Breakfast is a meal marked by polarizing differences between people: some love breakfast and would not dream of skipping it, others cringe at the thought of eating anything at all between noon. Some are content to eat a bowl of cereal every day for the rest of their lives, others want a sugary fix of doughnuts and cream-filled pastries, yet others want the traditional breakfast spread of eggs, toast and meat, and a small number like me crave spicy savory food first thing in the morning!
India is home to a feast of savory breakfast dishes, and they are on a weekly rotation in my home. Some of my favorites include:
1. Breads in the form of parathas, that either have vegetables mixed in the dough, or stuffed inside. Potato parathas and spinach parathas are the ones I make most often.
2. Indian-style eggs: Indian savory french toast, or spicy scrambled eggs.
3. A whole family of brunch dishes are based on a fermented batter of rice and urad dal, including steamed cakes called idlis, paper-thin crepes called dosas and thick pancakes called uttapam.
4. An Indian pantry staple: coarsely ground whole wheat- semolina or rava or sooji provides an opportunity to make "instant" versions of many of these dishes that traditionally call for fermented batter.
Today, I am sharing one such "instant" dish that is my mom's specialty. It is a dish of little stove-top savory cakes called appey in Marathi and appam in several Southern Indian languages. Because this version is so quick and easy, my mother calls them Jhatpat Appey (jhatpat is a cute word that means "quick" or "express"). The little cakes need their little "cake pans" or molds. All these years, I could never make appey because I did not have this special equipment, but this time, my mother gifted me a pair of beautiful non-stick appey molds (available in India at about 300 rupees per mold, about 8 dollars, and they might be available in Indian stores in the US). Each one comes with a cute little wooden tool that is pointed at one end, useful for flipping over the appey while cooking them. This is what the appey molds look like:
Equipment update: Thanks to Priya's comment, I now know that a very similar pan called the Aebleskiver pan is used for making Danish pancakes and is sold in US stores. It seems that these pans work well on a gas stove as well as an electric stove. Read more about the pans in this post from Live2Cook.
The "spices" in this spicy recipe are all fresh flavorings. No "real" spices like cumin and garam masala are used here at all, instead, all the savory taste comes from the bright notes of onion, ginger, fresh chilies and cilantro. The addition of some chana dal provides interesting taste and texture, and a dash of color to the appam. The batter gets better if it is allowed to rest a little, so one could do the soaking right at the time of brewing the first cup of tea or coffee, and then rest assured that a wonderful breakfast is awaiting them in a little while.
(My mother's recipe, makes about 42 two-bite appey)
1 1/2 C rava/ sooji/ semolina
2 T chana dal
1 C plain yogurt (low-fat OK, tangy yogurt works best)
Baking soda (a pinch or two is all you need)
Non-stick oil spray
2-3 T minced onion
1 heaped t minced ginger
2-3 green chillies, minced (or to taste)
2-3 T minced cilantro
salt to taste
1. Soak the chana dal in a small bowl of water for 30-60 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, mix the rava and yogurt, along with enough water to make a thick batter, and cover and leave aside for 30-60 minutes.
3. Make the batter: Add soaked chana dal to yogurt-rava mixture, then add all the flavoring ingredients and salt to taste, and add enough water to make a batter that is a little thicker than pancake batter.
4. Spray the appey molds with non-stick spray, then heat them on the stove.
5. Take a third of the batter into another bowl, add 1 t baking soda to it, mix gently until bubbles form, then ladle the batter into each of the hot molds, like so:
6. Cover the pan for a couple of minutes. Once the underside is done, use the tool to flip each appam over:
7. Once both sides are cooked and crispy, remove the appey from the molds. Make more appey using the same method- adding baking soda at the last minute before cooking.
8. We served the appey with fresh coconut chutney and eggplant sambar for a delicious savory breakfast.
Verdict: This recipe is a keeper! I will be making this often. It is especially nice to serve to guests...the appey are fun to eat, and look pretty, and can be made in large batches, making them a convenient brunch dish. I will also try making the traditional appam with fermented batter, now that I have the molds. If you want really crispy results, put some extra oil in the molds...but for me, the spray gave great results, with the minimum of added fat.
For a wonderful collection of spicy brunch recipes, check out Trupti's round-up: Part I and Part II.