Monday, October 24, 2011

Everything Old Is New Again. Spicy Lentil Puff Pancakes

   There's an old saying, "You only go around once...." okay, so like maybe it's an old beer saying or something, but it's true, true! You only go around once, unless you're a fondue pot, or a cappuchino machine, a pasta maker, a crock pot or a stand mixer. You see, I know about this kind of stuff because I've been to this appliance goat roping before. I was there in the '70's. Yep, the first time around when all of the above named appliances were avocado or harvest gold (charmingly retro today) and weighed a ton. These were all appliances I was given when I was like 21 and could have cared less about grinding out pasta or slow cooking anything.

   The cappuchino machine I was afraid of (too many knobs and dials and spouts) the stand mixer... please lets not go there. I was 21 it was the '70's. Stand mixer? You've got to be kidding. The one thing I got any use out of was the metal  fondue pot and it's accompanying can of sterno, source of many wine-fueled, cushion-strewn "fondue parties" that I cannot remember. I do know I was there, I still have the forks. The pot is gone. It went to a young Producer friend of ours who came over when we were renovating our house in LA and practically pissed himself laughing at it.

   "Can I have it..pleasssssse? " snarky little Gen x'er. He wanted to take my pot and scurry off to laugh about it with his Gen x friends.

   "Sure help yourself" I told him. He prowled around my cabinets. He noticed my brown Franciscan glassware.

  "Ewwwwwww, brown glassware. Can I have it?"

    "Knock yourself out."

    He did. The little hipster took the brown stoneware dishes too. Losing the other stuff was my fault however. I had already given everything away years before and so had to re-buy all those appliances when they all became "new" and cool" again. Okay, so I'm a dope, but unless you'd been there I can't tell you how uncool it felt to have someone give you a pasta machine when you're 21 and single in LA. Especially if the giver is your great Aunt Pia and she also wants to talk to you about the "facts of life" in broken English, and I'm not talking about the TV show.

   There was one thing however that escaped the uncool, the embarrassing, the scary, and that was my cast iron appleskivver pan. One of my cousins gave it to me when I got married, and for some reason I've carried it around ever since. All sorts of stuff has come and gone but that damn pan still abides. About a year ago I used it for the first time. It has not been used since then, that is until I saw an amazing recipe on my friend Cool Lassie's Blog. The recipe was for little spicy lentil ball puff pancakes and from the moment I saw them I knew I wanted to give them a try. So I did.

   The recipe is easy to mix up and has just a few ingredients, but there is one tricky part. That is manipulating those little pancake balls around the pan and flipping them over, and I was out of practice. So I did what made sense. I rehearsed before I served them. Yes, I rehearsed my puffy pancakes, so there! And you know,  it was worth it. I had so much batter that there was plenty to spare, and if you are going to make this dish and serve it to actual humans, my advice is to give yourself some rehearsal. You won't be sorry. You won't be sorry if you make these either, as they are tasty, crunchy, vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, you name it. Something for everybody.

Spicy Lentil Puffs

Here's what to do:

Make the batter.
In a large bowl soak 2 and 1/2 cups of rice and 1 and 1/2 cups of "toor" dal, sometimes known as pigeon peas, in enough water to cover.

 Note: The original recipe calls for raw ponni rice which is a  medium grain variety used in Tamil Nadu. However since I didn't have any of that, after doing my research, I discovered that Basmati rice works equally as well, so that is what I used.

Soak the rice and dal for 2 to 3 hours. Drain it and save the soaking water. Set the soaking water aside for adding to the batter later.

Put the drained rice and dal into a blender or grinder along with :
  5 dried red chilies
  1 Tbs coriander seed
  A 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and coarsely chopped
  8 small cloves of garlic or shallots
  1/2 tsp of fennel seeds

Grind everything together using some of the soaking water that was set aside. Don't grind things too smoothly. The batter needs to be about 90% smooth 10% grainy.
Now that the batter is ground add in:
 1 large onion finely chopped.

  1 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
  1/4 tsp of turmeric
  4 or 5 stalks of curry leaves chopped.
  If you don't have any curry leaves (found at most Indian and Asian markets) leave them out.

Mix everything together
Salt to taste.
The batter should be more to the runny side. Add more soaking water if you need to get things to the proper thinness.

Place a cast iron Appelskivver (apple dumpling pan) on the burner. Get it hot. To make these correctly, the pan has to be hot. Brush the inside of each little pocket with some vegetable oil. I used non stick spray which worked beautifully.
When the pan is hot, hot, hot, add in the batter.

There will be spattering, so be warned. If the pan is hot, these things will cook fairly quickly.
Run a thin blade around the rim of the pancake to loosen it.

Actually there is supposed to be a small flipper tool that comes with these pans, however I don't have that tool so I used a thin blade and a small iced tea spoon. They worked fine.


Final flipping.

When the little pancakes are crispy and puffy, flip them out and make some more.

These little pancakes lose their crunch if they're left sitting, so keep them hot and gobble them up. I made a  bowl of mango curd  for dipping. Something for dipping or some sort of sauce is a must with these little treats.

If the batter seems too thick, just thin it a bit with some more water, the pancakes cook better the thinner the batter is.

   So, do we like these little puffy pancakes?  Yes. We have eaten them two days in a row now, so I think the answer to all of that is YES! I can't thank @coollassie4u enough for turning me on to this great dish which I know is going to be a staple during holiday party season.

   Meanwhile I've been working my way through some Diwali sweets in honor of the Indian Festival of Light. I've made some rava laddu, which were great and had a coconut laddu major fail which I will go into later. So many treats, so little time! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. That brownware is gorgeous! Love these little cakes....

  2. I love this post. I can identify. I also almost drooled on myself from this recipe. I want!

  3. hey this is great ! we make paniaram at home often. love the pics...tastes good with tomato/coconut chutney. there's a sweet version too

  4. I'd love to come to your kitchen for lunch.

  5. that looks yummilicious...if one doesnt have cast iron to cook them then ?? please advise.

  6. The batter is similar to the "adai" batter we make..but we use a flat pan/tava and make it like a pancake. This is a brilliant way of making son loves adai..but wouldn't take it to school..I think he would love it if I use a iron cast appleskivver (we call it the appam pan).. Thanks a ton :)



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