Medu vada (South Indian lentil doughnuts)

Fluffy savoury doughnuts served with a sweet and spicy soup.
  • For the doughnuts
  • 200g Urad dal (soaked in cold water for at least 6 hours)
  • 5-6 tbsps self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh coconut (or desiccated coconut reconstituted with milk)
  • 100g finely chopped onions
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 5 curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsps citric acid crystals (available in chemists and Indian grocers)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsps sugar
  • For the sambhar paste (dry ingredients)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 1 tbsp rice, uncooked
  • 1 tbsp chickpea dal, uncooked
  • 4-6 fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 5cm quill of cinnamon
  • For the sambhar paste (other ingredients)
  • 1 tbsp fresh/frozen coconut
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 240g chopped tomatoes, fresh or tinned
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • For the sambhar soup
  • 200g oily toover dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 80g parboiled potatoes, diced
  • 60g parboiled cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 50g parboiled broccoli, broken into small florets
  • 70g frozen peas
  • 2 tbsps tomato puree
  • 50g chopped tomatoes, fresh or tinned
  • 1 tsp concentrated tamarind paste (avaliable in Indian and Thai grocers)
  • 100g onions, chopped finely
  • 3-4 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp star anise powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 tbsps sugar
  • 3 tbsps lemon juice
  • 15g clarified butter or oil
  • 15g chopped fresh coriander
  • For the coconut and coriander chutney
  • 5 large hot green chillies
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 80g coriander, including stalks
  • 100g desiccated coconut
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 40ml lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tsps salt
  • 3 tbsps sugar
  • 120g Greek yogurt
Doughnuts (medu vada):
1) Drain the soaked urad dal and grind/blend to a coarse paste, you may need to add around 10ml water to aid the process (refrain from adding any more water than necessary).

2) Place the urad dal paste in a large bowl and add all the above ingredients except for the onions and the coriander. Beat the mixture for about 3-4 minutes and set aside. Fold in the onions and coriander.

3) Heat enough oil to deep fry to 150C.

4) Wet your hand in a bowl of cold water and take a ping-pong ball-sized piece of the medu vada mixture and roll it in your hand. Make a hole in the middle with your thumb to give it a doughnut shape. Try not to press the dough too much or they may come out flat.

5) Gently release the doughnut shape into the hot oil, they will sink to the bottom and slowly rise up to the surface. Fry on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, just as if they were doughnuts, making sure they are thoroughly cooked in the middle. Carry on shaping and frying rest of the medu vadas.

6) Drain on a kitchen paper when the medu vadas are golden and crispy all over. Serve hot with a steaming bowl of Sambhar (lentil soup) and Coriander hcutney (recipes follow).

Lentil soup (sambhar):
1) To make the paste, roast all of the dry ingredients in a saute pan for about 3-4 minutes or until they become aromatic. Grind and set aside.

2) In the same saute pan, heat the oil and add all the other sambhar paste ingredients and stir-fry for about 3-4 minutes. Place in a blender along with the dry roasted masalas and blend together. You may need to add 10-20ml water to aid the blending process. Set this paste aside until needed.

3) Pressure cook the toover dal in 500ml boiling water for around 15 minutes on a medium heat or until almost pureed. Allow to cool, the sieve the pureed dal into a bowl to remove any husks. Set aside.

4) In a large pan heat the clarified butter/oil. Add the mustard seeds, wait for them to pop, and then add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Throw in the curry leaves and chopped onions and fry until translucent.

5) Add the tomato puree, tamarind concentrate, turmeric powder, the sambhar paste and 100ml boiling water, and cook for 3-4 minutes.

6) Add the boiled toover dal with about 500ml boiling water and bring to boil again. Add the vegetables and simmer for 5-8 minutes taking care not to overcook them.

7) Just before turning off the heat, add the cinnamon powder and star anise powder, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Stir through and cover. Garnish with chopped coriander immediately before serving with the doughnuts and chutney.

Note: Remember to taste the sambhar before serving. It should be hot, sweet and sour. This soup can also be served with rice, dosas and idli.

Coconut and coriander chutney:
1) In a large bowl, soak the coconut in the coconut milk and set aside.

2) Meanwhile, blend together all other ingredients except the yogurt using a food processor or pestle and mortar.

3) Mix the blended ingredients with the soaked coconut and yogurt. Combine thoroughly and serve.

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