Sunday, August 9, 2015

Unde Huli (spiced lentil balls cooked in yogurt based sauce) - High dose of delicious proteins

Imagine yourself being an awkward young adult with limited social skills and a clam shut mouth especially around new people. It is the age when you don't easily fit into any age group. I was one of them a few years (who am I kidding?) many years ago. Big brother had just got married and as the 2 families lived in the same city, we were trying to get acquainted with each other and get to know each other while the newly weds were far, far away in another country :-). It was an exciting and happy time and I was asked by the aunts and uncles of my SIL to their homes. Mine was a more informal visit as I had a 2-wheeler and could just drop by on my way home in the evenings than having to arrange for a real dinner or lunch with all the elders.
One of those visits, one of the well meaning aunts brought out a cup filled to the brim with a somewhat milky looking dish in it and offered it to me. My first impression of the dish was that it was some sort of payasa or kheer. Being the sweet hater (I know it is a strong word but I used to really despise sweets that time, I am glad it was just a phase and it passed and I enjoy all kinds of sweets now), I politely told aunty that I was full and she should really get half the cup emptied out before I would touch it. Aunty went in and came back with the cup now filled only a little below the half way mark. Comfortable I could swish down that amount with a handy water glass and not look too rude infront of the new family, I strategically placed the water glass close to me and took a spoon ful of the dish from the cup.

It definitely wasn't payasa, nor was it any kind of dessert, instead it was a delicious sensation of yogurt and spices in the mouth followed by a quick touch of a bite of something that tasted vaguely familiar and I was kicking myself (mentally ofcourse) as to why I made aunty take away half the cup before even knowing what it was. I am sure if I was a more mature person, I would not only have readily asked aunty for more but also checked out the recipe with her. The natural inhibitions of the young adult made me not ask for more as I greedily wiped the cup clean and kept it. And unfortunately the conversation was so engaging all around that aunty didn't notice my enthusiasm and didn't offer me any seconds. I agree the loss was entirely my doing :-)
I came home and told nammamma about what I ate and demanded why she had deprived all of us of that delicious dish all these years. Here was the problem, I never noticed what aunty called the dish and so nammamma ofcourse had no way of knowing what I was talking about with my limited culinary vocabulary at the time. She just brushed me aside and went about her ways. It was many days later that I somehow was able to communicate what I ate and my SIL told nammamma that it must have been her aunt's famous "unde huli (unde~round, huli~general term for the sauce)" and nammamma also acknowledged that she hadn't made that in years at home.

Since nammamma never got interested in making this at home, I went after my SIL and pestered her to make it for me and discovered that she makes them as good as her aunt. I have even been sneaky enough to soak the lentils when my brother & SIL made a trip to my home so she wouldn't have a choice but to actually prepare it for me the moment she landed here. So in that sense, it is handed down to me from SIL and her aunt.

So here is the mystery dish, it is called Unde Huli and is made with ingredients similar to those in nuchinunde but the look, texture and taste are vastly different. I strongly believe that there are 2 kinds of people in this world, one that live to eat and the second one that eat to live. If you belong to the latter category (which I also refer to as the 'non-foodies'), then you might just feel that unde huli and nuchinunde dipped in majjige huli taste very close but I am the former category person or the foodie and to me the two are miles apart and both take you on a gastronomical journey that is superlative. Unde huli is not steamed but simmered in liquid/broth until cooked which gives it a glistening coating on top and makes every bite soaked in the yogurt sauce. The sauce is not served on the side rather is part of the dish itself.
I can eat this by itself in bowls without making it a side dish. This dish is like taking proteins intravenous instead of swallowing small tablets, so plan accordingly as it will cover your protein needs for the entire day. It is totally filling and you can skip cooking anything else once you have made this. If you like lentils and looking for a one pot, concentrated dose of proteins, this dish is for you. Enjoy!

What do you need to make Unde Huli? 
1 cup Togari bele/Toor Dal
1/4 cup kadle bele/chana dal
4-6 green chilies
1-2 red chilies
1 inch piece of ginger
1 Tbsp salt (adjust to taste)
2.5 cups water
1 Tbsp rice flour
2 Tbsp grated coconut (optional but recommended)
1/2 cup yogurt
2-3 sprigs of cilantro
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 Tsp cumin
pinch of turmeric powder
1-2 pieces of dry red chilies (skip if you do not like it)
1/8 Tsp asafoetida

How do you make Unde Huli? 
  • Wash, pick any dirt and soak the lentils in plenty of water for 2-3 hours along with red chilies
  • Wash & remove the stalk ends of green chilies and chop them or break them into pieces. 
  • Wash, peel and slice ginger. 
  • Once the lentils are soaked (they look bigger and feel softer to touch), drain all the water and take them to the blender along with the chilies, ginger and coconut and grind into a coarse paste. Do not add water, use blender on pulse mode. 
  • Take the mixture into a bowl, add salt and rice flour and mix well. 
  • Take small lime sized mixture in hand and make them into a ball. Keep them aside in a plate. 
  • Heat water in a deep and wide vessel with a pinch of salt until it comes to a gentle boil. 
  • Turn down the heat to lowest on your stove and drop just one of the balls into the water. 
  • If the lentil ball disintegrates immediately, then you need to add more rice flour to the mixture and make them into balls.  
  • If the ball holds shape (a little bit of disintegration is fine and actually needed. 
  • Drop the balls one by one (do not crowd them in the vessel, you can do this in batches if needed) and let them come to the surface on their own, takes about 7-9 minutes. 
  • Once the balls surface to the top, gently flip them over and continue to cook for another 6-8 minutes. 
  • The liquid would have thickened up a little with the lentil mixture and got the taste of the mixture - This is what makes the dish delicious overall. 
  • Whisk the yogurt with a spoon and add it to the sauce. 
  • Add chopped cilantro, let the mixture boil for a few minutes before taking it off.  
  • Heat oil in a pan, add mustard, fenugreek and cumin. Let the seeds pop, add red chilies, and asafoetida. 
  • Pour the seasoning into the pot, cover it add let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
  • If you are in a hurry or forgotten to soak the lentils, you can put them in hot water to gain some time. They will plump up in about 30 minutes. 
  • Adjust the amount of chilies (between green & red) depending on the spice level you are comfortable with. Soak dry red chilies along with lentils if you are using them. 
  • If you are cooking the lentil balls in batches, remove the cooked balls onto a plate before adding new ones. Add them all back to the pot before adding yogurt.
  • Once cooked the balls will have a shiny texture all around and will not break unless you cut them with a spoon. 
  • Seasoning the curry is essential to give it that extra flavor, don't skip it.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The balls tend to break and disintegrate in the water for 2 reasons - 
1. If the water is too hot, reduce the heat to lowest, make sure the bubbles have died away before you place the balls in the water.
2. If your mixture is watery, adding rice flour helps to absorb some of this moisture but don't use a lot of rice flour as the taste changes and the balls tend to become harder after cooking. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sabudana idli(no dal) & Onion chutney - super fluffy, masala idlis and some Goldilocks adventure

We are back to atleast two at home now since last Saturday, BH came back from his business trip and Saturday was the normal, lazy weekend with no breakfast, but a heavy brunch day. BH was still jet lagged and we didn't feel up to going out so idea of brunch was a perfect fit. Since the temperatures are still hovering in the 90s here and by mid day my kitchen and the entire top floor starts to resemble a furnace, we are finishing off any cooking before then and take shelter downstairs until it starts to cool off in the night. We do not have air condition at home and had never felt the need for it in all these years and are still not serious about it. Hopefully the heat wave passes on. So Saturday being no exception, I wanted to cook something wholesome, tasty and also quick that we could may be do repeat dose of for dinner and not have to switch on the stove again.
These Sabudana idlis came to the rescue, they need a little planning and make ahead prep but there is no grinding involved. With an overnight fermentation, you get the fluffiest and white idlis you won't even notice didn't have any urad dal at all. Yep, these idlis do not have urad dal but still turn out deliciously soft and yummy and they are light on the stomach, custom made for the hot summers. Best of all, I also finished my stock of sabudana I had brought for making the sandige and one more item taken care of in the pantry now :-), now what do they say about 'hitting 2 birds with a single stone'?
Ah, before we go into the recipe, here is a little something I wanted to share with you all if you ever wondered about my diminished frequency of blog posts. Taking advantage of the weather, we just get out of the house every weekend and go in search of walking trails. Where we live, there is no dearth of walking trails - big, small, winding, straight, ups, downs, there is something for every taste, interest and ability. This is our current obsession and to me personally equivalent of meditation. Away from the buzzing electronics, enjoying the bounty of nature all around us and walking along side the little birds and animals that inhabit the woods has indeed been very rejuvenating. Last week, we drove up to our favorite Mt. Rainier and found a water fall called Narada falls. If you have an Indian background, I do not have to explain 'Narada' to you but if you have not heard the name, he is the sage in Indian vedic texts that constantly travels between the worlds and is ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Not sure if the name had anything to do with how the water falls in 2 distinct tiers at different heights. It was simply beautiful and the rainbow at the bottom of the falls just added the perfect garnish.
I didn't start off telling you about our hiking to acquaint you all with my weekend escapades but rather to share with you all a rare find I found along the hiking trail and it has to do with food :-). I discovered these heavenly delicious berries in the mountain trails that I hadn't seen thus far in any farmer's markets or super stores. Though I didn't know the name at the time and BH very concernedly kept telling me that they could be non-edible (ok, he said that they could be poisonous and I might just drop dead any moment by eating them, I do understand he was concerned and feared not being able to get me to medical help in time..)I kept popping them as we walked on and ultimately got him hooked onto try a few fistfuls. These were more delicate compared to the blueberries I regularly eat. When I came back to electronic civilization, I found that I had been eating the coveted huckleberries that ripen in a short timeframe, found only in mountains and loved by wild bears. I felt like Goldilocks gone into the bears house and wiped out their stock of huckleberries :-). I apologize to any bears that are looking for these berries in the mountains and wondering about the short supply but I did enjoy them as much as the bears do and next time if I make my way up the mountains in berries season, I will carry a small pail to bring some berries home.
If you get your hands on huckleberries especially fresh from the plants in some mountain range, go ahead and give yourselves a treat. They have such a deliciously sweet & fragrant taste that you feel as if you are in paradise. If the entire universe was telling me I was in paradise with a snow clad Rainier on one side, Narada falls infront of me and these delicious berries on the path, who am I to say it wasn't heaven? Life is good and I am blessed. Next time, if I get my hands on huckleberries, I will show you some delicious ways of using them in recipes.
Until then, enjoy what you have. Take a peek in your pantry and if you find some idli rava and sabudana, just read though the rest of the post and make these fluffy sabudana idlis for your next breakfast. Soaked idli rava and the pearly sabudana makes this idli a refreshing and enjoyable experience from the usual. I also packaged in a very yummy no-coconut chutney to go with the idli here. This is amma's signature onion chutney which I had never tasted until after my marriage. The first experience of this slightly sweet, tangy & spicy chutney with the typical bland idlis made me fall in love with it hook, line & sinker (more about that in another post, I just received some fishing wisdom from a colleague and the references are still fresh in memory :-)). Me & my SIL can lick clean an entire bowl of this chutney made for the whole family with or without idlis.
This is one of the rare chutneys I make without any hint of coconut and I love it, that says something if you know how much of a coco'nut' I am. So go ahead and give a try to this chutney.

What do you need to make Sabudana idli?
Makes about 25 idlis
2.5 cups rice rava/idli rava
1 cup sabudana/sago pearls
2 cups thick yogurt (a little sour is preferred)
2 cups water
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 cup grated coconut
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp crushed black pepper
1-2 finely chopped green chilies
1 Tsp grated ginger
1.5 Tbsp chana dal
1/2 Tsp urad dal
4-6 curry leaves

How do you make Sabudana idli? 
  • Wash idli rava under running water and pick any impurities. Put them into a big bowl. 
  • Wash sabudana/sago in water a couple of times until the water runs clear and add it to the bowl with idli rava.
  • Whisk yogurt well to form a uniform texture, add 2 cups of water and mix well. Pour this into the bowl.
  • Add salt and mix well to make the batter, consistency of batter is a little thinner than regular idlis at this time as the idli rava and sago both absorb the liquid while soaking. 
  • Cover and keep the bowl in a warm place over night or for about 8-10 hours. 
  • The batter would have fluffed up, feels light when you spoon it and would have become thicker than when you started the soak time. This time also allows the batter to ferment and you can smell the sour yogurt smell. 
  • Mix well and add a few spoons of water if needed to bring it to dropping consistency. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, add mustard, chana dal and urad dal. Let mustard pop and dals turn light golden. 
  • Add chopped crushed black pepper, green chilies, grated ginger, chopped curry leaves and roast for about 30 seconds. 
  • Switch off and pour the seasoning into the batter.
  • Add grated coconut, taste and adjust salt if needed. 
  • Prepare idli plates by brushing each dip with oil and spoon in the batter. 
  • Steam cook for 12-15 minutes. 
  • Switch off, open the container and let it stand for a couple of minutes before gently removing idlis with a butter knife or a wide spoon.
  • Enjoy them with the spicy onion chutney. 
What do you need to make onion chutney?
2 cups chopped onions (use red onions or Indian variety for best taste)
2-3 red chilies
small piece of tamarind
1/2 Tsp jaggery or brown sugar
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1/8 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tsp salt

How do you make onion chutney? 
  • Heat oil in a wide pan, add coriander seeds and fenugreek seeds. 
  • Roast them for 1-2 minutes on medium heat until fenugreek turn light brown and you smell the aroma. 
  • Add red chilies and roast for 30 seconds. 
  • Add chopped onions to the pan and mix well to bring the coriander & fenugreek to the surface (leaving them at the bottom of the pan will burn them)
  • Stirring frequently, roast for 6-8 minutes until onions break down and turn translucent. 
  • Once onions are soft, switch off add salt, tamarind and jaggery/brown sugar to the pan.
  • Let it cool completely. 
  • Take the contents to the blender and blend them into a paste without adding water. 
  • Your spicy onion chutney with a hint of coriander is ready to be enjoyed with idlis and dosas. 
  • Do not add salt while frying onions to speed up the process, this is one recipe where 'slow & steady' creates the magic. Let onion cook by itself on medium heat before adding salt. This brings out the natural sweetness in the onions. 
  • Do not use yellow or white onions, they are typically more pungent than the red variety. 
  • Do not blend this chutney when the ingredients are hot, if you are in a hurry and can't wait, go for other chutneys. The taste comes when it is ground cool. 
  • Adding a day old yogurt imparts a nice taste to the idlis and also helps fermentation. I made my idlis without any baking soda or eno fruit salt. 
  • If you do not have sour yogurt, add 1/2 Tsp baking soda to the batter just before steaming the idlis.