Golden wonders

Indian pancakes to add spice to Shrove Tuesday; I was awe-struck when my `paper dosa' arrived, standing upright like a peacock's fan - the sort of napkin-folding skills you expect to find in a THF hotel

I remember Drummond Street from when I was at university - a bastion of Edwardian houses in the shadow of Euston station. Now it is as an enclave of cheap Indian vegetarian cafes and delis.

One such cafe is the long-standing Diwana Bhel Poori House that has proved a blueprint for any number of such places - a mishmash of the bhel poori of Bombay, the "famous dosas of the coral coast" and the thalis of Gujarat: a selection of different little dishes eaten with Indian breads.

Bhel poori are decidedly eccentric. A cold snack that originated on Chowpaty Beach, they remind me of savoury Shredded Wheat. In part, I put this down to the cereal bowl and the teaspoon with which you eat the hotchpotch of crispy noodles, onions, chutney, potatoes, coriander and biscuit.

Part of the Diwana's success is its "eat as much as you want" lunchtime buffet, but the attraction for me is their exquisitely made and delicate dosas - the pancakes of Southern India - expansive crisp, golden sheets that are quite unlike the pudgy round affairs normal to Pancake Day.

My favourite is white and lacy, with large holes set between threads of batter, golden and shiny on the side on which it is grilled, set with coriander leaves, green chilli and ginger. Cooked in a long strip it is folded over like a linen hand towel once cooked. You tear it into pieces as you eat it and pile it with a creamy coconut chutney, a spicy lentil sambhar, and potato fried with cumin and turmeric.

There's another dosa made with rice flour and water that's fermented for a day or two until it turns sour. This one is paper-thin, deep gold and very crisp with the flavour of burnt Parmesan. I was awe-struck when my "paper dosa" arrived, standing upright like a peacock's fan - the sort of napkin-folding skills you expect to find in a THF hotel.

All the dosas are cooked on an oblong flat iron grill, attended by a chef who splashes water on it at regular intervals - a shower of droplets that dance on the surface before evaporating in a cloud of steam which gives the impression of great heat.

On experimenting at home, though, I would say that one of the Diwana's secrets is that the grill is not very hot at all. The pancakes are cooked on one side only for about six minutes, and to achieve this at home, I have to keep my pans on a fairly low heat.

Of the accompaniments to dosas, the best I have tasted were in Darjeeling. But I'd be lying if I said the memory wasn't in some way coloured by eating on a terrace with mountains falling away in front of us.

We had returned from a virtuous early-morning walk to be greeted by a delectable savoury breakfast of puffy breads, turmeric-spiced potatoes, a mealy dal and a slippery tomato and onion chutney, all cooked by Sabot Gomden, our hostess. Even without the backdrop they still taste good.

Note on recipes: a few of these ingredients may require going to an Indian deli. For mail order you could contact Curry Direct (01730 894949). All the side dishes are intended as small accompaniments to the pancakes - if you want to serve them as part of another meal, then doubling up would be a good idea.

Lacy Dosas, makes 10 x 18-20cm/7-8"

Because these need to be crisp, they cannot be cooked and stacked in advance. But with two frying pans on the go, you can cook two at a time, and keep them coming. They take 4-6 minutes and don't require any flipping, so it's actually quite easy.

150g/5oz coarse semolina

12 tsp sea salt

400ml/15fl oz water

1 tbsp chopped coriander

13 tsp finely chopped green chilli

12 tsp finely chopped ginger

vegetable oil

Blend the semolina, salt and water together into a watery paste, then add the remaining ingredients. The batter will be very thin, but it is the water that creates the lacy effect. Heat two cast-iron frying pans over a low heat and brush them with vegetable oil. Stir the batter well and drizzle a coating of the mixture over the base of the pan - it should separate, leaving holes in the pancake which become more pronounced as it dries out. The mixture should not be ladled in too thickly or it won't crimp up and the holes won't appear. And the semolina sinks very quickly: it must be evenly suspended in the water to work, so keep stirring it as you ladle it in.

After about 4 minutes, lift the edges of the pancake to see how the underside is doing; it should be quite golden in patches, and shiny. If it is too pale, then the pancake won't hold together when it is removed. Once it is dry and crisp, remove it to a plate, shiny golden side uppermost, and eat straight away. Cook the remainder in the same fashion, re-oiling the pan as necessary.

Turmeric potatoes, serves 4

This is best made with new or salad potatoes.

Masala: 14 tsp each of onion seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and poppy seeds

112 tbsp mustard oil

1 onion, peeled and grated

1 tomato, skinned and finely chopped

12 tsp turmeric, 18 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

7fl oz water

2lb new potatoes, peeled, boiled and diced

1 heaped tbsp chopped coriander

Grind the masala seeds using a pestle and mortar - they don't have to completely reduce to a powder. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the masala. When it splutters, add the onion and cook over a low heat until it is translucent, then add the tomato, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt and water and simmer for 10 minutes. You can cook up to this point in advance.

Add the potatoes and cook for a few minutes to heat through, stirring occasionally. Stir in the coriander and adjust seasoning. Serve straight away.

Tomato and onion chutney, serves 4

This is a lovely slippery chutney. It would also be good with cold ham or chicken.

1 tbsp mustard oil

4 large onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced

1 tsp salt

2 tomatoes, skinned and cut into strips

1" ginger, skin removed and finely chopped

1 tsp ground coriander

12 tsp turmeric

14 tsp finely chopped green chilli

Heat the mustard oil in a good-size saucepan, add the onion and salt and cook over a low heat until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes: stir to make sure it does not catch. Add the tomato, ginger, coriander, turmeric and the green chilli. Cover and cook over a very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it is condensed and silky. Serve at room temperature.

Dal, serves 4

This is quite a delicate dal, which I like. I think adding the spices at the end is a good idea.

175g/6oz chana dal or yellow split peas

700 ml/114 pt water plus 200 ml/7 fl oz boiling water

1 tbs mustard oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

12 tsp turmeric,1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp sea salt

Place the drained dal in a saucepan with the 700ml/ 11/4 pints of water, bring to the boil and skim the surface foam, then simmer for 40 minutes until you have a thick puree.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook a third of the onion until it is brown. Add the cooked pulse, the spices, salt, remaining onion and the boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. It is difficult to say exactly how much water you will require; the result should be thicker than a soup, thinner than porridge. You will need to stir the dal as it is simmering, and it helps to keep it three-quarters covered with a lid to stop it splattering the walls and you.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution