The divine Indian Dosa pancake
by Rachel Jesson
in Blogs

I’m busy with my recipe book, which is a follow on from our Wholesome Nutrition book. It includes tried and tested recipes that are guilt-free and which hold a place in our daily eating practice of really fuelling our bodies, and hopefully placing us in a restorative place rather than a depleting one, which many foods these days seem to do. The aim of my book, for now anyway (as it constantly changes as we both grow together), is to really nourish and give back to the body.

For this to happen, I sometimes feel us meat eaters need to give our systems a small break and take a day or two off each week to free our bodies of some workload. Eating meat can be quite taxing on our liver, especially eaten late at night. Much like an athlete needs a rest day. And by doing this, I feel that we give ourselves a little dollop of extra energy, a whack load of additional nutrients, and a generous dose of fibre that normally wouldn’t make it into our eating routine. Hear me out – there is a method to my madness…

I’ve been on the hunt, looking for something that is healthy and ridiculously delicious, making it easy to take this meat break – something we enjoy so much that we don’t miss the meat anyway! And my oh my, have I discovered the most amazing South Indian pancake, called the DOSA. It ticks all the right boxes for me and gets a shiny gold star because, if it’s made correctly, it’s fermented. I just love fermentation; not only for all the live, beneficial bacteria, but also for their efforts in breaking down grains and legumes into more digestible forms for us.

I can’t say that I discovered the dosa; we actually treat ourselves to it every Saturday at the Bryanston organic market and after numerous satisfying and salivating meals, I found the courage to ask Chai (the man behind the magic) to teach me. The revelation came when I made them at home while experimenting. No one missed meat during that meal… No one mentioned it at the dinner table, which is unusual when bringing up two young carnivores who ordinarily rank meat higher than vegetables on their plates. I knew I had a winner when the kids asked for seconds!

Chai’s first reply to me was: “Rachel, just buy the batter from me to make your life easier” and obviously I said “no” because I want to teach all my potential supporters how to make this beautiful crispy pancake. So off we set – a whole two hours, if that. Now I can proudly say that I’ve mastered it. Experimenting with the fillings has been an absolute treat. Touch wood, every filling so far has been simply delicious! Cramming in the vegetables, using all the beautiful anti-inflammatory Indian spices has been a delight. Eating some of the same vegetables but made in a different way, and completely adjusting their flavour has been a real discovery too. This has been the best journey of my book so far.

The dosa is incredibly versatile! You can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or all three meals. You can enjoy it savoury or as a dessert. You could even enjoy it with meat, but I have chosen not to because of my focus on a meat-free meal.

The best thing of all is that the kids adore them just as much - they have eaten all my savoury versions with gusto that are heaped in veggies…BONUS! It was so funny at first; I would put the filling on the side and keep their dosas empty to test if they liked the filling first. Now the filling goes right in there and we have two very quiet little boys at the dinner table on dosa night. It almost feels like date night, because Ian and I can actually have a conversation on those days.

So how is this beauty made? Simple, pronounceable, natural ingredients. Rice, lentils and seeds soaked in water for a day or two. Then it all gets ground or blended into what looks like a normal pancake batter. From there, it ferments for a few days. I love fermenting in glass because then I get to see all the bubbles and the kids love to watch the batter rise above their colour marker point drawn on the jar at the start. They physically get to watch the fermentation process with us, and now fully understand it at three and five years of age. Now, that’s real-life, quality teaching to your kids when they get to understand a process and then enjoy munching it too.

After the fermentation, the rest is easy. You create your filling and start cooking your crispy pancakes. The filling could be as simple as sprinkling some grated grass-fed cheese over it as it cooks, or chopping some banana and drizzling it with some raw honey.

When I started experimenting, I always thought I would give my batter away to family and friends. I never did because we still can’t get enough of these guys! I’m off to get a batch soaking right now, as I’ve been drooling while writing this!