For a long time, my knowledge and appreciation of South Indian cuisine was confined to non-vegetarian fare like Mangalorean seafood gassi or Chettinad chicken or Kerala beef fry.
All that changed when I embarked on my weight loss journey and reassessed my approach to food, ingredients and cooking.
I am not saying that non-vegetarian food is bad or leads to obesity. On the contrary, fish and lean meat are very good for us. In my books, no food category or diet is bad; conversely, all food is good provided it is cooked or consumed in a healthy way and eaten in moderation.
As part of my new South Indian food discovery, at home I have made idli, dosa, paniyaram and idiyappam. So today’s recipe of uttapam is first for me and for my kooky readers.
The best way to describe uttapam is to call it a pancake with toppings or an Indian pizza without cheese (although nowadays you do get cheese uttapam).
The batter is the same as that for dosa but while dosa tends to be thin and crisp (although not always), uttapam is thicker and spongier.
Traditionally, the batter is made of black gram (urad dal) and rice. In my kooky (aka, healthy) version, I have done away with rice completely. Again, I have nothing against rice but, as far as possible, I try to find a substitute and, fortunately, this recipe works perfectly well without rice.
The main ingredient in the batter is whole finger millet (also known as ragi or nachni) with a bit of black gram and some instant oats. I also added grated carrots in the batter to up the nutritional content (cooked carrots are healthier than raw)
The topping includes onion, tomato, green pepper and fresh coriander. So two uttapams will provide you with your 5-a-day.
yummy and satisfying is how I would describe these pancakes
This recipe does call for some advance planning. For example, if you plan to have this for dinner, plan as follows:
Night 1: soak finger millet and black gram
Morning 2: grind the millet and gram and leave to ferment
Now at this stage, depending on how warm the weather is where you are, the batter may ferment by Evening 2. But if it is cooler, you may have to let the batter sit for longer period (so that it can ferment) in order to cook uttapams on Day 3.
The actual cooking procedure is straightforward.
Goes well with coconut chutney and/or sambar.
1/2 Cup ragi grains
2 Tablespoons black gram (urad dal)
1 Teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 Large carrot
1 Large onion
1 Green pepper
1/2 Cup fresh coriander
2 Green chillies
10-12 Curry leaves (optional)
2 Tablespoons instant oats
1-2 Teaspoons oil
Salt to taste
- Wash and soak the finger millet, bengal gram and fenugreek seeds for 10 hours.
- Grind them in a food processor till smooth. Some of the finger millet grains may remain whole, that is okay. While grinding, add water judiciously. You want the batter to be of pouring consistency.
- Now leave the batter to ferment in a warm place. Make sure that the batter is sitting in a large pot (so that it has room to rise).
- Check the batter after 12 hours. If not fermented, leave it for 12 more hours.
- Once the batter is fermented (it will have risen and bubbles may also form on the surface), you are ready to make the uttapams.
- Wash and finely grate the carrots.
- Wash and chop the curry leaves (if using).
- Add the grated carrots, chopped curry leaves and instant oats to the batter along with a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside for about 30 minutes while you prepare the vegetables. This will give the oats some time to get soaked.
- Peel, wash and finely chop the onion.
- Wash and finely dice the tomato.
- Wash and chop the coriander leaves.
- Wash, de-core, de-seed and finely chop the green pepper.
- Wash and finely slice the green chilli.
- Now divide the batter into two (I find it easier to separate them in two bowls).
- Put the chopped onion, tomato, green pepper, coriander and chilli in a mixing bowl.
- Add a pinch of salt and mix well.
- Divide this vegetable topping into two separate bowls as well.
- When you are ready to cook the uttapam, take a non-stick frying pan and put it on high heat.
- Once the pan is hot, reduce the heat, take one portion of the batter and spread it in the pan in a circular motion. Don’t pat it too thin.
- Spread one portion of the vegetable toppings and drizzle a little bit of oil around the uttapam,
- Cover and let the uttapam cook for about 10 minutes.
- Uncover and see if you can loosen the bottom of the uttapam with a spatula. If yes, flip it over. If no, let it cook for a couple of minutes longer before flipping over.
- Once you have flipped the uttapam, let the underside cook for about 3-4 minutes.
- Flip over one more time so now, again, you will have the topping side up.
- Remove to a serving plate and repeat with the second portion of the batter and topping.
- Enjoy hot.
- Fenugreek seeds are added to help with the fermentation process.