Pillows Of Heaven

If you have come here looking for gnocchi, you would be disappointed. But I have something even better, the Indian pillows of heaven - the ubiquitous Idly.

Idly With Sambar

If you ever step inside a Tamilian’s house, idly and sambar is sure to be on the breakfast menu. Idly is as ancient as the Tamil culture itself. The reason is quite simple. Its tasty and light on the stomach. If you are feeling under the weather, the physicians in South India would suggest idly and rasam. Idly is easily digestible and like the Amish Friendship Starter, it relies on natural fermentation.

The task of making the batter right may seem daunting. But with a little practice and patience, it is very achievable. Once you have the right formula for the batter, then breakfast or dinner is a cinch. I am giving some pointers that I find useful when making idly.

  • Always grind urad dal first. Also refrigerate urad dal before grinding. Both of these steps assure fluffier urad batter. If you forget to refrigerate the dal, then grind using ice cold water.
  • If you have issues fermenting batter in your house, try keeping the batter in an enclosed area, like microwave or oven, before going to bed. If you still have issues with batter rising and fermenting, warm the oven lightly at the lowest setting possible for half an hour. Then keep the batter and close the door. Check after 5 hours to see how much it has risen. Repeat warming the oven once again if necessary.
  • While trying to make the batter for the first time, try watching it during the day. Because once you keep it inside the oven and go to bed, it may rise and spill inside your oven. And you will end up cleaning the oven first thing in the morning.
  • Each sack of rice and dal is different. Hence adjust the rice:dal ratio accordingly for fluffy idlies all the time.
  • If the batter is tight or if urad dal is not enough, idlies turn out hard. If the batter is watery or if there is excess urad dal, the idlies fall flat.
  • I use Ultra wet grinder for making idly/dosa batter. You can also use Indian mixers like Sumeet or Preeti, although you have to do it in small batches. If you don't have either one of these, then try your blender. Western food processors are, sadly, not fit for the job.

Ingredients

Par boiled rice – 4 cups
Urad dal – 1 cup
Salt – about 3 tsp

Method

Soak rice and urad dal separately for at least 4 hours to overnight. 20 minutes before grinding, refrigerate urad dal. When ready, grind urad dal first in a wet grinder. Grind until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Transfer to a big vessel and return the grinder to the base and grind rice in two batches. The rice should be ground fine and the mixture should not be watery. Add this to the urad dal batter along with salt. Mix thoroughly with your hands till everything is homogeneous. The consistency should be like pancake batter. Make sure the batter has room to double. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 8 to 10 hours depending upon the weather. When doubled, refrigerate the batter. The same batter can also be used for making dosa.

For making idlies, idly plates as shown below are used. They are perfectly designed for efficiently steaming large quantities of idlies. They are available in sets of 3, 4 or 6 plates. Though they are primarily used for steaming idly, I also use them for steaming paruppu usili mixture and dumplings.

Idly plates

Lightly oil the plates with sesame oil. Fill batter 3/4th full, giving room to rise while steaming. Stack plates one on top of the other. Take a pressure cooker with some water for steaming, about 2 inches. The water level inside the pressure cooker should not touch the bottom idly plate. Transfer the whole stack of idly plates filled with batter into the cooker. Cover cooker with the lid, but don’t use the weight that comes with the cooker. Put the cooker over medium-high heat. Once you see steam coming through the lid, set the timer for 13 minutes. After 13 minutes, switch off the flame and let the cooker rest for 5 minutes. Take the plates with cooked idlies out, and let it cool down for 10 minutes. Beware of the escaping steam. Remove idlies from the plates and serve hot with chutney and/or sambar.

Sambar

Sambar is served as a condiment with light meals like idly, dosa, adai or upma. It is also served as a main dish and is eaten with rice. Onion sambar, which is my favourite, suits both. Since the spices are ground fresh, it is called ‘Arachu vitta sambar’.

Ingredients

Toor dal – ¼ cup, pressure cooked till soft with turmeric
Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Onion – 1, sliced
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – few
Cilantro
Salt
Oil – 1 tsp

Spice mixture

Coriander seeds – 1 ½ tbsp
Chana dal – 2 tbsp
Red chillies – 4
Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
Grated coconut – ¼ cup
Oil – 1 tsp
Onion – 2 tbsp, chopped (optional)

Roast all of the above, except onion, in a tsp of oil. Grind along with onion to a smooth paste.

Method

In a vessel, boil a cup of water with tamarind, turmeric and salt, until the raw smell disappears. Add the ground spice mixture and cooked dal and mix well. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and boil for 5 minutes. In a pan, heat oil and splutter mustard seeds. Sauté sliced onions and curry leaves for a minute. The onions should still retain their crunch. Add this to the sambar along with cilantro. Mix thoroughly and serve with idly.

One of the major complaints about idly is it’s a lot of carbs. Portion control is my answer. I have these mini idly plates which make, well, mini idlies. The whole plate of mini idly holds batter equal to that two idlies. This along with a bowl of lentil and spice laden sambar, gives me a feel that I am eating a lot. Plus, its so cute.

Mini Idly With Sambar

These little pillows of heaven along with sambar is my entry to Weekend Breakfast Blogging - Healthy Eats. Tasty, filling and enough carbs and protein to get me through the day.

55 comments:

Nags said...

i recently went to chennai and had sambhar idli there. its so so yummy and, you are right, cute! nice entry to your own event :)

ekalayva said...

Hmm.. Simple, yet yummy.

Sig said...

I have never mastered the art of idly making :( even with the store bought batter, I have a tendency of messing it up... You have some perfect idlis here...

Sia said...

idli is for me a queen of south indian breakfasts :)

Padmaja said...

Sug, I am gobsmacked looking at your pictures!!
Those idlis looks so beautiful!!!

Shyam said...

Would you believe I do the same with mini-idlis, for portion control? :) Pillows of heaven is such an apt name. I lurrrrrve idlis. I like 'em doused with nallennai (and sometimes molagapodi) and left overnight, to be had the next morning. Oh, the pleasure... :)

sunita said...

I loove idli-sambhar...but am too intimidated to try making it though :-(...the last picture looks so tempting.

sra said...

That idli mould picture is a work of art!

BitterSweet said...

This is such a cool dish! I've never seen any kitchen contraption quite like an idly plate... I guess it might be a while before I can attempt this recipe for myself.

indosungod said...

Yes ofcourse, simple but the best. Pillows of heaven indeed!

Rachel said...

In love with the pics of the pillows!!!! Can't stop adoring them!

Meeta said...

Simply delish. I do not have all the equipment one needs to make idlis so I normally save my appetite for when I am visiting my parents in Dubai.

Asha said...

HeHe!! Love the title. I thought you made Mexican Sopapillas (Pillows in Spanish!). Indian pillows are yum and always be my favorite dish. I don't make often here. fermenting right in Winter is hard. Great entry and wonderful photos!:)

Kalai said...

Suganya, I just had my dosas for breakfast and you've got me craving idlis now!! I had such a hard time with getting my idlis soft. The sad thing is that my mother is the queen of idlis and for me to have hard idlis was a disgrace. Thanks so much for your well detailed explanation and tips to help all of us! :)

Mansi Desai said...

wonderful presentation, and a great step-by-step recipe with tips for northern Indians like me!:)

Pooja said...

What a lovely entry for WBB , I am hungry looking at he pictures only , pass me some please :( .
Pictures are breathtaking , feel like grabbing some from screen :)).
thansk a lot for sharing dear.

Mythreyee said...

wow! awesome iddlis.

Vaishali said...

I love idlis, but have never made them before- it's always seemed like too much work. Thanks for the tips. The idlis look divine and maybe this is just the impetus I needed!

Happy cook said...

Oh i want them. Looks so good.

Anonymous said...

First time commenting here. Gosh!!!u make the idlis look sexy and colorful too.. Beautiful pics.
P

Mona said...

Lovely picture, like always! Feel like going to my kitchen and having some Idlis right now :-)

www.zaiqa.net

evolvingtastes said...

GORGEOUS, perfect idlis and oh my what classy pictures. Love those little ones (did you know they are also called cocktail idlis :-)?).

Madhu said...

Idlies, always the best, keeping uraddal in fridge is very new trick to me. Looks very comforting Suganya.

musical said...

Pillows of heaven indeed! I can have idli-sambar for breakfast, lunch and dinner! The last picture is hypnotizing! i am off to grabbing that bowl :).

Manisha said...

I need to get me one of thos Ultra Grinder thingees. I've always used a blender with high wattage. I have to buy new blenders every 2-3 years as I burn the motor because they are not made for grinding idli batter! And I usually have a backup in case one fails while I am in the middle of grinding my batter. This time though my backup is of really awful quality and I have been trying to figure out if the iPhone destroyer is my answer or one of those other high end blenders. Sigh. Decisions, decisions! Cos I will need a blender even if I get this ultra grinder.

BTW, what does refrigerating the urad dal do to enhance the fermentation process?

Revathi said...

You have taken the humble idly to a new pedestal !!! The pics look awesome...

bee said...

yes, i cam looking for gnocchi, but wasn't disappointed. :D

Anonymous said...

You have the most fantastic pictures of the food you prepare, and really varied recipes. Thanks for sharing with us.
-RM

Johanna said...

Wow - that looks amazing. To be honest I couldn't imagine ever having this for breakfast but it is a really informative post for me. I don't know I could justify buying idly plates because I'd hardly use them but it is really useful to see your gorgeous photos to show what they look like and how you get those perfect little pillows.

I would love to try making dosa at some time so your advice on the fermenting batter is really useful. Thanks. Am hoping to put something in to the WBB soon.

Priya said...

Those idlies look so delicious Suganya. I am in the clan that is scared of even trying the batter at home. I don't have a mixie/grinder either. Just a small food processor which I am sure does not even know the definition of a smooth batter :))
Hope to get there soon, until then, I am going to survive on the instant rava idlies :)

masalamagic said...

Lovely post sugs and as always drool worthy pictures! That last picture made me so nostalgic about saravana bhavan - 14 idlies with sambar :-) yumm! time to make some batter at home!

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Stunning pictures & composition! Lovely informative read through too Suganya. Makes me want to try them immediately! Sure are 'pillows from heaven'!!

Lisa said...

I could eat this anytime of day! What an inspired dish.

jayasree said...

Loved the title. The term Mullapoo idly fits best for ur idlies- Soft,fluffy and white. Good ones. Needless to say abt ur photos. AS usual drool worthy. BTW, I also make sambhar in the same way as urs. No change in the ingredients for roasting and grinding. Your detailed explaination with tips will surely help many who want to try making them.

Red Chillies said...

Jeez! What a beautiful way to refer to idli. Now whenever I make idli I will think of it that way. I usually make it using regular rice rava.

Kirthanaa said...

Hi Suganya,
Vry nice 2 see that u hv posted a truly wonderful dish....esp. my favourite....i just couldnt stop smiling when I looked at the pictures...so yummy..Well no south Indian can live without dese tasty ones...thanz a ton for posting such a wonderful dish...that too IN MEMORY OF ME!!! Luv ya...
Kirthan!

Arundati Rao said...

i admit that i havent eaten as many idlis, dosas and adais in my entire life that i have eaten in the time i have been married...i guess living with an "idli dosa anytime more than welcome" guy has its eye opening moments!! plus i can now safely vouch that having batter in the fridge is such a life saver!! who would have known!! your's look super....mine are called "ariel idlis" because they are so white!!

Namratha said...

I love those mini idlis, they are cute indeed! They are a favourite whenever I visit India...

Dhivya said...

wow..u got perfect and smooth idies..keep rocking..

rashmi said...

awesome..i love small idlis dipped in sambar....i lile more of sambar ....yummy..just drooling ....

Rama said...

I love idli sambar...Nice Pictures...

Pooja V said...

yummmy !! i love these fluffy pillows :).

DK said...

U were bang on when u said about Gnocchi..i thought it was that! aaah Idli's! they are one of the best things bestowed on mankind..i love these esp with soaked in sambar and last snap was smthing of my 'hungry'dreams :) Good one sug..as always :)

Kribha said...

Perfect title for the Idllis. Those are some great tips for making good idllis. Wish you had your blog 7 years back when I was struggling to master the art of making soft idllis.

vegeyum said...

I have just returned from 5 weeks in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This has brought back lots of memories of the trip. I love idly.

Vcuisine said...

Nice write up and as usual the presentation is excellent Suganya. Viji

Srivalli said...

excellent picture...thats come out really so well...

Maya said...

Wow, love idli-sambar anytime..Sometimes, bfast and lunch is all idli-sambar for us..You idli-stand also looks soooo good in the picture..

Bharathy said...

Making perfect idlies outside India(esp in the US)is definitely laborious!..and here you are with sambhar idlies!!Kudos!

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Hi Suganya, me again. Have left an award for you. Do come by & collect it when you find a moment. LOL Deeba

Susan said...

Suganya, you are killing me. Do you know how many kitchen gadgets I want to cram into my tiny galley? You're idlis look like perfect little flying saucers. I'd like some to fly into my mouth right now.

Miri said...

Lovely white fluffy idlis....beautiful pics and some nice tips..

white on rice couple said...

Can we say wow!!!!!?? Someones blogroll guided us here and your everything is just beautiful! We're going to go through your archives and learn! Thanks!

Aparna said...

Suganya, if you are using an Ultra wet grinder, then you can use a 1: 6 ratio of urad dal to rice. But if you grind the batter in a mixer/ grinder, then a ratio of 1: 3 would be better.

almostveg said...

Thanks so much for sharing a great recipe. I have been making Idli's for years with 1 cup dal to 2 cups rice and this time I followed your recipe. What a great one - also made onion and cheese uttapams with the leftover batter the next day and boy were they super.

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