Ode to the Idli

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idli

Oh Idli…we have had our share of upsets and failures.

I have fought many battles with you, for you…knowing you could be soo much more.

You can be hard, unwieldy, unforgiving. You make me dance to your rhythm, and only yours.

You have disappointed me many a time but I keep coming back to you, knowing your potential, knowing all that you can be are at my fingertips.

You left me frustrated and sad many times after all the time and effort I spent…. honing you, molding you,

I know I can make you better than the last time we met. I know I can.

I put up with your erratic behavior and time and time again keep running back to you.

All out of love.

Oh Idli, be all that I know you can be.

Idli–a South Indian Breakfast staple ( and a finicky one at that)

Makes 30-40

Ingredients:

4 cups Idli rice (Sona masoori)

1 cup whole urad dhal

Water for grinding

Salt to taste

Idli Steamer

Method:

Rinse the rice well and soak in cool water for at least 4 hrs. Rinse the urad dhal and soak separately for 1 hr at the most. Drain off water and blend the rice first with just enough water to blend. Should be little grainy in texture ( for dosai batter you would grind to a fine paste). Now grind the urad dhal. Keep adding water as you grind because it needs to be fluffy as you puree it. This is a key. Urad needs a good amount of water or else you will end up with hard, flat idli.

Combine and fold both batters. Add little salt. Cover and let sit in a draft free warm place. Leaving in the oven with the light on is a good place. Let sit for 8-10 hrs to ferment.The batter is ready when frothy air bubbles can be seen throughout. Do not overmix and deflate the air bubbles.

Before preparing, add more salt to taste. Prepare your idli cooker plates and ladle batter into moulds. Steam cook for 5-8 minutes. Remove from cooker and let cool down slightly. Remove and serve with sambar and chutney.

idli1idli2

Tips: (learned the hard way, after much trial and error)

Soak the rice and dhal separately. Use cool water not too warm.

Use whole urad dhal, not split urad.

Don’t soak Urad too long—use cold water…even ice water is good. Too long fermenting can make it lose its fermenting properties. 30 mts to an hour is  more than enough.

When grinding the urad dhal it needs more water than you think. Add cold water little at a time. Even if is a paste continue grinding until it becomes  light and frothy.
Getting a Dosai/Idli grinder has done wonders to my recipe. There is a big difference in the lightness using this. Invest in one if you do make dosai and idli frequently.

Here is the one I have–

http://www.amazon.com/Ultra-Dura-Grinder-Kneader-110-volt/dp/B00AFR0ILE/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1384711447&sr=1-1&keywords=ultra+grinder

Here are some idli steamers too

http://www.amazon.com/Matbah-6-Plates-Racks-Stainless-Cooker/dp/B009CSZ9SY/ref=pd_sim_hg_3

Variations:

Make Kanchipuram Idli by adding chopped onions, Chopped  cilantro, chopped tomatoes and green chillies before steaming.

Can add grated carrots and beans and peas before steaming

Add sugar and steam to make sweet paniyaram (usually made in a small round pan for Ebilskivers I used for Unni appam)
Can make savory Paniyaram too–adding chopped onions, green chilies, cilantro leaves

Dhaba Egg Dosai

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Dosai ( a lentil based crepe) is our family’s favorite breakfast. We sometime have this for dinner too. There is some prep time involved so not something you can whip up immediately. There are dosai Nazi’s out there that like their dosai a certain way….some like it crispy and brown, others soft and pliable. I prefer the former. I hate white colored dosai’s that are flimsy in structure. It turns out the best if made on a seasoned cast iron skillet. Non stick pans don’t produce the same amount of browning and crispiness that we like. The pan you make for dosai should not be used for anything else or else you will have it sticking to the pan.

Dosai is the base for many fillings. It can be eaten plain with chutney and sambar or filled with a myriad of stuffings. I have filled with chicken masala, beef masala, the traditional potato masala but the quickest ones are no filling of egg dosai.

Dhabas (or Thattukadas in Kerala) are street side vendors open only at night to make fast food for the truckers that travel at night. Sometimes they serve some of the best Indian food around. And Dosai is one of them.You can find a myriad of dosai varieties at some Indian restaurants that prepare more South Indian dishes. They can be almost 3 feet long if prepared on a restaurant griddle.

Here is the proportion of ingredients I have finally perfected after much trial and error  that gives me the crispy and brown color that I like.

Dhaba Egg Dosai

Ingredients:

2 cups  Basmati rice

3/4 cup urad dhal
1/4 cup toor dhal
1/4 cup chana dhal
1 tsp methi seeds
salt to taste
2 tsp sugar
Few eggs seasoned with salt and pepper
Ghee/oil
Method:
Step 1
Wash and rinse the rice well. Place in a bowl and cover with water…at least 2 inches above rice. Cover and set aside. Take all the dhals and rinse well, cover with water like the rice and set aside. Let sit for 3-4 hrs.
Step 2
Drain all the water from rice and dhals. Take the rice and add little lukewarm water in a blender and grind until smooth and pancake batter like consistency. Do not add too much water. Place into a large bowl. Now grind all the dhals the same way as the rice until a smooth batter forms.. Combine the rice batter and the dhal batter and whisk together until well incorporated. Cover and set aside on your counter or place in the oven. Let sit for at least 8 hrs for the batter to ferment.When ready the batter should be frothy and have small bubbles throughout mixture.
Step 3
Heat up your cast iron skillet on medium heat. Beat up the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Take some of the batter in a separate bowl and add the salt and sugar. Should just be mildly seasoned. Put a little of ghee or oil onto skillet to coat. Take a ladleful of the batter and spread out the batter starting at the center in concentric circles to get a thin crepe. Drizzles a  few drops of ghee or oil onto surface. Take your beaten eggs and pour a tablespoon or so to the top and spread around the dosai and let cook. Drizzle a little more ghee if needed to enhance crispiness.  It usually will cook without having to flip.
dhaba dosai
Roll up and it is ready to eat with sambar, chutney, or even chicken curry (my daughters favorite combo)
Here is a Video of me preparing this delicious dosai.