The Rusty Skillet: FERMENTED MASALA DOSA With Smashed Potato Curry

I feel very lucky to have met some passionate real food lovers around the country while traveling for my cooking workshops, and today I have invited Bonnie from The Rusty Skillet to share one of her signature fermented recipes. Bonnie has the most amazing knowledge of fermentation, and when we met up in Wellington earlier this year we had fun comparing notes on our bubbling kitchen benches full of fermenting vegetables, soaking grains and more. I hope you enjoy her recipes, this is definitely on our dinner menu this week! Read on for Bonnie’s recipes…

Masala Dosa with Smashed Potato Curry by The Rusty Skillet

Dosa are a delicious crispy flatbread made from a fermented batter of rice and lentils and are a staple in our house. Once made, dosa batter can be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days. I like to make a larger batch in order to have the batter ready to use when I need it. I often make dosa for dinner to accompany this potato curry, but also love making a simple curry or dhal for lunch and quickly frying up a few dosa with the already-prepared batter. You can always halve the recipe if you don’t want to have too much on hand or if fridge space is limited.

The naturally occurring wild yeasts and bacteria involved in the fermentation process not only help to breakdown some of the starches in the rice and lentils, but also help to unlock some of the other important nutrients, making for a more nutritious flat-bread which has less of a negative effect on blood sugar levels and provides more nutrients and amino acids for the body. The longer the batter ferments, the lower the amount of available starches and the more tangy the flavour of the dosa.

Masala Dosa with Smashed Potato Curry by The Rusty Skillet

Masala Dosa with Smashed Potato Curry by The Rusty Skillet

In this cooler time of year, fermentation can take more time to get going and placing the fermenting grains or batter near a warm spot can help speed things up. Leftover dosa batter can also be used as a starter culture for future batches of dosa to kick-start the fermentation. A teaspoon of sourdough bread starter (wheat or rice based) can also be used to aid fermentation and can be mixed in with the warm water before adding it to the grains. The fenugreek in this recipe not only adds a lovely flavour, but also encourages the production of wild yeasts to help start the fermentation process.

I have included the traditional method that uses rice and split urad or red lentils that are soaked and then pureed into a batter. For those without a food processor, immersion blender or stand blender I have added a simple flour method following the traditional method.

You will need a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or non-stick frying pan as this batter can be a sticky one. I may or may not have said several curse words during my first attempt at making dosa many years ago before learning how important it was to have a well-seasoned pan. However, if you are using a good non-stick pan, you may need to omit the ghee/oil in order for the dosa batter to spread without moving around the pan in a big mess (you will know what I am talking about if this happens to you). Just like making crepes or pancakes, or almost any recipe, practice makes perfect and it is okay if your first dosa-making experience isn’t a 100% success! Keep at it and try again.

Masala Dosa with Smashed Potato Curry by The Rusty Skillet

Fermented Masala Dosa with Smashed Potato Curry

Curry serves 3-4 and dosa batter makes enough dosa for 2+ family-size meals

Traditional Dosa Batter

1 ½ cups short grain rice or idli rice*

½ cup urad lentils** or split red lentils

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (or ground if that is all you have)

2 cups warm filtered water***

1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)

Melted ghee or coconut oil for frying and drizzling

*idli rice is parboiled rice traditionally used to make idli cakes and dosa and can be found at Indian food suppliers. The parboiling process allows the carbohydrates to be more readily available for the beneficial yeasts and bacteria and helps to speed up the fermentation process. However, short grain white rice is also perfectly suitable.

**urad lentils are split husked black lentils and are beige in colour. They can also be found at an Indian food supply shop. Split red lentils are an easy substitute if you can’t easily find urad lentils.

***Or boil water and allow it to cool to room temperature


  1. Place rice, lentils, fenugreek seeds and filtered warm water into a large stainless steel or glass bowl or a 1.5 – 2 litre glass jar (the vessel has to be glass or stainless steel and be at least twice the volume of the finished batter to allow for expansion). Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to soak for 12 – 24 hours at room temperature. If your house is cold, place the bowl or jar in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. You can add a teaspoon of sourdough starter or leftover dosa batter at this point to help kick-start fermentation.
  2. Drain and reserve the water. Place the drained rice and lentils into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth (I have also used my grunty hand-blender/immersion blender). You may need to do this in phases for about 10 minutes depending on how powerful your food processor or blender is. After a few minutes of blending you can scrape down the sides and add 2 – 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid if necessary. I never achieve a super smooth batter, which is totally fine, but you do want it to be similar to what hummus looks like. The gritty bits just add a nice bite to the finished dosa. High-speed blenders will get much smoother results, but aren’t necessary.
  3. Add all of the reserved liquid and the sea salt and blend until smooth. Scrape the mixture back into the bowl or the glass jar and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave the mixture to ferment in a warm, dark place for another 12 – 24 hours. After this time you should be able to see some signs of fermentation – bubbles, slightly yeasty smell, rising batter. At this point the batter may need to be thinned by adding additional water a little at a time until it is the same consistency as crepe batter. Once the right consistency, the batter is ready to use or ready to be put into the fridge for later use. If refrigerating, screw/clip the lid on and make sure to burp the jar daily to allow excess carbon dioxide to escape.
  4. Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet over a medium heat (similar temp to making pancakes or crepes). Once hot, brush on an even layer of ghee or coconut oil. Stir the dosa batter until smooth. Using a ladle, spoon about 1/4 cup or less of batter into the centre of the hot pan. Using the bottom of the ladle quickly spread the batter in an outward circular motion until the dosa is thin and measures about 20cm in diameter. Cook for about 60 – 90 seconds or until the edges are cooked and the thin areas are looking golden and then drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon melted ghee or coconut oil over the dosa.
  5. With a thin spatula, carefully loosen the edges of the dosa and slide the spatula under the entire dosa to loosen it from the pan. Flip over and continue to fry for 60 seconds or so until golden. Serve immediately with potato curry and chutney (recipe for curry below)

Simple Flour Dosa

1 1/2 cups brown or white rice flour (or a mixture of both)

1/2 cup chick pea flour or urad dal flour

1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1 1/2 cups warm filtered water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)

Melted ghee or coconut oil for frying and drizzling


  1. In a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, place the flours and fenugreek and mix to combine. Add the warm water and mix well to create a smooth batter. Whisk or mix vigorously to try to incorporate air into the batter. The salt won’t be added until the next step. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or place into a 1.5 – 2 litre or larger glass jar and cover the opening (you need at least double the volume of the batter to allow for expansion). Allow mixture to sit for 8 – 12 hours in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.
  2. Add sea salt, mix well and thin with additional water until a crepe-batter consistency is reached. The dosa batter is now ready to be used or can be put into the fridge for up to 7 days. Proceed from step 4 in the above instructions.


Smashed Potato Curry

4 large potatoes – peeled and cubed into 2cm pieces

3 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil

1 teaspoon black/brown mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 large brown onion – diced

1-2 small green or red chiles – optional

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Big pinch asafoetida – optional, but delicious

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

8-10 fresh or dried curry leaves

4 garlic cloves – minced

1/2 cup water or stock

Big handful of fresh coriander leaves – roughly chopped

Roasted cashew nuts – roughly chopped – optional


  1. In a large pot or frying pan, heat ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Once hot, add mustard and cumin seeds and cook for about 30 seconds until they start popping or bouncing. Add diced onion and cook, stirring, for about 8 – 10 minutes until the onions are a deep toffee colour and starting to look crispy around the edges (this is a critical step in getting a beautiful flavour from this curry).
  2. Once the onions are deeply caramelised, add chiles, ground turmeric, sea salt, asafoetida, ginger, curry leaves and garlic and cook for another 60-90 seconds.
  3. Add cubed potatoes and 1/2 cup water or stock, turn the temperature down to medium-low heat and place a lid on top. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring every 3-5 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add a tablespoon or more water or stock if necessary to stop potatoes from burning. Once potatoes are tender, turn off the heat and smash them a little with the back of the spatula or wooden spoon but still leaving them slightly intact. Mix in chopped coriander leaves and cashews and serve alongside dosa and Homegrown Kitchen’s Feijoa, Pear & Ginger Chutney.

*Recipes and images kindly shared by Bonnie De Gros from The Rusty Skillet. Find more of her delicious recipes HERE.

Masala Dosa with Smashed Potato Curry by The Rusty Skillet






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