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  • Idlis

    TOOLS: You’ll need 2 medium mixing bowls, a blender, a very large mixing bowl, a damp dish towel or paper towel, idli molds, an idli steaming pot, and a plate.
    NOTE: This batter will last for 3 days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it and store it for as long as 3 months.

    To successfully make idlis, you need to do some planning, but the efforts are well worth it. These are the most delicious steamed rice–lentil cakes you’ll ever eat. Better yet, they’re a nutritious finger food the kids will devour.

    • 2 cups /344 g idli rice
    • ½ cup /100 g sabut or dhuli dal (whole or split and skinned black dal), picked over and washed
    • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    • Water, to cover
    • ¾ cup /180 mL room-temperature water, plus more as needed, divided
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • Coconut Chutney and Sambhar, for serving (optional)
    1. Place the rice in a medium mixing bowl and combine the dal and fenugreek seeds in a second medium mixing bowl. Cover with water and set aside to soak at room temperature for 6 hours to overnight.
    2. Drain and discard the water from both bowls. Place the drained rice in a blender and add ¼ cup / 60 mL of the room-temperature water. Blend until it becomes a frothy, loose batter. I only needed this much water, but depending on how much you drain off, you may need a little more. Transfer the batter to a very large mixing bowl. Remember, the batter will expand as it ferments.
    3. To the same blender (no need to clean it), add the drained lentils and fenugreek seeds and the remaining ½ cup / 60 mL of room-temperature water. Blend until it becomes a loose, white, frothy batter. Again, add a little more water if needed. Add the mixture to the very large bowl containing the rice batter.
    4. Add the salt and stir using your hands. Some say that stirring the batter with your warm hands, rather than a cold metallic spoon, helps to trigger the fermentation process, which is key to a successful idli batter.
    5. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel or paper towel and set aside in a warm, dry place for 6 hours to overnight to allow the batter to ferment. If you live in a cold climate, heat the oven to 200°F / 90°C for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven, wait 10 minutes, and then place the covered bowl in the oven for the fermentation process. You’ll end up with a thin batter that is slightly bubbly, frothy, and sour. Perfect! After fermenting, the batter will rise in the bowl and will be loose and frothy.
    6. Prep the idli mold by lightly oiling its metal trays. Add water to a pot for steaming the idlis, place the pot over medium–high heat, and bring the water to a boil.
    7. Pour the idli batter into the half-circle molds. Place the molds in the pot, cover, and steam for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
    8. Carefully remove the idlis from the molds and transfer them to a plate. Clean the mold and repeat Steps 6, 7, and 8 until you have finished with the batter.
    9. Serve traditionally with the Coconut Chutney and Sambhar, or eat them as a finger food, like my girls like to do. They love them in their lunch boxes or after school as a light snack.

Indian For Everyone by Anupy Singla. Copyright © 2014 Anupy Singla. Published by Agate Publishing. All rights reserved.

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