Potato Masala Dosa with Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic LeavesIn the woods the wild garlic is growing once again and we picked some the other day making delicious pesto with it. We had pasta with mushrooms and garlic pesto, and then used up the leftovers in a yellow pea soup  one lunchtime.

Today I collected another handful and added it to the mix for the spicy potato masala for my second attempt at scratch making dosas. I spent a wonderful day recently with Gill the Painter in her kitchen and we made dosa together as it was pancake day. Gill is an expert cook as some of you probably know!

I came home full of enthusiasm and motivation and rooted around in my garage and found much to my surprise that I had most of the ingredients sitting in a box.  Last year I had a conversation with Max Artist, (who has an alter ego called Max Cake Baker and Caterer)  about dosa making and he had recommended Vahchef’s YouTube videos. I remember watching them and I must have gone out and bought the dals, and then…ahem… not done it. Maybe I got distracted, who knows?

Dosa is a name that covers a whole range of pan cooked goodies made from a fermented batter.  There are thin crispy ones  – some completely enormous and shaped like cones or fans called paper dosa – then there are lacy ones with chunks of onions – rava dosa – thick soft ones – kerala dosa,  dosa made with rice, with lentils or dal, and ones made with wheat. There are green dosa, there are dosa eaten with fresh coconut chutney, with sambal, with mutton curry. Getting hungry yet?

They are a staple in southern India, eaten at home for breakfast and for supper,  and they are just great! For the recipes and instructions read on…

One of the mysteries of eating out in England is that even though every town or village has an Indian restaurant or two, it is rare to find the mainly vegetarian cuisine of South India, the wonderful bel poori starters, the chats, idlis, thalis and dosas.* One suburban restaurant after another serves up the same menu of dishes. Like supermarket bread, the Indian restaurant trade thinks that this is what the population wants. I wish everyone would go and ask for dosa and idli and bel poori and thali; they tick many boxes from a health point of view, being lower in fat, usually vegetarian, often vegan, dairy free, gluten free etc, high in protein and carbohydrates.  They are economic to make, the ingredients are inexpensive and they cook quickly and you can customize them to suit your family’s palate with no difficulty at all.  Perfect food !

Dosa with Urad Dal and Chana Dal

In a radical departure I used cups to measure the ingredients for this. (I’m a metric person usually.)

I reckon these quantities would make enough dosas for three/four people, if you are very hungry or feeding big people then double up the quantities.

  • 1 cup of basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup of urad dal
  • 1/8 cup of chana dal
  • 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds
  • oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Wash the rice and two sorts of dal in a couple of changes of water. Add the fenugreek seeds and then leave to soak over night in enough water to cover. I poured boiling water over the rice and let it sit for about five minutes before making up the final overnight mixture. You can use parboiled/easycook/converted rice too. Don’t add any salt at this stage.

The following day, blend the soaked and lightly fermented mix in a blender with water. We ended up thinning the mixture several times while we experimented with what sort of texture we needed for the dosas. It can be really quite watery,  but should coat the back of a spoon. The mixture shouldn’t be smooth; a grainy or gritty texture is what you want.

Add salt to taste, I think for the amount above I used about a heaped teaspoon but err on the side of less rather than more as the filling is spicy and rich and you can add the salt there.

The crucial differences between cooking dosa and wheat based pancakes as far as I can tell from my few attempts are as follows:

Crêpe batter is made with wheat flour, egg, milk and sometimes with sugar and butter. The gluten means that you can swirl the batter round the pan and it will hold together; the sugars and fats mean that the crêpe or pancake will brown very quickly and burn quite easily too; making the dosa was very unsmoky, unlike making crêpes!

Dosas on the other hand are made with water and the mixture has no gluten. So you use a drop and spread technique to shape the dosa. The best way to understand this is to watch Vahchef’s video below. He makes it look effortless. Also you need ideally to use a non stick pan. I used a square griddle pan to make mine today.

We found that the batter at first was a bit thick for what we wanted so we thinned it down. We experimented with various tools for spreading out the batter. I stuck to the back of a metal spoon, Brian preferred to use the dough scraper. I fantasize, that, if only I had Vahchef’s little bowl I would be able to do it perfectly like him but I know in my heart of hearts that is just a fantasy.

What else have I learnt so far? Cook the dosas on a medium heat, don’t cook them too low, the lentils won’t cook properly if you do. Once you have spread out your mix into a circle, remember to sprinkle it with oil. Don’t put oil on the non stick pan itself, it’s not necessary. Wait and watch, look for the little holes appearing in the surface of the dosa, the surface changes and appears to sweat as it sets. Loosen the edges with a spatula if you are worried it might stick. Don’t worry about small holes or gaps in the dosa, they don’t matter at all.

For the potato masala that I made today I watched Vahchef at work. I will put the two YouTube videos at the end of the post so if you have time you can watch him in action.

Potato Masala with Wild Garlic Leaves

  • 750 g of new potatoes chopped up into small chunks with the skins on
  • 2 dried whole chillis
  • Vegetable oil for frying spices
  • 2 cm chunk of fresh ginger – chopped into slivers
  • Teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
  • Tbsp of black mustard seed
  • Fresh red and green chillis
  • Large sliced white onion
  • Sea salt
  • A handful of wild garlic leaves (optional), use bulb garlic if not available
  • Chana masala mixed spices – I used Steenbergs Organic mix
  • Turmeric

I didn’t have hing (asafoetida), or cashew nuts and I didn’t have curry leaves but I thought I would give it a go anyway.

Heat oil in a frying pan and add the dried whole chillis, then, one by one, add the ginger, the cumin seeds, black mustard seed, fry for a little.

Then add red and green chillis to taste, sliced onion, turmeric and chana masala mix. Stir some more. Add the wild garlic leaves towards the end as they wilt quickly.

While you are doing this, boil the chunks of potatoes in enough water to cover but not swamp them. Once they are tender, drain but leaving about a third of the cooking water in the pot. Stir the spice/onion/chili mix in to the potatoes and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and so on to suit your taste.  I added some fried dals as well for extra crunch!

To serve put some of the potato masala on top of the dosa and wrap it up. I really wanted to make fresh coconut chutney to go with it, but it will have to wait till next time.

We devoured ours with some chopped fresh coriander, chopped onion and red pepper and yoghurt raita, fresh limes and shop bought lime chutney.

The thinner you can get the dosa the crispier it will be, but soft dosas are really good too. Make sure you cook them properly, undercooked dal is not very nice.

We went overboard for these slightly sour dosas, we ate so many that it was embarassing, and they are going on the menu regularly from now on. I hope we get better at making them, but I’m happy to have lots of practice. Thank you Gill for showing me how to do it, what shall we make next?

If you can’t get these particular sorts of dal, then there are many variations out there. I suspect you could probably do it with any sort of dried pea, though you might have to soak and cook very large ones before making them into batter.

And cost wise? This is such a cheap meal to make and so tasty. I just love it!


* In Bristol there is the Thali Cafe, which I have never managed to get a table in, which has won awards for its vegetarian food and there are one or two other places I have tried but none of them are like the restaurants in Drummond Street, behind Euston Station in central London.  These may have changed too since I was last there. I am a bit wary of doing restaurant reviews but this is a good place to start  if you want to eat dosas. If anyone wants to recommend somewhere that they know,  I am all ears!


Vahchef’s Fabulous Videos on YouTube :  Dosa Dosai and Potato Masala

He’s the Best!

31 thoughts on “Potato Masala Dosa with Wild Garlic

  1. bagnidilucca

    I love dosas!!! I had them in India several years ago and became an instant fan. When I am in Hong Kong I like to go to Sevva on top of the Prince’s building where they make the crisp dosas – yum! Thanks for the great instructions, I think I can do this. Thanks also for the reference to my Carneval post.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      You’re welcome! I think I have a way to go with getting them really thin and even but it’s a start. Dosas aren’t really known that much here and it’s a great pity because they are so delicious ;)

  2. Abby

    I’m so glad you posted this…I was really curious about all of your dosa-related Twitter comments. =) I love your detailed instructions…I’ll have to put these on the list of recipes to try.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi Abby, the only tricky bit is spreading the batter out, as it is a bit of guess work getting the consistency and texture right. But completely delicious and very moreish, and as the batter is a bit fermented guess what it reminds me of?

  3. GillthePainter

    Is it wild garlic time,
    I think I’ll take a walk out into the countryside for a breezy, sensory sniff ….

    What a fantastic dosa show you’ve made for us, Joanna.
    Packed with flavour.
    I forgot about the hing, I’ve got a little tub in my cupboards somewhere.

    Actually, it’s making dishes like this that encourage you into using up, cleaning and refreshing your spice space.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi there Gill, these were such a huge success with Brian, he had a go at spreading out the batter too, using one of my dough cutters. And he ate all the potato filling, greedy man. Thank you so much once again for making these with me!

      The garlic isn’t in flower yet, that will take a while but the leaves are young and green and pungent right now, I mixed them with basil, pinenuts and unpasteurized sheeps cheese for pesto last week. Scrumptious.

      Edit: Meant to say Michael McIntyre would be proud of us – I know I’ve posted this before but if you haven’t seen it…

  4. heidi

    I am going to make this when I get home- I have all the ingredients (except the wild garlic) and am looking forward to trying your recipe. Thanks for the step by step!

  5. drfugawe

    Oh wow, Jo – this is one of your absolute best posts! What great stuff. I’m going into town today, and I’ll get some dal to make this. Over here, almost no American would have any idea what dal was – and even those experienced with Indian cooking would probably call it lentils or chickpeas – and in truth, I don’t even know if one can get real Indian dal anywhere except at an Indian grocery here.

    Do you know that dal has a reputation of having one of the lowest glycemic index scores on the chart? Sounds like you guys had great fun with this – thanks much for sharing it with us.

  6. arthur

    Wow Joanna, the dosa looks really delicious! Thanks for showing how, it’s almost like making crepes. Love to make these at home with your recipe. Can’t wait to taste this Indian delicacy. Cheers!

  7. Melanie Corley

    Great post Joanna and wonderful pics!! I’d never heard of dosas before. Just made my aloo paratha last night and am anxious to try more Indian cuisine. I’m fairly experienced at making crepes so this can’t be much different. Don’t know that I’d do them for breakfast though. Did you? My husband and I like lots of spice so these sound wonderful!! I noticed in the video that he didn’t flip most of his dosas. Do they usually not get flipped? We have lots of wild onion coming up here, but no wild garlic that I know of. Thank you for the inspiration!!

  8. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Hi Heidi – I ‘m sure you’ll love these! The potato filling can be any spicy potato fillling you fancy making, I put the garlic leaves in because I had them!

    Doc, lovely to hear you enjoyed this post! The British population as a whole adores Indian food and spices. . Chicken tikka masala being practically our national dish.

    Interesting about the low g i thing too, thanks for that :)

    Arthur you could maybe do something quite magic on the finished dosa.. have a look at some of the paper dosas (images on the internet) they look like huge cones or fans, some look like the Sydney Opera House?

    Hi Melanie, we had them for a late lunch/early supper. I’ve written a bit about the differences between crepes and dosas in the post. I did flip them but not till they were really brown on the other side. Vahchef doesn’t flip his, but splashes a little oil on the upper surface, I think to seal it, then he puts the filling in while it is in the pan and folds it up. When I’ve had them in restaurants they are usually very brown on one side and pale on the other. I’d use some of that wild onion in there! :)

  9. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna those dosas look very tempting! I’ve looked at a recipe a few times and keep pushing it back to the end of the line. I remember eating them as a kid in India stuffed with potato for breakfast. Here they do a rather fine one in a suburb not too far away as well, (although it’s been far too long since I had one!)
    A little kick in the pants chutney to go with it and…. ohhh yum.

  10. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Sigh…I could eat this post. First Gill’s and now yours, I am seriously going to have to get a dosa fix soon. Honestly they look better than the ones they make at the local Indian!

    Love the MM clip, as you know! :) xxx

  11. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Hi Brydie and Celia

    I bet Sydney has some great dosa places – but like everything it’s always fun to try and make your own when you have the time. Gill has to take the credit for this flurry of dosa-ness of course.

    Every time I pull out the spices…

    – Fenugreek! καλημέρα!
    Me? I’m not Greek, I’m Indian.
    – Then why are you called Greek?
    I don’t know, why is black onion seed called onion seed, he’s no allium….
    MM has a lot to answer for….

  12. Ray

    They look divine! I have never made dosas before but used to visit the curry houses near Euston station in Drummond Street, i think, where the dosas were spectacular and reasonably priced.

    My wife and wondered across the fields yesterday and noted several patches of wild garlic in the woods. I have used it before in omelettes and as an alternative to spinach in dals. lovely!

    Great blog – I’m new to sourdough so will enjoy reading about your past experiences.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi Ray, thanks for visiting. The dosas in Drummond Street were indeed spectacular in my memory too! I used wild garlic last year in some ciabatta bread that was pretty good. I’m sure there will be lots of recipes about again soon. I saw one for wild garlic risotto on Riverford’s newsletter yesterday. I’m just popping over to your blog now to say hello :D

  13. Mrs Bok

    OH YUM! Wild garlic…dosas…coconut chutney! Argh I’ve just had dinner but I’m drooling at your post ! :)

  14. spiceandmore

    Celia told me that you had posted about dosas too…snap! I was obviously a bit behind with reading blogs. Good on you for making them from scratch. That potato masala looks delish..particularly with the wild garlic. Yum!
    For what it is worth, here are the proportions I use for the traditional dosas when I make them: 1 and 3/4 cup of parboiled basmatic rice, 3/4 cup urad dal, 1 tsp fenugreek seeds. I soak them separately and grind them separately (as they grind at different rates). Soak for a few hours only, not overnight. Then add some salt to the batter, and a little water if needed to make it about the consistency of thick pancake batter. Leave it overnight or longer until it ferments and noticeably rises – this is important. I have found if there is not enough water or salt, it does not rise overnight. In winter I have to leave it for two days before it rises enough. It gets light and fluffy when it has risen enough. You may need to add a little more water at this stage when you are cooking it. Some people add a little cooked rice or the flattened puffed rice called poha to the mix while grinding as this helps the fermentation process. Once it has fermented, you can store it in the fridge for about a week, take out a little each day for your breakfast or lunch!

  15. spiceandmore

    Sorry for another comment – meant to explain that the parboiled basmati rice is how you buy it, not that I half cook basmati rice. If you can’t find it, use half standard basmati rice and half of some ‘quick cook’ type of rice which I am pretty sure is about the same as ‘parboiled’ rice. Failing that, even all basmati is fine.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      This is all very exciting! Thank you for taking the time to explain how you do it :D

      I don’t have a special grinder like you, just a food processor, which I used with pulse and I have never seen parboiled rice for sale here, but I will ask as it may have another name, I think it is called ‘converted’ rice in the States. I have seen easy cook which I suspect is that. I will make further enquiries. I had fermentation bubbles in the lot I made, but no significant rise and it became very thick during the period I left it, which is why we ended up thinning it down when we were cooking. I will have to try again and follow your method. I would like more bubbles and crispier lacier dosa. In my dreams I make those giant cone shaped ones or the lacy ones with onion….

      1. spiceandmore

        I think a food processor is fine. I am just a tad obsessive – hence my stone grinder. When the batter is properly fermented, it should have increased in volume by at least 25% to even 50%. The more fermentation, the lighter the dosas will be. Increasing the quantity of rice (and ghee to fry!) increases the crisp factor. But more rice also diminises the taste a bit I think, and reduces the nutrition value. Do a little test the next time you make it. Leave a little batter out on the kitchen bench (covered) and cook with it the next day. See if you notice a difference.

  16. Nip it in the bud

    wild garlic already? brillllllliant. I went for walk with a friend last year and found a woodland floor full of wild garlic but it was coming to the end of the season.
    I’m off to get my calendar out to see when I can go and get some early pickings. Thanks for the tip off :o)

  17. Mariana

    Congrats on a beautiful post. Really, you have put in so much effort and your passion comes through loud and clear. It reminded me a little of “Bend It Like Beckham” with an Indian restaurant in every town. I hadn’t heard of “Dosa” before, so I’ve just learnt something new; we hardly eat Indian you see. I must say, your lovely food is enough to make me want to go and try. It looks healthy, vibrant and delicious. Thanks.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I get very excited when I get close to making something that I’ve eaten somewhere else and can’t buy or obtain at home, maybe how a home magician feels when they figure out how the stage magician pulls the rabbit out of the hat. And then I always want to say ‘Look, look this is how it’s done!’ Do read SpiceGirl’s comments above because I think she is far more expert than me on dosa making – I was reading up about wet grinders last night. They look like coffee grinders to me… Just been looking at your ‘Josie’ post too. She looks so small, did she get bigger, I think of kangaroos as being huge!

      1. Mariana

        Wow. Some of the comments here are almost a “post” in themselves. You have certainly generated some discussion and excitement with your dosa making. Don’t you just love that about blogging.
        Nice to hear you popped over and read about Josie. Yes, she is small. When we got her, she weighed less than a kilo. She almost died, but with loads (I mean loads) of tender loving care we managed to rear her to a healthy adult. I do believe her precarious start in life most likely stunted her growth. She’s an Eastern Grey and they can be rather large. Josie has almost wallaby-like qualities (wallabies aren’t as big as roo’s). Anyhow she is very cute but also very “missy and hissy” at times. She even attacked on of my daughter’s recently. But she was in her territory. We would never chase her away. Not now. Besides, she firmly thinks our home is her home. And it is.

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          I am always delighted to learn more. If I post about something that is ‘perfect’ there is nothing left to say. Not that much I do is perfect ;) I try to stay in beginner’s mind and take new stuff onboard. LIke you I love that part of blogging :)

          Thank you for telling me about Josie. What with her and the adorable Jean-Pierre you have quite a household!

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