Idli – sambar – chutney

This week I am going to post some of the very basic recipes. So these posts are here to help newbie cooks in some small way. These will have more details than the normal posts to make cooking easy for newbies. Idli is one thing that I didn’t get right so many times. After continued efforts and focus, finally I am proud to say I can prepare good, soft yummy idlis.

I have seen in most of non-Konkani homes, idli is usually served with both sambar and chutney. But in Konkani homes(atleast in those which I have seen), it is served either with sambar or chutney. At my home, aayi would prepare both to keep the house calm. I liked sambar and my brother liked chutney, if one of these was not prepared, we would start fighting. So it became a habit and now we want sambar and chutney both with idlis (I think this is the difficulty of having two kids :D).

Idlis

Ingredients:
1 cup urad dal
2 cups idli rava (rice sooji) or 2 cups rice
Salt

PS: Idli rava, also called as rice rava or rice sooji, is available in market with the name “Idli rava(Cream of rice)”.

If idly rava is not available, use 2 cups of rice instead. Soak rice for around 4-5 hrs. Then let the water go by spreading it on cloth for around 30mins. When all water is gone, grind(without any water) to a coarse powder (of coarse sand consistency).

Method:
Soak dal for around 4-5 hours.
Grind it to a very smooth paste (Do not add too much water, just add as much as needed). Touch the batter and no pieces of dal should be felt. The more it is ground, the better. Once it is ground very soft, some bubbles can be found on the surface, the more the bubbles, the better is the batter.
Wash the rava with water(if rava is prepared at home, no need to wash it again) and grind it for 5-6 seconds, do not grind more than that, just to make the rava a bit fine. Some people, do not grind the rava, but most of the times the ready made rava is too coarse and grinding it makes the idlis turn out softer.
If you have more time in hand, grind the dal previous day afternoon and mix the rava in the night. Add salt and mix well (When dal is completely gound, the rava can be added to mixer and ground 5-6 seconds as explained earlier to speed up the process. But make sure the dal is completely ground before adding the rava).
Keep the batter in a warm place overnight. I keep it on warm gas stove, after all the cooking is been finished.

Check in the morning if the batter is fermented. The volume would have increased. If it looks same as the previous day, it is better not to steam it, the idlis become like stone and everything has to be discarded. Instead make some dosas with the batter. There is no point in keeping it for one more night, because the idlis would become sour.
Grease the idli stand with oil (I do not grease the idli stand. Still I can easily remove them once they are steamed). Steam them for around 10mins (if using cooker, do not use the weight). Leave it for around 5-10mins before opening the steamer/cooker (or else, the steam falls on idlis and make them mushy).

Few more tips:
- If you are on a higher altitude(mountain regions) and the idlis are not coming out as expected, try using dal, rice rava in 1:3(1 dal 3 rava) proportion. This is the tip I got from Manisha while talking to her a few days back. Read Manisha’s comment below for more details.
- If the batter becomes too thick or too watery, the idlis might not come as expected. Do a bit of trial and error to know the correct consistency.
- If nothing works, try using dal:rava in 1:1 proportion, this was the tip I got from few people when I was not getting the proper idlis.
- Sudha has mentioned a nice way to speed up fermentation.
- Add a little cooked rice (say 1-2 tbsps) while grinding urad dal (once the urad dal is ground finely)in order to make the idlis softer & fluffier (Thanks Suchita for the tip).

Sambar

Ingredients:
3/4 cup toor dal
1/2 cup onion
1/4 cup tomato
1/4 cup potato
1 tea spn sambar powder
A pinch turmeric
Oil
1/2 tea spn mustard seeds
A pinch asafoetida
4-5 curry leaves
2-3 strands coriander leaves
Salt

I prefer the homemade sambar powder for this as it has more aroma and once prepared the powder remains good for months in an airtight container (I still have the powder which my mom gave me while coming here, ie 8 months back).

Method:
Cook toor dal with turmeric. Cook potato, tomato and onion separately, I mean do not mix them with dal while cooking. (If you have the cooker vessels, use the down one for the dal and the upper one for vegetables. This way the dal cooks faster than the vegetables). Around 3-4 whistles are enough in cooker. (If using microwave, cook both separately one after the other).
Mash the dal with a spoon. Add the vegetables to dal and add sufficient water (this sambar tastes good when the dal is cooked well and mashed well).
Heat the dal, vegetables mixture. Add salt. When it starts boiling, add the sambar powder (Do not hold the entire packet of sambar powder on boiling sambar. The steam gets into the packet and the powder gets spoiled. So use spoon to take out the powder away from the boiling sambar and then add the powder). Add the chopped coriander leaves and cook for 2-3mins.
Heat oil and add mustard seeds. When they start popping, add asafoetida and curry leaves (tear the curry leaves into two to increase the aroma). Add this seasoning to Sambar and immediately close the lid.

Chutney:

Prepare the chutney as explained here.

Serves : 4-5
Preparation time : 45mins

Now that the basics are right, check out Asha‘s experiments with idlis. Some more idli posts by Sailu, Shammi, Revathi, Sudha , Shynee, RP, MenuToday(if there are any more, please leave the link in the comment and I will update the post).

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