I have always had a strong relationship with my breakfast. Growing up my mother served us a proper Indian breakfast with idlis, dosas, paniyaram, upma (which btw I never approved of), avalakki or poha and parathas on the menu. Breakfast was always and still is an elaborate affair in my parental home.
When I got married, my husband and I got into eating fruits, dry fruits and a glass of vegetable juice with a very heavy lunch and a moderate dinner thrown in every day. This continued for years until I was expecting and couldnt eat practically anything in the first trimester. Then I slowly starting eating some whole grain cereals to begin the day with.
The whole process of child birth and nursing left me craving for big meals in the mornings and I found myself going back to proper breakfasts after “the arrival” which rocked my world in many ways!
It’s been a year since Hari started playschool and tomorrow is the last day of this academic year. Him starting school changed my life in many ways. We both got used to living without each other for a few hours each day (psst…I’m still getting used to it!) apart from many other changed that shook our world! And yes it also changed my equation with breakfast once again! I got used to making breakfast early in the morning to put in his snack box, which almost always came back untouched. This continued for two months until idlis came into my life again and then began my special relationship with them.
The first time his snack box returned home empty, I had packed baby idlis with chutney! And now he has progressed to other foods, but the day on which there is baby idli, I know for sure that he will always return with the great eater sticker on his tee!
Growing up, I always preferred to have idlis with sambar and chutney, breaking idli into small pieces and dunking it into a bowl of sambar and scooping it up with a little chutney. But now plain idli with chutney is what I make on most days reserving the sambar for special occasions or for those days we are in a mood for something more elaborate.
There are many recipes for idlis with different ratios and proportions of rice and urad dal but this recipe which I’m sharing with you today works the best for me and gives soft and fluffy idlis with the perfect texture. In Tamil Nadu, rice which is ground fine is used and in Karnataka idli rava made from rice is used to make this popular breakfast item. Many mothers down south swear by stocking up idli batter as a life saver. You can do so many things with it, stir in some semolina into left over idli batter and make utthappam or even make paniyaram with it. So much variety and so healthy!
You know what I loved most as a school girl even more than the actual idli? The idli fry that she made by shallow frying the mornings idlis with vegetable oil and sprinkling it with spicy chutney powder. You can take a girl out of her mother’s house but you can never take away the memories connected with her.
I prefer using idli rava, which is easily available in most grocery and departmental stores. You can also use boiled rice also known as idli rice instead of idli rava to make idlis.
250 gm (1 1/2 cups) Idli rava*
150 gm (3/4 cup) split and skinned black gram dal (urad dal)
2 tsp salt or to taste
water for grinding*
Wash and soak the idli rava and urad dal separately for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.* Drain and grind urad dal with 80 ml (1/3 cup) to water.
In a large utensil mix the ground urad dal with the idli rava. Pour approximately 125 to 185 ml ( 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup) water (you might require a little less, depending on the quality of your urad dal) into the batter to get a soft cake like batter, add the salt, mix well and allow to ferment for 12 to 16 hours.
Lightly grease the idli moulds with cooking oil. Put in some water into the idli cooker with the water level inside the idli cooker below the level of the last idli mould plate (so that the idlis don’t get immersed in water).
Pour the fermented idli batter inside the idli moulds leaving a little place for them to rise.
Place the idli cooker with the water on medium heat and when the water begins to boil, put in the idli stand, cover and steam for exactly 10 minutes.
After you turn off the heat, let the idlis rest in their moulds for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then, gently unmould the idlis with the help of a spoon and serve hot with chutney and sambar.
* You can also use boiled rice or idli rice instead of idli rava. This recipe makes super soft idlis. For regular soft idlis use 60 gm (1/3 cup) extra rava.
* The water used depends on the quality of the dal but is more or less the same.
* If you plan to make idlis for breakfast, then soak the ingredients around noon and grind the batter in the evening around 5 pm and if you plan to make the idlis for dinner then soak the ingredients overnight and grind early in the morning.
* Do not wash the rice rava or dal too many times before grinding.
*Add the salt when mixing the ground urad dal with the rice rava or rice. Don’t overmix the batter once it is fermented. Give it a light stir or mix before pouring into the moulds.
* If the temperature is cold then the batter takes upto 24 hours to ferment.
* In case of a cold climate or if you live on foreign soil, pre heat the oven at 200C for about 10 minutes, turn off the heat and place the idli batter (loosely covered with a cloth) inside the oven with the light inside the oven switched on. You can also leave the batter covered with a thick cloth in a room with an electric heater.
*If using parboiled rice instead of idli rava use 3 cups rice for one cup of urad dal.
*The proportions given above are made using cups measuring 1 cup=250 ml.
Makes 20 to 24 idlis
Coconut Chutney Recipe
This is a simple and delicious chutney which goes well with all south indian breakfast dishes.
100 gm (1 cup) coconut
30 gm (4 tbsp) roasted chana dal (daria dal or phutana)
3/4 tsp tamarind
1/8 tsp hing
1 green chili
3/4 tsp salt
185 ml (3/4 cup) water
For the seasoning:
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 to 3 dry red chilies, broken into bits
a sprig of curry leaves
1/4 tsp asafetida
In a blender put in all the ingredients for the chutney and blend into a smooth mixture. You can keep the consistency a little coarse and it need not be as smooth as it would be for curries.
In a small wok, heat the oil and put in the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the chilies, curry leaves and asafetida and turn off the heat.
Pour the hot seasoning over the ground chutney, mix well and serve with idlis or dosas.
Use vegetables like cabbage, carrot, beans and pumpkin for the sambar
210 gm (1 cup) red gram dal (toor dal)
1.250 ml (4 1/2 cups) water, divided
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 cups vegetables, chopped
1 1/2 tsp tamarind, washed and soaked in 125 ml (1/2 cup) water
1 tbsp oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
a sprig of curry leaves
1/2 tsp asafetida
1 tbsp sambar powder*
1/2 tsp red chili powder (optional)
3 to 31/2 tsp salt or to taste
Wash and soak the toor dal for fifteen to thirty minutes. Pressure cook the dal with 3 cups of water and turmeric until done, about 3 to 4 whistles depending on your pressure cooker and the quality of your dal (organic dal takes longer to cook). Alternately use a saucepan if you don’t have a pressure cooker.
Once the pressure drops, put in the chopped vegetables and pressure cook again till done, about 1 whistle. After the pressure drops, remove the whistle and keep aside.
Mash the tamarind with your hands, releasing the pulp into the water and keep aside.
In a wok or a saucepan, heat the oil over a medium flame and put in the mustard seeds. When they pop, lower the heat and add the fenugreek and the curry leaves along with the asafetida. This has to be done in quick succession before the fenugreek turns dark brown or black (if this happens the dal will turn bitter!). Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water into the pot.
Pour the tamarind water into a strainer held over the seasoning pot and bring to a boil. Stir in the sambar powder and boil again.
Pour the seasoned tamarind mixture into the dal with the vegetables and bring to a boil again.
Stir in the salt and adjust the consistency of the sambar by adding more water if required and serve hot with the idlis or with rice.
* My sambar powder is quite potent and 1 tbsp is enough for this recipe but I have found myself adding 2 tbsp of sambar powder depending on the strength of the powder. The amount of powder added depends on its strength, so judge and add accordingly.