Monday 31 May 2010

• Dosa... fail!

I was going to begin this post with, "Honey, dinner's on the printer!" (which is how our dinner preparations usually begin...) but events conspired to make a mockery of my attempts at making dosa! Rita, how did you manage it?! I used the same mix, the same pan and the same utensils and look what happened! *Sigh* And things had been going so well, lately; almost everything I've tried cooking in my new-found favourite cuisine seems to work brilliantly. Buoyed by my recent spate of success, I thought I'd make Masala Dosa for dinner tonight.

That's where I went wrong:
Not expecting anything untoward, I perused the web for a nice recipe for the filling, settling on a Potato Bhaji recipe and added it to my recipe database. Then I printed it out and asked Steve to make it for us while I prepared the dosa. Next, I carefully added the correct amount of water to a packet of Gits Dosa mix, mixed the batter and let it sit for a few minutes while I gathered my utensils and put a plate in the oven for the finished dosas.

Then the games began; first I tried following the instructions with the relative astounding success you can just make out in the upper left-hand corner of the photo above. Then, all hell broke loose - I just couldn't get the things to come off of my pan! I tried and tried and tried again, until there was no more batter!

*Sigh*. Not having prepared any rice to go with the lovely potato masala which, by now Steve had made and was now sitting (covered) on the stove, smelling ridiculously wonderful, I had a flash of inspiration.

I got out another pan and whipped up a quick wheat flour batter I had been shown how to make by a friend (basically self-rising flour, salt and water mixed to the consistency of double cream) and produced a batch of thin, slightly elastic and very tasty pancake wraps. These "Cheat's Dosa" went perfectly with our potato bhaji and we were fed.

Savory wheat pancakes

The End.

Monday 24 May 2010

In Great Yarmouth, a vagabond

We went to the British seaside for a weekend in May. 'We' being my lab buddies (and spouses and partners) and the 'weekend' being the third weekend in May. Originally, the idea was to have a 'Lab Outing' - kind of a weekend retreat together. We would all - me (and named spouse), Ihsene, Hannah, Yvonne (and named spouse) and Rupak (and named spouse) - go somewhere together with the idea of having fun - out of the laboratory. That was the idea. Bear in mind that this was a plan that was planned, conceived and hatched in February. February - you know the month - that '-ary' month, marooned right smack in the ass end of winter in the no man's land that lies just where Christmas joy has faded and Spring - though much hoped for and even more anticipated - is far too far away to ponder. It was in the grip of February's cold grasp that we conspired to go away together in Springtime and have fun.

The reality (oh, there's always a reality!) was that, for one reason or another, one couldn't make it; another's spouse couldn't come; someone unexpected (but very welcome, indeed!) was substituted for - yet another and, well, you see how it goes... So we, the motley crew that we are, finally sorted ourselves out (kit, kaboodle and food enough for a starving army...) and headed for a caravan park in Great Yarmouth on the North Sea coast.

... To be continued . . .

Tuesday 18 May 2010

• Dhokla

Tonight we made dhokla... from a packet, sure, but it was our first attempt at making it - and eating it, too!
I say "we"... I really mean, honestly, Steve. Yes, Steve made these. I helped (those are my sizzled mustard seeds, chopped green chillis and curry leaves sitting on top...) but the credit goes to him as always, venturing into the culinary 'unknown'.

They were delicious. We had them with the last of the sambar from Sunday, some coconut chutney and a greeny-minty-spicy chutney I made tonight. Yum! Everything was hot and spicy and the dhokla were soft, moist and delightful to eat.

Mmmm! Bravo, Steve!

Sunday 16 May 2010

• Sambar

Saturday we had friends over for a South Indian 'cook-a-long' dinner. Rupak, Kinnary and Rita, Rupak's mother who is visiting from Kolkata, India, dropped by after a day of punting and sightseeing in the City Centre.

We were 5 cooks in the kitchen, busily cooking a sumptuous meal of idli (Kinnary), sambar (me), coconut chutney (Rita, with a little help from me) and dosa (Rita). We all had a terrific time, chatting and cooking. Rupak and Steve both managed to stay out of our way while somehow being instantly helpful when required to do so... Bravo, Gentlemen!

I made the sambar before our guests arrived so I was free to try and keep an eye on all that was going on so that I could reproduce the meal another time. The coconut chutney was the most 'mysterious' element as, before this day I didn't know very much about chutneys or how to make them. Poor Kinnary was suffering from hay fever but somehow was able to produce some 30+ idly for us (and two different kinds, too!)

The dosa were a challenge to make in my kitchen for, although I have a tava (which is useful for making rotis and parathas) it wasn't quite seasoned enough and the first 2 or 3 dosa stuck to the pan. Somehow Rita managed to rescue every one of them while keeping a steady flow of witty conversation going!

Needless to say, we were all ravenous by the time we sat down to eat! The food was delicious and could we be blamed for eating ourselves silly?

After polishing off as much as we could possibly eat, we retired to sofas to sleepily sip tea and nibble on cheese cake.

Here's my attempt at a sambar recipe. Although I reprised the dish this morning, I think it could stand a bit more revision:



1 cup (200 gms) toor dal
3 cups water (+ 1 cup as needed)
6 pieces tindora, halved lengthwise
1 carrot, cut into batons or uneven chunks
1/3 cup green beans
1/2 piece (6 pieces) courgette
6 pieces okra, sliced in half

1-1.5 tbsp tamarind, soaked in 1/2 cup hot water then
mashed and squeezed to yield the juice.

1 whole drumstick (moringa oleifera) cut into 2 inch 'fingers'
2 'pinches' asafoetida
1/4 tsp tumeric powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 -3 tsp sambar powder

1-2 tbsp oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seed
20 curry leaves
2 tsp garam masala
1-2 tsp sambar powder
a small handful chopped fresh coriander


1. Wash and soak the toor dal for 30 minutes then drain the water and put it in the pressure cooker and add in the carrots, green beans, tindora, water (3cups) and salt.

2. Cook the dal on medium heat, 1 whistle (3 minutes after the weight starts rocking) and allow the pressure to go down on its own.

3. When cool, remove the lid of the cooker, return the cooker to the heat and add the tumeric powder, tomatoes, asafoetida, chilli powder, drumstick pieces, courgette slices and 2-3 tsp sambar powder.

4. Mix and simmer the sambar while these ingredients cook.

5. Meanwhile, use a seive to add the tamarind to the sambar.

6. Add the balance of the water (1/2 cup or amount needed) to get the sambar to the desired consistency and boil till the raw tamarind smell has gone and the vegetables have softened.

For the seasoning:

1. Add some oil or ghee to a small skillet or saucepan and add mustard seeds and a further pinch of asefoetida and curry leaves. Turn off the heat when the seeds begin to pop.

2. While stirring, add in the chilli powder, sambar powder, coriander powder. Don't allow the powders to scorch or burn; add a little water if the pan seems to be too hot.

3. Add this mixture to the sambar and continue to simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

4. Taste and correct the seasonings, adding the juice of 1/2 lemon, if required (the sambar should be a little tart-tasting), garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Use tamarind concentrate if regular tamarind is not available.