Sunday, 26 April 2020

Potato Masala filling for Masala Dosas

If you love a masala dosa, then here is how to make the delicious potato masala filling!

One of my absolute favourite Southern Indian foods is a masala dosa: A crispy pancake made from a fermented rice and lentil batter, with a delicious spiced potato filling, traditionally served with sambar (a light soupy dal made with lentils, spices, tomato and vegetables) and a creamy coconut chutney. There are many regional variations, and I've made my potato filling from traditional ingredients based on the flavours of the dosas from Southern Indian restaurants along the 'Golden Mile' in my home town of Leicester where some of the best authentic Indian food in the UK can be found.

It really is the kind of dish which has so many flavours and textures, and is so tasty that it wouldn't even enter your head that you were eating vegan food, or missing your meat and dairy! Making the potato filling and the sambar isn't at all difficult or time consuming, so if you love a dosa it's well worth having a go, and you can buy ready made dosa batter from Asian grocers if you find the idea of making that yourself daunting, and just fry the pancakes at home.

Makes enough potato masala for approximately 16 medium-sized dosas, or 8 large dosas if you have a large dosa pan! (i.e. serves 8 people one portion each - or in my case serves 4 and freeze the rest for another time!)

  • 1.1-1.2kg waxy white potatoes (e.g. baking potatoes, I like Vivaldi for their buttery taste!)
  • 4 tbsp chana dal (dried split chick peas), soaked in hot water for 30 minutes (optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp neutral flavoured oil (DF/Vegan) or ghee
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds (brown)
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp urad dal
  • 2-3 medium onions (300g after peeling), diced
  • 2-3 sprigs curry leaves (about 25-30)
  • 2-3 inches ginger, finely chopped or grated
  • 2-4 green chillies (use a couple of large green chillies de-seeded and finely chopped if you prefer less heat, or use up to 4 small green chillies with seeds, finely sliced for more heat, or to taste)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp asoefetida
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste (1 to 2 level tsp suggested)
  • 300ml hot water
  • Large handful coriander, chopped

1. Soak the lentils for 30 minutes, and then rinse and drain. Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes into 1cm cubes - this is obviously much easier if you have a food processor with a dicer attachment (I used the dicing attachment on my Magimix and popped the peeled, quartered onions through there too). Alternatively you could push through a potato chipper and then dice if you found it easier. Add to a large pan of boiling salted water and cook for about 8-10 minutes until only just tender, but not breaking apart (like you would for potato salad). Drain and run under cold water to stop them cooking, drain and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large pan (I use something non-stick) and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, add the cumin seeds, chana dal, and urad dal and cook for a minute or two until the chana dal have just turned a golden colour.

After cooking the spices and onions.
3. Add the diced onions, curry leaves, ginger and green chillies and cook until the onions have softened and are just starting to turn golden on a few edges, then stir in the turmeric and asoefetida.

The potatoes, just added to the mix...
4. Stir in the hot water, sugar and salt (start with just 1 tsp, and taste for seasoning later and add more to taste if desired), then add the potatoes and stir in thoroughly.

...the potatoes after cooking down.
Bring to a simmer, then turn down to a lower flame and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed, the potatoes are the consistency you desire (leave firmer if reheating later) and you have a moist but not saucy/wet mixture that you will be able to 'spread' inside your dosas. 

5. Taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed (I use 2 level tsp in total for our tastes - so add the second tsp here) then if serving now, stir in the coriander and keep warm while cooking and serving your dosas.

Let the potato masala meet the dosa!
For a medium-sized dosa, add a couple of rounded desert-spoons to the side of the centre of the dosa and gently spread in a line then roll up the dosa around it and serve with sambar and coconut chutney. Eat immediately to enjoy at its crispy best!!

If you're making this ahead (i.e. for dosas), keep the initial potato cooking to a strict 8-10 minutes until it's only just cooked through, and don't overcook in the pan with the other ingredients so that they don't collapes into mush when you reheat and stir. They then become softer and the flavours meld together really nicely upon reheating. Don't add the coriander until you've reheated and then stir through to keep the flavour fresh and vibrant. I find this reheats well in the microwave, or you could reheat in the oven in a covered dish, or in a large pan, with a splash of water to keep it moist.

If you have leftovers, an alternative way to use them up is to add some peas (or my preference, petits pois, as they're sweeter and tastier!) and use as a tasty filling for samosas!

Dosa, sambar and chutney recipes to follow...

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