Servings: 8 servings
½ cup urad dal, + 1-¼ teaspoons for the chutney
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
1-½ cups basmati rice (raw)
1 cup water, warm
½ teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup ghee (clarified butter)
½ fresh coconut, depending on the size
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tablespoon cashew nuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt
1-¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon red chili powder
4 fresh curry leaves, torn in half
2 days ahead...
Soaking the urad dal: In a bowl, wash the urad dal thoroughly. Pick out and discard any badly-shaped lentils, then soak them with the fenugreek seeds for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Drain as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
Soaking the rice: Soak the rice the same way you did the urad dal. I soak them separately overnight to ensure the grains are soft.
Making idli batter:
The next day.
Warm 1 cup of water. The thermometer, the temperature of the water should be between 105°F to 120°F for good fermentation. Reserve about 2-3 tablespoons of water.
Drain and rinse the dal. There should be as little water left as possible. In a blender, mix the urad dal with ½ cup of warm water until smooth. I use the Vitamix blender, but a regular blender will also work well. Transfer the dal into a bowl.
Repeat the same procedure with the rice and the rest of the warm water. Combine both ingredients together. Season with 2/3 teaspoon of salt. Add the reserved 2-3 tablespoons of water in the blender to scrape out the remaining batter; pour it into the bowl. The consistency should be as thick as pancake batter. Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot, then let the fermentation do its magic. Allow to stand overnight. You'll get a perfect idli batter the next day.
The following day.
Add baking soda to the idli batter and gently stir until incorporated, using a spatula. For optimum, airy results, do not over-mix . Ladle about 1-3/4 tablespoons of batter into each mold, previously greased with a layer of ghee. Repeat for the other level of the idli maker. The recipe yields exactly 18 large idlis. (16 slots are available in the idli maker).
Assemble and stack them. Add water to the bottom of the steamer. There should be at least a 2-½"-high level of water. Place the rack in the steamer. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes. Check the doneness by gently pressing with your finger. The idli should feel soft and airy to the touch.
While the idlis are cooking in the steamer, prepare the coconut chutney.
How to make coconut chutney:
Shred the coconut (see tips). Gather about 1-1/3 cups.
In a pan, over high heat, dry roast and constantly stir the coriander seeds and the cumin seeds. Put the spices in a grinder (I use a coffee grinder that I use exclusively for spices); they should be finely ground. Sift through a strainer. Set aside until cool.
In a blender, combine the shredded coconut, ground spice mix, the grated ginger, cashew nuts and yogurt. Add up to ½ cup water for a smoother flow. Season with salt and pepper.
In a small saucepan, heat the canola oil. Add the remaining 1-¼ teaspoons of urad dal. Cook until very golden. Add the mustard seeds, red chili powder and the curry leaves. The mustard seeds will start popping in the hot oil. Add a teaspoon of ghee. Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to the chutney. Stir well. Let stand at room temperature.
Unmold the idlis using a silicone-coated spoon.
Serve with sambar (I'll post the recipe soon) and the coconut chutney.
For an authentic version, I use an idli maker. You can buy them at any Indian store.
When I serve idlis as appetizers, I steam them in non-stick silicone multi molds (mini hemispheres) for bite-sized pieces.
Urad dal can be found in any Indian store.
Fenugreek seeds (also called methi) give a subtle, slightly bitter taste to the idli batter. They can be found in any Indian store.
Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. You can find it in jars at Indian stores. But if you don't have ghee, you can use butter instead. For a vegan version, only use oil.
Shredded coconut gives a rich, creamy texture to the chutney. I used fresh coconut. First, I opened the coconut using a cleaver. Be very careful if you do. (I usually lay out some newspaper underneath a large wooden cutting board) Then, scrape out the coconut flesh using a coconut grater.
I use the coconut grater I bought in a Korean store. I love it!
Idli batter can be prepared days in advance and stored in the refrigerator (up to a week). The batter is very similar to dosa (large, thin, crisp Indian-style crêpes). I'll post that recipe soon.