Rice Cakes with Chutney and Sambar

Rice cakes known as idli are the most popular Indian breakfast. Though idli is traditionally a South Indian dish, it’s the most popular breakfast eaten by millions of Indians everyday. The combination of rice with dehusked black gram dal (urad dal) makes it a complete protein.

The ground rice and dal is fermented overnight which breaks down the starch and is easily metabolized by the body. There’s no oil and they are steamed, which makes it easily digestible. Each idli contains 39 calories only. It contains no fat, no saturated fat and no cholesterol. Each idli contains 1 milligram of iron and trace amounts of calcium, folate, potassium and vitamin A besides the protein content.

It’s usually served with a variety of chutneys and Sambar, which is spiced cooked split pigeon peas and vegetables. Sambar is high on proteins, rich in antioxidants and contains fibre. It’s an ideal combination for weight loss. Tamarind is usually used in sambar but I usually prepare it without tamarind for idlis. You can use any vegetable in the sambar. Traditionally, drumstick is used in South India. 

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Every home would have it’s own way of preparing idlis and sambar. The rice used for idlis are par-boiled. Special rice known as idli rice is available. It’s small and round. Ready to use idli batter is also available. However, I prefer to make my own batter. There are special moulds available for steaming idlis on Amazon.

The same batter is used to make crisp pancakes called dosas. It can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Soft, fluffy, spongy idlis dunked in sambar and chutney – what could be a better breakfast?

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PREP: 40 minutes COOK TIME: 45 minutes (not including time required to soak the dal and prepare the idli batter)

Ingredients

For the idlis

3 cups par-boiled rice

1 cup dehusked black gram dal (urad dal)

2 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)

11/2 tbsp salt

Instructions

Soak the rice and dal separately in plenty of water for 3-4 hours. Add the methi seeds to the dal while soaking. Drain the water and set it aside to use while grinding the batter. Grind the rice with a little of the reserved water until it is the consistency of semolina. Transfer the batter to a large bowl. Grind the urad dal with a little water until it becomes soft and fluffy. Add this to the rice batter and add the salt. Mix well. The batter should be thick but should be of pouring consistency. If it’s too thick, the idlis will be hard and if there’s too much water the idlis will be flat. Cover the bowl and leave to ferment overnight.

The following day, mix the batter well. Use a little oil to grease the idli moulds and spoon the batter into it. Steam the idlis for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes before removing from the moulds.

For the chutney

1/2 cup roasted channa dal

1 cup fresh coconut, grated

½ tsp tamarind paste

3-4 dry red chillis

!/2 tsp asafoetida powder

A few curry leaves

Salt to taste

Vegetable oil

To temper

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp split black gram dal

A few curry leaves

Instructions

Heat about 3-4 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a small pan. Add the red chillis and the channa dal. Saute until the dal changes to a golden brown colour. Add the tamarind paste, asafoetida, curry leaves and salt. Add the coconut and mix well. Remove from heat. Grind the ingredients with a little water into a paste.

To temper the chutney, heat a teaspoon of oil and add the mustard seeds. When they stop popping, add the dal. When the dal becomes golden brown, add the curry leaves and transfer the contents to the chutney. Mix well and serve with the idlis.

For the sambar

½ cup split pigeon peas (tuvar dal)

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp ghee

½ tsp asafoetida powder

1 cup potatoes, cubed

2 carrots, sliced thinly

½ cup shallots, sliced (sambar onions)

2 tomatoes, chopped

4 green chillies, slit lengthwise

Salt to taste

Vegetable oil

To temper

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp split black gram dal

A few curry leaves

Soak the dal in plenty of water for about 30 minutes or up to an hour. Soaking it longer will ensure that it cooks faster. Transfer it to a large pan and add the turmeric powder, ghee and asafoetida powder. Bring it to a boil and cook until the dal softens and is completely cooked. Remove from heat and mash well. Set aside.

Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the onions and saute until they are cooked. Add the green chillis and tomatoes. Saute until the tomatoes are cooked. Add the vegetables and enough salt. Mix well and add about a cup of water. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the mashed dal and mix well. Add more water if necessary and adjust the salt accordingly. Simmer gently for a few minutes. Remove from heat and temper the sambar in the same manner as the chutney. Serve hot.Rice Cakes with 

Mixed Lentil Pancakes

This is a complete balanced nutritious meal by itself. It’s also vegan, like many vegetarian dishes in India and really delicious.

Lentils contain lysine while rice contains sulphur based amino acids missing in lentils. Therefore, a combination of rice and lentils makes it a complete protein, supplying the body with the essential amino acids that it requires. In fact, rice and dal is a great food for weight loss.

The Indian word for this preparation is called ‘Adai’. The mixture has to be very thick and it should not be ground fine – rather like semolina. The mixture should not easily fall off the spoon. And the pancakes are quite thick. It will take some time to cook through and hence the heat should be low.

I have included the Indian names of the lentils also, in case you want to purchase them from an Indian grocery store.

The best accompaniment for this is the coconut chutney that I had shared earlier with the Split Mung Pancakes. It’s best to have this for breakfast (if you have the time to soak the lentils) or for lunch. I like them golden brown at the edges and on the inside. The addition of raw rice makes them crunchy.

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PREP: 11/2 hours+10 minutes COOK TIME: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw rice
  • 1 cup boiled rice
  • ½ cup split pigeon peas (Toor dal)
  • ½ cup yellow split peas (Channa dal)
  • ½ cup split black gram dal (Urad dal)
  • ¼ cup split mung dal (Mung dal)
  • 10 dry red chillis
  • 1 tsp asafoetida powder
  • 3 tbsp curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable oil

Instructions

Wash the rice and lentils. Soak the raw rice, boiled rice, pigeon peas, chickpeas and black gram dal with just enough water to cover them for 11/2 hours.

Soak the split mung dal separately in a little water.

Grind the rice and dal mixture with the red chillies, asafoetida, curry leaves and cumin to a coarse paste. Do not add too much water. Add the soaked mung and salt. Mix well.

Heat a frying pan and spoon about a cup of the batter. Spread it into a thick pancake – the batter will be difficult to spread. It cannot be spread thin. Use a little vegetable oil to pour around the edges and cover the pancake. When the edges are golden brown, flip the pancake and cook on the other side until it turns golden brown. Serve hot with coconut chutney. This recipe makes about 8–10 pancakes.