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Lentil Waffles & Chana

Batter is much maligned. It is often associated with unhealthy, stodgy dishes when, in fact, it can be a great vehicle for many a nutritious thing. Pancakes and waffles are a mainstay of our family breakfasts. They are child-friendly carriers of good stuff – grains such as wholemeal spelt, rye, kamut, oats and corn; great fats such as coconut oil or good butter; healing spices like cinnamon and ginger, nutritious powders such as lucuma, baobab and maca, and quality proteins like goat or almond milk and eggs – drizzled with good local honey, organic maple syrup or topped with nut butters, coconut and seeds, they are quick, easy winners that the kids never tire of.

Then there are seasonal veggies given the light, crispy tempura treatment and served with a good dip, or spiced gram flour bhajis and pakora. Even a good beer-battered piece of well-sourced fish or a bowl of limey calamari – a well-conceived batter is at the heart of many a delicious, nourishing meal or snack. This recipe is really just a little fun with the Indian masala dosa – usually a thin, crisp cylinder of fermented lentil and rice flour pancake, filled with a well-spiced potato curry; a beautiful thing, commonly cropping up in photos from my travellings in the subcontinent along with a big smile. If you don’t have a waffle iron or maker, just make as crisp a pancake as you can with the same batter. Dosa making is not an easy technique to crack but you are looking for a paper thin covering of batter on a hot, lightly oiled skillet or wide pan. Using a wide paintbrush to spread the batter can help. The waffles, though, are fun and make great, crispy ladles for the scooping up of butter-soft curry. It is a dish to celebrate a good batter and great accompaniments – a concept that is (and who could resist?) waffley versatile.

The only thing to keep in mind with this particular batter, is that it needs overnight fermenting to get that classic slightly soured dosa taste. It also gives it additional gut-supporting health benefits, by increasing the bioavailability of the nutrients within the lentils themselves, and cancelling out the potential ‘anti-nutrients’ that one can find in some grains and pulses (namely, Phytic Acid, of which there is much talk of late). We hasten to add that we’ve chosen to ferment this batter, not because of some latter train of health-obsessed thought (even if it does hold real merit), but simply because it’s in keeping with the age-old dosa-making tradition – as is the addition of fenugreek seeds to dispel any potential ‘windiness’ from the eating of said lentils. Health benefits, Ayurvedic thought & utter deliciousness. It’s a holy triptych as far as the Balance Plan is concerned.

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Ingredients

For the dosa batter:
100g red lentil flour (dried red lentils milled to a fine powder) – a coffee grinder will do the trick. I used my wife’s NutriBullet (which I also use as my own coffee grinder a lot more than she uses it as her NutriBullet).
100g of rice flour (more easily bought as flour but the same concept applies with dried basmati if milling yourself).
1 tsp of mustard seeds, ground with a pestle and mortar
1 tsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of ground coriander
A good pinch of sea salt
1 ½ tbsp coconut oil

For the curry:
1 ½ tbsp of coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 finely sliced red chilli
1 medium sized red onion
380g / 1 can or carton of chickpeas
2 tbsp of toasted desiccated coconut (tossed in a hot dry pan until coloured slightly)
1 tsp of cumin seeds
5 or 6 fenugreek seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
¾ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tbsp tomato organic paste
1 large fresh tomato
A handful of seasonal leaves from spinach, kale or cavalo nero
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 or 7 curry leaves
Fresh coriander leaves
1 lime

Method

  • 1 For the dosa batter, combine your flours in a mixing bowl. Add your spices and enough water to form a smooth batter. Add your melted coconut oil
  • 2 Mix very well to ensure an even texture
  • 3 Cover and allow to ferment overnight in a warm place. (9 or 10 hours is usually about right but adjust for temperature. The batter should have a slight sourness ultimately)
  • 4 For the curry, heat your oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin, fenugreek, nigella and mustard seeds and allow to cook for a minute
  • 5 Add the garlic, ginger, onion and chilli and fry for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring constantly until the onion softens. Stir in the tomato paste and add your finely cubed fresh tomato and toasted coconut
  • 6 Add the chickpeas with the turmeric, coriander and paprika. Drop in your curry leaves and just cover with water. Season well with sea salt and black pepper and simmer for 30 minutes
  • 7 Stir in your leaves and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes
  • 8 Finish with a scattering of coriander leaves, a sprinkling of coconut and the juice of one lime
  • 9 Prepare your waffle iron / maker on a good heat. Stir your batter and pour into the waffle maker. Cook until well coloured and crispy. Repeat according to number of people eating