I have been trying to find good substitutes for bread for a while without success, as I know that cutting bread, and reducing gluten generally from my diet makes me feel a lot healthier. Lately I have hit upon a series of old recipes that have done the trick, and I have been making and eating dosa and various Indian savoury pancakes almost daily.
It has taken a little bit of practice to master the art of cooking them to become perfectly thin and crepe-like, but it has most definitely been worth the effort.
I highly recommend these moong dal pancakes, called chilla in India. They are not only totally delicious, but are completely vegan: dairy, egg and gluten free, and you can source good quality organic moong dal too. The pancakes are light, strong and have that elastic quality of good flatbread: making them perfect for wraps and to use instead of chapatis.
The batter below will make around 8 pancakes, but make them as you need to as the batter stores in the fridge for a few days.
You will need:
1 cup of yellow moong dal, organic if possible
1 teaspoon of salt
A little bit of coconut oil or ghee to grease
Flavourings optional: see below
To make the pancakes, wash and rinse the dal well, then soak in enough water to cover it by about an inch and leave aside for 1-2 hours.
Drain the dal, reserving the liquid, and place it in a blender (I use a 900 watt Nutribullet and it works perfectly). Add a teaspoon of salt, and you can also add flavourings if you want: a teaspoon of toasted cumin seeds; a quarter teaspoon of turmeric with a twist of black pepper, some chopped ginger, green chilli, or some coriander leaves and a squeeze of lemon. Add in a little of your reserved dal water and blend for a minute or so... you want to end up with a thick, pale yellow, creamy looking batter. You can add more water if you need to: the final batter should have the consistency of single cream.
Heat up a non-stick frying pan, about 26 cm in diameter on a medium-high heat, then take a ladle of the batter, around a quarter cup, and pour it into the centre of the pan. With the bottom of the ladle spread the batter out in circles, until it covers the base of the pan, you may need to turn the heat down at this point.
Cook the pancake for a minute or two until the bottom is done and you can slide your spatula under it. Spread a little bit of coconut oil or ghee on the top and sides of the pancake and then lift and flip it. Cook the top side for another minute or two and it should be done. I have been perfecting the art of using as little oil as possible, but my mother reassures me that more is always better.
Cooking the perfect pancake takes a bit of practice. You can play with the heat settings, try a high heat for less time or lower and longer... as depending on how you cook it you can make it thin and crispy or a little thicker and spongier.
These moong dal chilla are perfect for breakfast, and because of their strong texture great as wraps or to mop up curry gravy. I can't recommend them enough!