The Food Desert Project - Jai Rava Dosa with Blatjang (Oat and Farina Crepes with Chutney)

The Food Desert Project - Jai Rava Dosa with Blatjang (Oat and Farina Crepes with Chutney)

So, today we are going to make Indian-style Farina, Oat and Rice flour crepes with South African Chutney.  “But wait…” you say, “How on earth are you going to make farina and rice flour crepes – where will you find farina and rice flour in a food desert?  Aren’t those only available in natural food stores and specialty shops?”

002Have faith, grashopper.  Sometimes, when it comes to food, it’s helpful to know where your ingredients come from.  Farina, for instance, is a wheat by-product that most Americans know as Cream of Wheat cereal…and further down in the cereal aisle, or sometimes in the baby food aisle, we find rice flour, AKA rice cereal.  They are readily available in the food desert.

First, though,  the Blatjang (dare you to walk around your office saying that over and over!)  Blatjang, pronounced blud-youngis a sweet/savory South African condiment, something like a chutney, usually served with Bobotie – a South African shepherd’s pie.  It’s usually made with dried apricots and raisins, but I’ve seen versions with fresh peaches, with figs, and other fruits – so I just used what was in my cupboard.

1 cup raisins (I used a mix of yellow and brown)
1 cup prunes
1 heaping tablespoon minced dried onion
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp ginger powder
3 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cumin seeds (or chili powder – if using, omit chili flakes)
2 tsp chili flakes (or more, if you like it spicy)
1/2 tsp salt
Water as needed

014Coarsely chop the prunes and raisins, and add them with the vinegar, onion, garlic, and ginger to a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat, and allow them to soak for at least an hour.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring it back to a full boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for an hour – adding water to keep it relatively liquid.  After an hour, cook without adding liquid until it reduces down to a thick, chunky sauce.  Serve hot or cold as a dipping sauce for the Dosas.

So, for the Dosas – I’ve been wanting to add them to this project for a while, but was waiting for just the right recipe to come along; I was delighted that this one contained oats (a grain that apparently isn’t well-known in India.)  Keep in mind there is a stiff learning curve with this recipe, so don’t make this if you can’t afford to throw away half your batter on your first efforts (fortunately, the batter is really, really cheap – at most, you’ll throw away about a quarter’s worth.)  I found this video to be an excellent tutorial on both the thickness of the batter, and on the technique itself – plus the chef is enthusiastic and adorable.  Gotta love someone who loves their food, right?

1 cup plain oatmeal
1/4 cup plain Cream of Wheat
1/4 cup plain baby Rice Cereal
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin or chili powder
chili flakes as desired
1 tsp minced dried onion
2 1/2 to 3 cups water
oil or melted butter

003Toast the oats and spices in a dry skillet for 2 minutes, or until fragrant.  Add them to a blender with the remaining dry ingredients.  Blend until you have a fine powder, then, while blending, add the water 1/2 cup at a time – when you have something the consistency of milk, set it aside.

007Wash your hands very thoroughly as this will be a hands-on job.  Grease your skillet and turn it to high heat.   Drip a tiny bit of water on it; when it fizzles dry, turn the heat down to medium.  Bring your batter to the pan.  Using your hand, dip up some batter and sprinkle it lightly into the pan, spreading it as widely and thinly as possible (I found it helpful to leave a space at the bottom edge for my spatula to get under.  I tried using my silicon pastry brush, but found my hand did a better job.)

010009Using a pastry brush, sprinkle some oil on top of the cooking batter, especially on the thicker parts (don’t skip this – the oil helps it cook.)  Turn the heat to medium-low and wait until the thinnest parts of the batter are deep brown and the bottom is set enough on the thicker parts that you can get a spatula underneath (about 3 minutes; it seems like an insanely long time for a crepe.)  With your spatula, flip the side of the Dosa over on itself until you have a long crispy tube – you don’t have to cook the second side.  Set it aside on a plate and make another one.

Tear off bits of the Dosas and use them to scoop up spicy chunks of Blatjang – seriously, isn’t that fun to say as well as delicious? Enjoy!

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Filed under: Pantry cooking, Recipe

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