Kancheepuram Idli

Temples in India are special in that they attract food enthusiasts and gourmands as well, thanks to their “prasadham” (offering). Each temple (let me stick to my homeland) in Tamilnadu, has it’s own special food offering. And for a relatively cheap price, sell it to all the visitors. One temple in Kancheepuram, Varadharajar temple, offers this special, spicy idli as prasadham. My mom tells me, her great uncle was the cook there for many years, making these idlis day after day, and this recipe from him, has been in the family forever. Try it, it’s both healthy and delicious, with a spicy kick from the dry ginger and black peppercorns.

Kancheepuram Idli

Ingredients:

Idli Rice – 1 cup
Raw Rice – 1 cup
Black Urad dal – 1 cup
Salt – as per taste
Sour yogurt – 1/4 cup
Dry ginger (sukku) – 1″ piece
Black Pepper Corn – 1 tbsp
Cumin – 1/2 tbsp
Curry leaves (fresh) – 10
Ghee – 2 tbsp

Method:

1. Soak black urad dal overnight.
2. In the morning, soak the rice, for 3-4 hours.
3. Grind the dal, and rice  separately, into thick batter (don’t add too much water).
4. Mix the dal and rice batter with salt, and ferment for 10-12 hours. (or until the dough rises and has bubbles on the surface). At this point, you can store the batter in the refrigerator for future use. It can be used for a week.
5. On the day of cooking, mix in sour yogurt (just leave 1/4 cup of yogurt on the counter overnight).
6. Coarsely powder dry ginger, cumin and black peppercorns and add it to the dough, along with fresh curry leaves.
7. Heat the ghee (clarified butter) in a small pan, and pour hot ghee over the spice powder on the batter.
8. Mix the batter well.
9. Now you have two choices, you can cook it in regular idli pan for 20 mins, or pour all the batter into a cake pan, or the steamer pan of your rice cooker (lined with aluminum foil), and steam for an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
10. Cut into wedges and serve with idli molaga podi, or chutney of your choice.

Tips:

1. If you can’t find whole black urad dal, you could replace it with regular urad dal. You don’t have to soak regular urad dal overnight though.

Adai and Aviyal

Adai and Aviyal

There is a tradition in Madras (now Chennai), my hometown, it’s a light meal in between lunch and dinner, and we call it ‘tiffin’. (Strangely such a tradition exists in Spain as well, called ‘merienda’). A tiffin is usually a light meal, eaten at home if you are a kid after coming back from school, and at a restaurant if you are at work/on the road. It normally ends with a strong cup of south-Indian “Filter coffee” (brewed from a mix of coffee and chicory) with milk.

Adai and Aviyal was one of my favorite tiffins. Aviyal is a typical dish from Kerala, later adapted into Tamil cuisine. It is a mild curry made with mixed vegetables cooked in a coconut and cumin paste and served with fresh yogurt. It is made usually when different vegetables are left over, none enough to make a dish on its own, but are mixed together to make this delicious curry. In Kerala it is usually eaten with steamed rice, but in Tamil cuisine, it is paired with a spicy rice-lentil crepe called Adai. It’s very simple to make, and here is how.

Aviyal - Veggies prepped.

Aviyal (mild curry made with mixed vegetables cooked in a coconut and cumin paste and served with fresh yogurt)

Ingredients:

2 cups of mixed vegetables, julienned (I used carrots, green beans, eggplant and potatoes)
Coconut – 1/2 of a fresh coconut (Don’t use dessicated coconut, grated frozen is alright, but try and get it fresh)
Cumin seeds – about 1 tablespoon
Green chili – 1 – 3 depending on how spicy you like it (I added only one, because I was serving it to my toddlers)
Yogurt – 1 cup
Salt to taste

Method:

1. Cook the vegetables with about 1/4 cup of water and salt, covered till tender, but not mushy (or microwave it on high for 8 – 10 minutes)
2. Grind the cumin, coconut, and green chilis in a thick fine paste with a bit of water.
3. Add the ground coconut mixture to the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust the salt.
4. Take it off heat, let it cool down a bit, mix in the yogurt and serve.
5. At this point you can temper a big pinch of cumin seeds and fresh curry leaves in coconut oil to garnish the aviyal or serve as is.

Adai - Rice and lentils to be soaked

Adai (Spicy rice-lentil crepe)

Ingredients :

Starchy short grained rice – 1 cup
Lentils  – 1 cup
(mixture of toor dal/yellow pigeon peas, urad dal/peeled black gram, moong dal/yellow mung bean and chana dal/split bengal gram)
Dried red chili – 2 or 3
Salt to taste
Ghee to cook the crepes

Method:

1. Wash and soak rice, lentils and red chili in water for a couple of hours.
2. Drain well, and grind into a coarse batter with water. Mix in salt.
3. Heat a griddle on the stove and spread the batter into a thin crepe. Add a bit of ghee and cook for a minute or two and flip the adai. Cook for a minute more, and take it off the heat.
4. Serve with aviyal.

Tips:

1. It’s common to mix finely diced onions or tender drumstick leaves to the adai batter.
2. If yogurt isn’t your thing, serve aviyal as is with a teaspoon of lemon juice (or 1/4 teaspoon tamarind paste) or slivers of raw green mango.
3. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand in the aviyal. Asparagus, zucchini, peas, broccoli, cauliflower (or the more traditional Indian vegetables like yam, plantain, snake gourd, white pumpkins, drumsticks). Avoid vegetables that will turn mushy when cooked or ones that will tint the curry, like beets.