Then add tomatoes and Lima beans and fry for few minutes. Cover a lid until all the Veggies become soft. take off the lid and add 3 cups of water and SALT to taste. Let the water come to a rolling boil. Now add the roasted semolina slowly and gradually into the boiling water. keep stirring the water so that the Suji does not form lumps. Once there are no lumps , cover the pan with a lid and turn the flame to LOW.

Let the suji cook for 5 mins. Next, stir the Upma with a spoon. By now you have a nice creamy lump of the dish. turn off the heat.

Garnish with Cilantro and lemon juice.

The humble Idli.

Looks and tastes so simple. Just three simple ingredients.

Here is how:

What we need

1 Cup of good quality whole urad dal( black gram)

2-21/2 cups of idli rava( available in Indian stores)

salt.

A wet grinder or Mixie.

Method:

Soak Urad dal in lots of water for about 6 hours. That’s right. No need for overnight soaking, then forgetting etc etc.

After 6 hours, its ready to grind. A heavy duty wet grinder is really a good investment for making good idlis. Transfer the soaked Urad dal  (black gram) into the grinder. Make sure you drain the soaked liquid into another bowl. Save the liquid. turn on the grinder and grind the dal for about 20 minutes. Here it gets tricky. we need to add very less water yet get a smooth and fluffy batter  filled with air. You can see the batter rising to the top of the grinder. The batter increases in volume. ( You can use the saved liquid for grinding, instead of fresh water) Add water if the batter gets heavy and sticky.

The final stage would be a fluffy, light, airy batter.

While the Dal is grinding soak the Idli rava in water for about 20 minutes.

ThIs step is not quite common but I do it. I mix the soaked Idli rava to the grinding  urad dal . Let the idli rava mix in with the urad dal completely and blend well just for about a minute or two. Not more. you can add some water if the batter gets heavy and gets sticky.

Remember we are looking for a fluffy airy batter.

add salt in the end. transfer the whole batter into a clean container and cover with a lid. let the batter ferment ovenight in a nice, warm humid place.  the oven with lights on Perhaps?

The next day, you might see the batter has risen or may be even overflowed from the container. Cleaning is a hassle, but that’s ok 🙂

Beat the batter with a ladle or a large spoon until all the air escapes. Now the batter will be a thick pourable consistency.

Steam the idlis using the idli  moulds and enjoy with chutney and sambar. Please come back for the recipes of the same 🙂

Making good idlis is hard. Someone said” its hard to be simple”.

The humble idli looks and taste so simple, yet there has to be a lot of care behind its gentle looks.

The time of soaking, the time of grinding, the amount of water, the proportions of the ingredients , the fermenting time , it matters every step of the way.

Only then the final Idlis turn out, soft, fluffy, very light ,very white and melts in your mouth.

My idlis above were not perfect but they were pretty decent.

Never order  Idlis in an Indian restaurant in the USA. they are just not right. They are not the “real Idlis”. Even the best of the best restaurants who claim to be Authentic south Indian do not have the perfect Idlis, in my experience.

Want to have ” real Idli” ? Go to Mysore or Bangalore 🙂