«His pictures are fantastic, his writing style entertaining and witty and his recipes sublime. He inspires me.» Rick Oppeggard 26/07/2008
Engine Room DosasHome >> Experiences
For a year now I've been exchanging emails with Rick Oppegaard, a keen reader of FXcuisine.com who tried many of the recipes on this site. Rick, a seasoned home chef, cooks from a most unusual location. He is a boat captain in the US Pacific Northwest. In his off watch time, he enjoys taking the boat's fare way beyond the steak and potatoes most of his colleague eat. Rick kindly took many photographs of his daily life on the boat and some of his cooking.
Rick wrote me «I work as a Pilot on towboats on the Columbia and Snake river systems, in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. We operate from Astoria, Oregon near the mouth of the Columbia river, to Lewiston, Idaho, way up the Snake river. We work a two weeks on, two weeks off schedule and while on the boat I work 6 hours on, six hours off. It's a quite demanding schedule and quite demanding work, navigating tows through narrow, shifting channels, through navigation lock and bridges. In my off watch time, in addition to getting much needed rest, I enjoy cooking. I have a great fondness for Indian food and always have some dosa batter ready to go, as well as various chutneys, two off my favorites being a mango chutney and eggplant chutney. I initially had difficulty getting my dosa batter to rise, but found that when I put it in the engine room, where it is around 90 degrees in the winter, and well above 100 in the summer, the batter raises quite well. I usually eat them as snacks, with Mango chutneys, Eggplant or onion chutneys. Sometimes I make Masala Dosa, wrapping the dosa around a spicy potato mixture.»
Today, he shows us how he makes his engine room dosas. Dosas are giant paper-thin pancakes from the South of India. They are made from a fermented rice and lentils batter. I pass for a fearless cook but never dared tackle this most difficult Indian recipe. But Rick makes them every day on his boat - let's see how.
Basic Dosa batter is made from 2 parts Basmati, 1 part urad dal (picture). Soak rice and dal for four to six hours. Drain and wash well.
Put rice in blender with a bit of liquid and blend for 10 min. or so. You want it to blend easily, but not be too thin. When finished do the same with the dal.
Combine the rice and dal in a bowl and let ferment overnight. The hard part for us in cold climates is that it requires heat to properly rise. You can put it in an oven on the lowest setting overnight, or do like I do, and put in in the engine room!
I initially had difficulty getting my dosa batter to rise, but found that when I put it in the engine room, ...
... where it is around 90 degrees in the winter, and well above 100 in the summer, the batter raises quite well. Those are EMD diesel engines, each rated at 1500 horsepower. There are two for a total of 3000 HP.
Masala Dosa Potato Filling
Slice the onions
... and mash the potatoes
and chop chilies.
Heat ghee in pan Add Mustard seeds, coriander seeds to hot ghee, fry for 30 seconds Add Ginger and Garlic paste, fry for 30 seconds Add sliced onion, fry until translucent
Add chopped chilies, fry for a bit
Add mashed Potatoes.
Add curry leaves. Cook and stir until well mixed.
The filling is ready.
Rick's boat comes equipped with a giant hotel pan - I wish I had this at home! The idea to cook dosas, the largest pancakes on earth, must come easily...
Heat griddle. Add a tsp. or so ghee to griddle and sprinkle garam masala on hot griddle.
Spread the batter as thin as you can. A special wooden device and a runny batter will help you get even thinner dosas - if your have large enough plates to serve them.
The trick is to spoon half a cup or so on the griddle, using the flat part of the spoon to spread the batter out in a circular pattern, as thin as possible, Rick explains.
Rick helps the crêpe cook on both sides by covering it with a pot lid.
Spread the filling on one half.
Fold Dosa over and continue to cook until nice and brown on both sides, garnish with yogurt and cilantro...
... and serve!
Sophisticated, authentic homecooking in the dead of night in the middle of the Snake River. Is not life about this?
Another day I will show you more about the daily life on the boat and what the crew eats when Rick's not cooking.