Monday, September 14, 2009

The Daring Cooks Go Vegan - Indian Dosas with Eggplant in Curried Coconut Sauce

The September 2008 Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by Debyi, from The Healthy Vegan Kitchen. Debyi lives in Prescott, Arizona and enjoys a healthy, low-fat, vegan diet. She does not eat any animal products, has learned to cook without eggs, oils or added fat, and believes a diet high in whole plant foods (fruits and vegetables), low in animal products, and low in refined, processed foods, is the healthiest way to live.

As inspiration for this month's challenge, Debyi chose Indian Dosas from Ruth Tal's cookbook: reFresh: Contemporary Vegan Recipes From the Award Winning Fresh Restaurants.

We were allowed to vary the suggested recipe, within the following guidelines: 1) Must be free of animal products... no cows' milk, butter, meat, poultry, fish, chicken/beef broth, etc; 2) Must be 99% oil free...using only what we need to keep the dosas from sticking; and 3) We were permitted to use a different filling/sauce, but the filling/sauce must be free of animal products.

Here is Debyi's adaptation of the Indian Dosas recipe she chose for the challenge (my variation is set forth in the second part of this post):

Indian Dosas
(the recipe comes in 3 parts: the dosas, the filling and the sauce)
Serves 4

Equipment needed:
large bowl
griddle or skillet
ladle (or large spoon)
vegetable peeler &/or knife
large saucepan
food processor or bean masher

Dosa Pancakes
1 cup (120gm/8oz) spelt flour (or all-purpose, gluten free flour)
½ tsp (2½ gm) salt
½ tsp (2½ gm) baking powder
½ tsp (2½ gm) curry powder
½ cup (125ml/4oz) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.)
¾ cup (175ml/6oz) water
cooking spray, if needed

Dosa Filling
1 batch Curried Garbanzo Filling (see below), heated

Dosa Toppings
1 batch Coconut Curry Sauce (see below), heated
¼ cup (125gm) grated coconut
¼ cucumber, sliced

Dosa Pancakes
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, slowly adding the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth.
2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray your pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, if needed.
3. Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin, round pancake. When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter. Makes 8 pancakes.

Curried Garbanzo Filling
(This filling works great as a rice bowl topping or as a wrap too, so don't be afraid to make a full batch)
5 cloves garlic
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced (red, yellow or orange are fine too)
2 medium hot banana chilies, minced
2 Tbsp (16gm) cumin, ground
1 Tbsp (8gm) oregano
1 Tbsp (8gm) sea salt (coarse)
1 Tbsp (8gm) turmeric
4 cups (850gm/30oz) cooked or canned chick peas (about 2 cans)
½ cup (125gm/4oz) tomato paste

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the garlic, veggies, and spices, cooking until soft, stirring occasionally.
2. Mash the chickpeas by hand, or in a food processor. Add the chickpeas and tomato paste to the saucepan, stirring until heated through.

Coconut Curry Sauce
(This makes a great sauce to just pour over rice as well. This does freeze well, but the texture will be a little different. The flavor is still the same though)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ (2½ gm) tsp cumin, ground
¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)
3 Tbsp (30gm) curry powder
3 Tbsp (30gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose gluten free flour)
3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth
2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut milk
3 large tomatoes, diced

1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, or until soft.
2. Add the spices, cooking for 1 minutes more. Add the flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
3. Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the coconut milk and tomatoes, stirring occasionally.
4. Let it simmer for half an hour.

Now, for my variation....

I am not vegan, or vegetarian, but I do love Indian food. Personally, I have no desire to partake, full-time, in a vegetarian diet.  I cannot imagine going completely vegan. I'm sure it is much healthier, but I'm just too old to change my ways ;-) However, I did my best to comply with the Challenge guidelines.

I followed the Dosa pancake recipe, but decreased the amount of water when making the batter to 1/2 cup.  I tried it with the recommmended 3/4 cup, but the batter was too thin and the Dosas tore when I tried to turn them.  I also used 3-4 tablespoons of batter for each dosa, rather than 2 tablespoons.

For my filling, I tried Tyler Florence's Eggplant in Curried Coconut Sauce.

Eggplant in Curried-Coconut Sauce

1/2 cup ghee, recipe follows (in keeping with the wishes of our hostess, I substituted olive oil)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder, recipe follows
1 cup unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
8 baby eggplants
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried red chile
1/2 lemon, juiced
Mint leaves, for garnish

Heat 1/4 cup of the ghee in a large pot over medium flame, add the onions and sprinkle with the curry powder. Cook and stir for a few minutes until the onions are soft. Add the cashews, shredded coconut, coconut milk, and vegetable broth. Bring up to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the eggplant.

Cut the eggplant into chunks. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of ghee in a deep skillet or Dutch oven and add the eggplant. Cook and stir until the eggplant gets charred and sticky.

Puree the coconut sauce with a handheld blender, until it’s pretty smooth. Pour the sauce over the eggplant and toss in the cinnamon stick and chile. Season with salt, to taste, and simmer for 15 minutes until thick. Give a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavor, garnish with mint leaves, and serve with steamed basmati rice and/or flat bread.

1 pound unsalted butter (again, I substituted olive oil in my version for the challenge)

Put the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, swirl the pot around to ensure that it melts slowly and does not sizzle or brown. Increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is covered with foam, stir gently and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Gently simmer, uncovered, and undisturbed for 45 minutes, until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown and the butter on top is transparent. Strain the ghee through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth. The ghee should be perfectly clear and smell nutty; pour into a glass jar and seal tightly. (Yield: 1 1/2 cups)

Curry Powder
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 dried red chiles, broken in pieces, seeds discarded
1 tablespoon turmeric

Toast the whole spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, mustard, cardamom and peppercorns) and the chiles in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan often to prevent them from burning. Toast for a couple of minutes until the spices smell fragrant. In a clean coffee grinder, grind the toasted spices together to a fine powder. Add the turmeric and give it another quick buzz to combine. Use the spice blend immediately, or store in a sealed jar for as long as 1 month. (Yield: about 1/2 cup)

I started by making the curry powder:

Curry spices measured out

Toasting the spices

Into the spice grinder

Buzzzzz...Grind away

Add tumeric...buzzzz, grind a bit more

Finished curry!

Fill up an air-tight container and you'll have enough curry for warm and comforting curry dishes during the autumn and winter!

Next, make your filling. Again, I decided on Tyler's Eggplant in Curried-Coconut Sauce. Since his recipe incorporated a curry-coconut sauce, I did not feel the need to make the Coconut Curry Sauce suggested by Debyi.

Japanese Eggplants

Saute the onions and curry powder, and then add the cashews, shredded coconut, coconut milk, and vegetable broth. Let simmer.

Meanwhile, in a dutch over, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of ghee [olive oil] in a deep skillet or Dutch oven and add the eggplant. Cook and stir until the eggplant gets charred and sticky.

Puree the coconut sauce with a handheld blender, until it’s pretty smooth. Pour the sauce over the eggplant and toss in the cinnamon stick and chile. Season with salt, to taste, and simmer for 15 minutes until thick. Give a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavor.

Finally (boy, this is alot of work for Indian crepes!), whisk up the Dosa batter (I used 1/2 cup of water, not 3/4 cup. I did try it both ways, but when the batter was too thin, the Dosas tore when flipping)

Dosa Pancake

Platter of warm Dosas

Nice, appetizer size Dosa

I enjoyed the experience, but I can't say I loved the flavor of the Dosas (maybe it was the spelt, but I'm not sure).  I have made my own curry powder before, as well as various spice rubs, and do strongly recommend experimenting with your own spices. Tyler's Eggplant in Curried-Coconut Sauce recipe was fabulous. It was even better the next day, served over rice.

Thank you, Debyi, the Vegan Hostess with the Mostess! And, of course, thank you to our Daring Founders, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice.

Please stop by and visit some of the other Daring Cooks for more creative vegan variations of Debyi's Challenge recipe.


Simon said...

I wonder whether part of the issue you had with the dosa had to do with the thickness off them. I found when I was making this that the thinner they were, the tastier and less stodgy they were.

I'm impressed that you went ahead and made your own curry spice mix. That would have lent such great flavour and aroma to the end product.

Angela said...

I also had the same problem with my dosa. I added a fair bit of extra water and that more or less solved the problem.

I LOVE curried eggplant, so your filling tickles my fancy.

Rose said...

Beautiful curry spice mix! I love the eggplant as well. Great idea :) I found that the flavors intensified a lot in the filling the next day. I can't wait to try your curry powder. Nicely done!

Anula said...

I love the look of your pancakes! And all those photos - make me want to lick my screen ;) Great job! Cheers.

Cheri said...

How great that you made your own curry! Great variation on the dish!

climbhighak said...

Making your own curry powder is one of those steps that many cooks just don't take advantage of. It is also the kind of thing that puts a recipe over the top flavorwise. Excellent job. Love cinnamon in curried eggplant.

Mary said...

I love what you've done with this challenge. That curry powder is most impressive. I hope you enjoyed the dosas and had as much fun with the challenge as I did.

Lauren said...

Beautiful job! Your photos are breathtaking, and the flavours sound wonderful =D.

lisamichele said...

Wow, you did a heck of a job on the dosas. The dosas turned out aesthetically perfect, and your spice mix, along with the curry eggplant filling looks and sounds delicious. Very creative! Great job all around!

mub said...

Beautiful photos. I love the curry spice mix series! Thanks for sharing your recipe

LoveMeKnot Creations said...

*drool* yours look amazing, my mouth is watering just looking at them! kudos on a challenge well done though!!

chef_d said...

Beautiful looking dosas. And your eggplant curry looks so interesting. Congrats!

Jenn said...

This looks so delicious!! That eggplant filling sounds amazing!!

syrupandhoney said...

Awesome job: your dosas look perfectly thin, your curry powder sounds delightful, and I am going to HAVE to make that eggplant filling!