Back to my favourite cuisine, food from Southern India.
The down side of this cuisine is that a lot of the quick-cooking foods require planning ahead – at least by a 24 hours! I am talking here of the breakfast/tiffin items such as the dosai and the idli. But a couple of weeks back I had this urge to have idlies, and I wanted them that very minute.
I had heard of rava idlies but never made them. Actually, never had them either.
Let me take a moment here and tell the non-natives about the correct pronunciation before these become popular in the West as super healthy fluffy fat-free breakfast thingies and everybody starts talking about them, and NDTV decides that the American pronunciation is the correct way to say the word. I kid you not – have you never heard their ‘nature’ correspondent, whats-her-name, say Him-la-yaas for what is the bloody-lofty Himalaya! (Correct pronunciation: Him-aa-la (rhyming with ‘the’)-ya (like ‘yuh’). And someone should also help them with the right way to say ‘Mumbai’. It’s not Moom-bye. It’s cute when Americans say it (just as my friends thought it was ‘cute’ when I said ‘vet’ when I meant ‘wet’!), but for Indians to forget the name of the lofty sentinel in the north – too cute.
The idli is pronounced id (as in ‘lid’)-lee. That should prevent it going the I-ran way , if you know what I mean! Iran, the country.🙂 E-raan, for the record.
That should help the idli on its way to being addressed correctly in the West, and consequently, here in India.
Another note on the proper way to serve the idli. This is prompted by the disappointment expressed in a comment on an idli post somwhere. The writer was able to prepare the light fluffy idlies and served them the usual American way, soaked with Maple syrup and concluded them not at all a worthy breakfast. Holy cow! Talk about an idli anti-climax! Idli is no pancake, and not even a waffle.
Traditionally, here in India, idli is served with hot and spicy accompaniments such as the gunpwder (the name bestowed fondly by us, the people of the North!), a coconut chutney, and if it should be soakin’ up anything, it has to be sambar. My Tamil school-mates would bring idli in their lunchboxes, all velvety soft, with a light touch of the gunpowder mixed in ghee or oil. It looked as heavenly as it tasted. I served my rava idli with Indira’s peanut chutney, which is now de rigueur at our table when serving South Indian ‘tiffin’ items. Since this was instant gratification time, there was no sambar.
(makes about 24 medium-sized idlies)
2 C coarse sooji/rava (semolina)
1 C dahi (yoghurt)
1 T oil
1 t mustard seeds
1/4 t heeng (asafoetida), the mild kind (or a speck of the real kind!)
1 T chana dal (split chickpea)
1 T urad dal
3 dry red chilli peppers (cut into half-inch pieces)
curry leaves, a bunch
a couple of chopped green chillies
1/3 t baking soda (soda-bi-carb)
1/4 t citric acid crystals (optional)
colourful chopped veges such as carrots, beans, spinach (optional)
fried bits of cashew as suggested by Priya (see comments)
a few tiny bits of fresh coconut may be nice too!
Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or karahi. Splutter the mustard (it’s a good idea to cover the pan at this time or you will have mustard popping all over your kitchen!) and add the heeng. Now add the red chillies and the curry leaves. Stir for a few seconds and add the dals. Once the dals turn a dark pink toss in the sooji. Keep stirring turning the heat to medium as the sooji starts to emit a roasted aroma. Turn off heat just as it turns pink. Let cool.
Into the cooled sooji mix in the rest of the ingredients, except the baking soda, adding water (as needed) to make a thick batter. In another large pan (or pressure cooker) put about an inch of water to boil. Smear the idli moulds (or whatever you may be using for steaming the batter) with a little oil. Mix the baking soda into the batter and pour into the idli stack-mould. Steam covered (without pressure) for 10 minutes. Take out and rest the idlies for a few minutes before removing from the moulds. They will come out effortlessly if you are able to control the instant-gratification-mood for these couple of minutes, resulting in pretty idlies (with less work).
Serve with gunpowder and/or coconut chutney.
These turned out so good that I made them again a couple of days later. Instant gratification without the guilt pangs later (unlike the not-really-two-minute Maggi!). And if you have gunpowder ready, as I usually do, then you can have this under 30 min! If you are efficient in the kitchen and can work parallel-ly, then you can also make the peanut chutney within this time.
These have all ended up referencing Indira’s Mahanandi. I Googled but her recipes are closest to how I make my Sambar and Gunpowder! What can I say, I must cook authentic Andhra.