Dhosas are those fantastic huge, crispy pancake things that you wrap around curry. So good and naturally vegan and gluten free too! The batter is very lightly fermented – I like to think of them as a sort of Indian equivalent of sourdough bread. I do admit they take a bit of preparation and you do need a good blender but they’re totally worth it, trust me.
I am not claiming that there is anything even slightly authentic about this recipe or that it is in any way true to it’s Mexican roots. However, as I’m not sure there were many coeliac, vegan Mexicans back in the day, I think we can just call it the product of culinary evolution. A delicious, healthy product of evolution.
To make proper tortillas you need special lime treated corn flour and a tortilla press. This recipe is a fair bit more simple. If you don’t have chickpea or millet flour, don’t worry, just use the full 2 cups of plain flour – the other flours just add a bit of extra chewiness and depth.
When we were in Sumatra we stayed at a guest house called Kupu-Kupu Gardens. Right on the bank of the Bohorok River and a twenty minute walk out of town, it was peaceful and beautiful – the sort of place you day-dream about when you're stuck in traffic or braving the heaving mass of badly dressed flesh that is the pre Christmas shopping frenzy.
Guest house owner Jeff was everything you could ask for in a host – smart, great company and a really good bloke. He arranged our tours, trekking and food. Gluten free vegan? Not a problem! Every morning and evening we ate at a big, communal table just a stone's throw from the river. We were able to watch the cook at work in the open kitchen and since we've been home we've had this meal on high rotation. Luckily the kids love it almost as much as we do and because, for us, this soup is so intrinsically linked to Bukit Lawang and the orangutans we have named it after them. Don't worry, despite the name it's gluten free, vegan and doesn't require the addition of any critically endangered primates. It's pretty flexible too - just add in anything that you've got in the fridge, it's the spices that make it work.
Start off by frying an onion and some chopped carrots in a bit of oil. Throw in two dried chillies, two star anise, two cinnamon sticks, three or four cardamon pods and the same number of cloves. Let that cook for a bit until it smells really delicious. Add some water (about a cup) and chopped veggies in the order that they cook. In Sumatra we had this with potatoes, tomatoes, corn (sliced into rings) and beans. Usually we do broccoli, corn, beans and zucchini (in that order) – but it's up to you. Throw in about five cloves of garlic and a good sized chunk of ginger that you've smooshed with salt. The cooks at Kupu Kupu used a rock to crush their garlic and we liked the idea so much we brought one home from this gorgeous spot...
On our way home from Sumatra we spent some time in Kuala Lumpur which is a great place to visit if you love food, amazing public transport and crazy festivals. Because Sophie is a coeliac she can only eat gluten free food, a fact that complicates matters a little, particularly when you pair it with a vegan diet. To help us out we downloaded some cards with the coeliac dietary guidelines on them in both Malay and Bahasa. These were great because, as we have discovered in the past, when there's a language barrier it's really hard to mime "please don't serve me food that contains either wheat or barley".
On our first night in KL we decided to eat at an Indian restaurant that specialised in Southern Indian food as it's often vegan and gluten free. The restaurant Annapuurnam was within walking distance of our hotel, the staff were cool and really coeliac friendly. As a definite bonus the food was delicious and we made disgusting pigs of ourselves and ate way too much.
When we came home we decided to make our version of our favourite dish. It's really easy but you will need to buy some curry leaves from an Asian deli.
Chop and partially cook about 6 large potatoes in boiling water. When they're almost done, add half a head of cauliflower that you've chopped into bite sized pieces and keep on boiling until both are cooked. Don't cook them too much or they'll turn to mush. Drain and set aside.
In a big pan or a wok, fry an onion and two chopped carrots in a couple of tablespoons of whatever oil you've got in your pantry. (We don't bother with coconut oil because it tastes too much like tanning lotion and gives me flashbacks to the 1980's.) Throw in some mustard seeds – about a tablespoon, star anise, a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, two dried chillies, a few cardamon pods and a couple of cloves. When that smells really good add in a tablespoon or so of cumin and coriander powder, some tumeric, black pepper and about two sprigs of the curry leaves that you've stripped and roughly chopped. Spices burn really easily so keep a bit of water by the pan and throw some in if you think it's getting too hot. Trust me, don't throw in some of your gin and tonic, it doesn't really affect the taste of the dish, but you'll miss your drink when it's gone.