Celebrate Pancake Day with Sri Lankan hoppers or masala dosa

Sri Lankan hoppers with egg

Sri Lankan hoppers with egg - Credit: Ms Marmitelover/Kerstin Rodgers

Most countries have some kind of pancake and they are one of the earliest, pre-historic 'grain-based' recipes.

Here are a couple of methods for different kinds of pancake, a Sri Lankan hopper and a South Indian dosa. Both recipes require the batter to be fermented. Hoppers are usually served savoury, often with an egg cracked in the middle. In Malaysia however, they are sweet, served with palm sugar and lime juice.

It's easier if you can get hold of a lidded hopper pan, available in Asian shops or Amazon. Failing that you could try a wok or a normal frying pan, but you won't have the shape. Before using it for the first time, I had to season mine, rather like a cast iron pan. I first heated it on the stove, then sprayed it with cooking oil, leaving it for a few minutes, then wiped it with a kitchen towel or a clean piece of material. Repeat this twice more.

Sweet or Savoury Sri Lankan Hoppers  (Makes 15)

Egg Hopper

Egg Hopper - Credit: Ms Marmitelover/Kerstin Rodgers

Ingredients:

Hopper pan or small wok with lid
3 tbsps of warm water
1 tsp of rapid action dried yeast
225 g rice flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
400 ml good quality coconut milk 
2 large eggs, beaten
Coconut oil for cooking

Method:

Combine the yeast and warm water, leaving it for a few moments to froth up. Mix the rice flour, sugar, salt together.
Add the coconut milk and eggs, then the yeast mixture. Leave to rise for two hours or in the fridge overnight. It's ready when you lift the ladle and there is a continuous stream dripping down with no breaks or lumps.

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To cook, heat the pan with a little coconut oil. I tend to dip some kitchen paper in the oil and give it a wipe with the oil each time. Don't use too much. Expect that your first 'hopper/pancake/will be a flop. Turn the heat up high and scoop in a half ladle of the batter. Swirl it around three quarters of the way up the sides until it forms a bowl shape. Add a little into the centre if necessary. You want a lacy effect.

Sri Lankan hoppers

Sri Lankan hoppers - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

Be careful the pan doesn't get too hot (if it starts to smoke or the batter will not adhere to the sides). Then remove it from the heat for a few minutes. Put the lid on, this helps it to cook more evenly. Check every so often. Then remove and add sugar and lemon juice, or shavings of palm sugar and a squeeze of lime juice.

For a savoury version, crack an egg in the middle while cooking and garnish with fresh coriander, chilli and coconut. Repeat until you have enough hoppers. Wipe the pan with fresh oil before each hopper.

Masala Dosa (Serves 5)

Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa - Credit: Ms Marmitelover/Kerstin Rodgers

You will need a crepe or 'tawa' pan and a grinding machine

Ingredients:

275 g basmati rice or broken rice 
65 g Urad Dhal white lentils, skinless, preferably whole
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
300 ml water

Method:

Soak the rice and the fenugreek for 12 hours or overnight. Soak the Urad Dhal for half an hour at the end of the rice soaking period. Drain the rice and dhal.

Grind in a blender, or food processor with the water. Do it in two batches. I used the Vitamix which grinds very finely. Blend it really well until frothy, smooth and chalky. Then put the mixture into a bowl and cover with a tea towel. It took 3/4 days for the mixture to ferment and I have a warm kitchen. Check it every day. When it's bubbly and tastes a bit sour, it's fermented. If you cook the batter when it isn't sufficiently fermented, the dosa will be heavy.

Add the sugar and salt. Heat the flat pan. If it becomes too hot, cool it down with kitchen roll dipped in cold water.

Add a little ghee/vegetable oil/coconut oil to the pan then put in a ladle of the batter. Work quickly with the ladle skimming the top of the batter, spreading it out into a large circle. The dosa should be thin. Add more ghee to the dosa, sprinkling it around the edges and centre. The edges will curl up when it's almost cooked, then use a thin fish slice to loosen the dosa from the bottom of the pan.

The traditional filling is potato curry; add a couple of spoonfuls into the centre. When the underside is golden, start to fold over one side of the dosa, then the other side.