I have always thought of Idli as a bread. The same puffy pillowy texture and the same mild yeasty smell. Oh wait the yeasty smell is a little different but is definitely yeasty. The capacity to mop a wet gooey chutney is just like a fluffy bread .
A fermented batter with some rice or other gluten free flours and a nourishing lentil, this bread is not all carbs, a good amount of protein is there. The fermented batter helps the digestive enzymes and the gut flora to work better.
If served with a vegetable, lentil of nuts based chutney, this South Indian bread could be an ideal breakfast or a meal for someone who wants a meal involving minimal cooking.
Yes, if you have the batter ready, which keeps well in the fridge for about a week, you can steam a fresh n warm bread ( Idli that is) within 5 minutes and the chutney takes another 10 minutes maximum. I often use the sourdough method in making my idlies too. The leftover batter is used as a starter and some more lentil powder and millet flours or rice semolina (coarse rice powder) is added and is allowed to ferment.
Steamed fresh whenever required.
This makes it easier. One serving is steamed in a porridge bowl and the chutney is served on top of it. Isn't it so convenient. Less utensils used and you eat hot Idlies right after steaming them. Mine is steamed in Microwave and it's a 3 minute affair for single serving.
So the Idli batter should be a non recipe for Indians but for those who are making it for the first time, I am giving the instructions to make the basic rice n lentil batter.
- Skinned black lentil and brown rice is soaked separately in water overnight. I use equal quantities of both but normally a a ratio of 2 parts lentil and 3 parts rice is used or even more rice. More lentil to rice ensures lesser carbs in this idli. The soaked lentil is made into a smooth paste in whatever grinding machine you have. The rice is blended to a coarser paste, some semolina sized grains should be there in the paste, no bigger than that. Both the pastes are mixed together with salt to taste and are allowed to ferment naturally for 12-24 hours, depending on room temperature.
- Some times, I add a little yeast to this batter and find great results. Some other times I use a leftover batter as a starter for the next batch and that works really well too. Something like sourdough Idli.
- I also use rice and black lentil powders to make the Idli batter. A rice rawa or rice semolina(coarse rice powder) is available in South Indian markets and I get it whenever I visit those places. Rice rawa works better for a grainier texture of steamed Idli. Both the powders are mixed with water n salt to taste and are allowed to ferment naturally, with yeast or with a starter.
- For Millet or multi grain Idlies I mix the lentil flour with equal amount of either Ragi flour or Bajra or jowar flours, or a mix of all these flours and ferment the batter as above.
Nice fluffy, soft and warm. What else a comforting bread would be. A gluten free bread at that. Serve it with your choice of chutney or even butter or eggs if you feel like.
- The fermented batter is ladled into a ceramic bowl , preferably a porridge serving bowl so it makes one serving only. The single serving of this batter is Microwaved for 3 minutes, covered with a suitable lid.
- Check with a pointed knife in the center of the Idli, like you check cakes, if the knife comes out clean the Idli is ready.
Pardon me. I just want you to have a taste of a quick procedure.
The chutneys are next. I am sharing three wonderful chutneys today. All of them are healthy, very very flavorful and help you eat your one generous portion of vegetables in the beginning of the day.
Tomato garlic chutney...
This chutney I fell in love with when I was in Chennai last year. It was served daily in the breakfast buffet and I used to mop away almost the whole serving bowl. There is a rich taste of Sesame oil and the garlic accentuates the red juicy tomatoes well.
Tomatoes cubed in large chunks 500 gms (Use the best heirloom tomatoes you get)
Garlic peeled and chopped roughly 2 tbsp
Red chilly powder 2 tsp or more to taste
salt to taste
Sesame oil 2-3 tbsp
- Heat sesame oil in a pan and tip in the chopped garlic. Let it fry till aromatic but not brown.
- Add the red chilly powder and mix , then immediately tip in the chopped tomatoes and salt.
- Mix well and cook covered for 5 minutes on high flame.
- Thrash the tomatoes when they start getting mushy. Keep stirring and cook without lid for another 5 minutes.
- The finished chutney is thick and a nice sesame oil n garlic aroma is evident.
Coconut and spinach chutney..
This chutney is an experimental chutney, a nice change from the usual coriander greens and mint flavors in the coconut chutney. I used my garden greens so the chutney is really flavorful. use the freshest greens you can find for this.
chopped bits of fresh coconut 1 cup
baby spinach 400 gm (I used fresh baby spinach)
curry patta about 6 springs
2 garlic cloves
green chillies to taste
salt to taste
lime juice to taste
I used a salt preserved raw mango slices for this chutney and skipped salt, you can use fresh raw mango slivers to taste.
- Steam the baby spinach till the leaves wilt, I microwaved them for 2 minutes.
- Grind with all the other ingredients till smooth.
- Serve as desired.
A breakfast with bright colors could be a nice start of the day for you. I am all for this.
spring onion and fenugreek chutney...
This a spring onion and coconut-sesame chutney basically , accentuated with some fenugreek seeds. Keep the fenugreek seeds minimal if you do not like the bitterness they have. I used a dry chutney powder I make and have posted in the past to make it fortified with some greens.
spring onions chopped 2 cups(lower parts only)
fenugreek seeds 1 tsp ( optional, or use less)
broken dry red chillies 2
curry patta 2 springs
sesame oil 2 tbsp
sesame,peanut chutney powder 3-4 tbsp
salt to taste
- Heat the oil and tip in the fenugreek seeds and broken red chillies. Let them get pink and aromatic. Taking care not to char them.
- Tip in the curry patta and chopped spring onions and saute till they get a bit softer.
- Blend then to a paste with a little water and the sesame-peanut chutney powder.
The fenugreek seeds taste best when blended freshly in this chutney, the more the chutney rests the more they get butter when they soak up the juices. If you love the bitterness, you can let the chutney stand for some time. Otherwise the roasted earthy flavor of the fenugreek is all you get in the freshly blended concoction.
Served with Ragi Idli for myself one morning. It can be any meal of the day for me.
Is your bread this tasty?
The purists might be cringing at the thought of making the Idlis so convenient with yeast or a sourdough starter , and with millet flours. It works for me as I go for the soft textures and the yeasty aroma.
Not forgetting healthy ingredients made accessible and workable.
I never understood how the stone ground batter would result in better Idlies, simply because I never got the chance to try them :-) The batter made with powders works well for me as I want my Idlies on a whim sometimes and a two day long preparation time is just too long for me.
What about you?
Quicker practical solutions for everyday meals or the occasional treats of the traditional methods?
And do you think Idlis are breads essentially?