Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Daring Cooks Go To India (And Become Vegan!)

And here it is ... the vegan, Indian food. Wait. No. Not vegan. Not Indian. Not made by me. That's the pizza back-up meal for Small Girl and Husband, who has been making faces all month every time I mention that the Daring Cooks challenge for September was an Indian recipe. Husband is not fond of Indian food. One big reason is the texture; he has a strong dislike for anything mushy. He also doesn't like cumin which can play a big role in the spice mixtures of some Indian dishes. So all the lovely Indian vegetarian things that I love (mattar paneer, saag paneer, aloo gobi, etc.) are just not Husband's cup of tea. So I bought a take-and-bake pizza for him. Small Girl was a mystery to me in terms of liking the dosa and as it happens, she ate as much dosa pancake and tofu as she did pizza. We'll get to Husband's reaction later.

But first: Thanks go to Debyi from The Healthy Vegan Kitchen for choosing the dosa recipe for this month's challenge. She challenged us all to make Indian Dosas from the refresh cookbook by Ruth Tal. Part of the challenge was to make all three elements of the dish (pancakes, sauce, filling) vegan. Here's what it really looks like (not pizza):


And here's how I got to that plated product: As mentioned above, there are three elements to the dish. We had some leeway on the filling and I knew that Husband was not even going to try a mashed chickpea filling, so I changed that. The first element is a coconut curry sauce and I also changed that a bit, hoping that a very mild sauce might be approved by Small Girl. It was an experimental sort of sauce and it taught me a few things.

This is what I learned: If you're using powdered coconut milk, you should probably NOT reconstitute it in a blender to make sure there are no lumps. No. You should probably stir it into warm water on the stove -- as the pictograph instructions on the otherwise-all-in-Thai packaging shows -- or you will end up with froth. Froth that after simmering for an hour with onion, garlic, and ginger is still froth. I also learned that no matter how many times I tasted the sauce, if you don't add Thai red chile paste to it (because you're not cooking Thai food), it will never taste like a Thai red curry sauce. Sigh. In the end, the sauce just didn't do it for me on its own. It did add something nice to the finished dish, though, so all my stirring and adding of this and that and the other did pay off in the end.

I agonized over my filling for pretty much the whole month (did I already mention that I'm writing this an hour after eating it and this post has to be revealed first thing tomorrow morning?). I knew it couldn't be mushy. I wanted it to be flavorful without needing a lot of spice-as-in-heat (or curry) so that the other members of my family might eat it. I finally decided on a potato and tofu filling very reminiscent of the potato-based filling often found in samosas. Lots of onion and garlic and a great big handful of cilantro added at the end made for a very tasty filling.

Next up, the dosa themselves. Dosa are pancakes made with a wide variety of different flours or mashed lentils. I used half wheat flour and half chickpea flour. The batter came together very, very easily. The cooking was not quite as struggle-free. You know how the first crepe is for the chef? Or the dog, depending on whether you have a dog and how bad your day is going? Well, the first dosa came out quite well. The next three were for someone or something other than tonight's diners. Just a mess, mess, mess! I finally added some extra water and got into the groove of things.

My sauce just was not pretty, so I decided to plate that on the bottom instead of the top and started rolling dosas around the filling as they came out of the pan. Between the three burners I had going and the oven blasting to cook the pizza, the stove top was plenty hot to keep everything warm as I worked.


When I had four rolled (it seemed like plenty, given that I was the only guaranteed consumer), I topped them off with some of the extra filling and some cilantro. After they posed for their pictures, it was time to eat! I loved them. The pancakes were tasty thanks to the curry powder and chickpea flour. The filling was delicious, because how could it not be with all that cilantro?? And the sauce ended up providing just the right amount of extra moisture, salt, and fat needed to make the completed dish a success. I never get to go to Indian restaurants, so it was a real treat to have an Indian meal -- thanks, Debyi!

And Husband? He took half a filled dosa. To try. And then ate the other half. And then asked if he could take the uneaten one to work for lunch tomorrow with some of the extra filling. Apparently, his new take on Indian food is that IF I make it AND he knows what's in it AND it's not mushy AND he knows how it was made? He just might like it.

22 comments:

  1. It's nice to see that this challenge has possibly started a change. Who know, maybe sometime down the line, your husband may ask to go to an Indian restaurant :)

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  2. Heh! I can't see that request coming any time soon, but a girl can always dream...

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  3. I think you did a great job! I love how you made it easy on yourself (as you should) by getting the hubs & kids pizza ;) Nice job on this! What a fun surprise that your husband LIKED the dosas! Awesome!

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  4. Nice job- glad your husband liked the dosas!
    I loved the whole dish more that I expected!

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  5. Great job! My Hubby (devoted meat eater!) also liked Dosas a lot ;) Your tourned out very deliciuos! Cheers.

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  6. That filling sounds delicious! And, it looks pretty too! Great job on the challenge, I am glad everyone like it in the end. :)

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  7. I love potato in curry! That sounds delish--glad it was a big hit with the fam!

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  8. Lovely job!! I love the sound of your filling =D. I'm so glad it converted your husband too!

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  9. One common misconception about Indian food is that everything is unidentifiabe mush. When you make it at home and everyone sees what goes in, it instantly becomes more appetizing.

    From your teaser photo at DC forums, I thought you used fresh corn. The filling of tofu and potato sounds and looks delicious.

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  10. I wonder if my dosas would have worked better with chickpea flour. Challenging batter. Glad everyone found them tasty

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  11. Thanks for all the comments...I've loved seeing your versions as well!

    I definitely don't need to be convinced about the excellence and non-mushiness of Indian food. I think part of the problem is that the academic department where we met used to have Indian food catered for a lot of events. The standard veg option they chose was saag paneer and it was one of the mushiest versions I've ever had. It had amazing flavor, but someone already ambivalent towards Indian food was not going to be converted by it.

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  12. What wonderful photography. I hope you enjoyed the dosas and the challenge.

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  13. I think it is great that your daughter liked them. and that you have come up with a good solution when you make dishes your husband doesn't like. ANd, even better that he liked them.

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  14. Looking at your dosas, I wish I had veered from the recipe and used a double potato filling (sweet and yukon) with peas, which I was planning on doing until I thought.."OH, let me make these as written". Yours look gorgeous and delicious!!

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  15. Your dosa is wonderful!
    Good idea used potato.

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  16. It seems like several people used chickpea flour, I think that's a great idea.

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  17. I loved reading your husband's reaction! You must have felt so triumphant! I'm lucky: my partner eats anything I put in front of him... But a good cook knows how to adapt to please its audience, like you did. Great job!

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  18. Hello Angela :)

    your dosas look delicious, I'm not surprise your husband liked it. You did very well on this challenge, I must say :)

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  19. Your dosas lookd delicious - great idea to used potatoes!

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  20. Good idea to plate the sauce underneath...not to be gross but my dosa look like someone snotted all over them :)

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