Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cucumber idli - a no soak, grind or ferment sort of idli

We are almost done with a whole entire month of the new year :-). India celebrated 69th Republic day recently and we are ready to move into month 2 of the year. Where does time go??? BTW, how is everyone's resolutions going? I wish you all the strength to stay on top of your list. I didn't have any to start with, made some in the last 28 days and have already broken many of them :-). I totally suck at this resolution thing!!

Let us jump right into food today, shall we? I grew up on mosaranna (yogurt rice with left over rice from the night before) early in the morning to be followed by a hot breakfast later in the morning :-). Now that I have to make it all myself, and also because BH & I like oats, it is pretty much oats cooked the previous evening for the two of us. I do make variations with the base oats just for variety. Our proper breakfasts are reserved for weekends or holidays at home.

If you ask any true blue South Indian to list 5 of their top breakfast choices, idli (these are the light, fluffy, pearly white steamed savory cakes made with rice and lentils) would most definitely make the list atleast 99 times out of a 100 people surveyed, do you agree? This humble breakfast is popular as it is wholesome, has the right mix of carbs and proteins and is oil free to start your day on a perfect note. Though idlis are by themselves pretty close to tasteless, there is a universe of difference between a good idli and a bad one and they can go bad for any number of silly reasons - your grinding of the batter was not correct, temperature was not right for the fermentation, you didn't mix it well, proportion of urad dal and rice was not right, and so on. On the bright side, if you got the batter right and made some fluffy idlis you can serve them with a range of side dishes and take the idli from a simple homely breakfast to something worthy of a spot on a royal buffet. There is so much creative freedom the Idlis provide to mix and match the side dishes ranging from a piping hot sambar to chutneys to pudis to exotic dishes like kadappa or vada curry.
Why this passionate rant about idlis today, you ask? Because I have a recipe for a different kind of idli for you so you can give a break to the normal idli and still appease those die hard 'only idli for breakfast' fans at home :-). Long before MTR and Maiyas made Rave idli (semolina idli) as the no soak, no grind, no ferment alternative to the staple South Indian urad dal idlis, there was a well kept secret in the cozy malnad and coastal Karnataka homes. An idli so soft and delicious, that was a deviation from the regular (and almost boring due to the frequent appearance) urad dal idli, one that was much lighter compared to the traditional fermented idli and one that used up a commonly found vegetable from the backyard. This secret recipe was for the quick akki tari (or broken rice/rice rave) idli, flavored with either the mild and innocuous cucumber or the slightly sweetish pumpkin depending on the season.

The cucumber idli or sautekayi kadubu as it was known in local languages had the dual distinction of being either a savory or a sweet version depending on the eaters' choice. If the household had a sweet tooth or was made of younger kids, the sweet version with a generous amount of jaggery (bella or brown sugar) made its hot appearance for the chilly morning breakfast and if the folks at home preferred a mildly savory/salty version, it was spiced with a few green chilies and cumin. Sometimes I add a small carrot to mix up the colors a little bit.

I am told that cucumber idli is an acquired taste and you should first like cucumber to like this idli. I love cucumbers and so does the family. We like to mostly eat it raw in kosambri or raita but also cook it as part of a majjige huli or regular huli/sambar. So, if you belong in the category of people that turn their nose up at cucumber, this may not be for you. However if you are like me and like the subtle taste of cucumbers, this is a recipe you don't want to miss.
I made this recently for the new year day as we were home and wanted to start the new year off with a healthy start. We usually like to eat it with a side of some spicy chutney like the cilantro+coconut or red chili+coconut or a tangy mint chutney. You can eat it with a good chutney pudi and some home made yogurt too.

So, here is one of those old world recipes that you won't find on any restaurant menu. I like this better than the rave idli because there is no frying, you don't have to add any baking soda or eno to fluff this idli up. And it is obviously a gluten free, vegan recipe if that is a criteria.

What do you need to make cucumber idli? 
Makes 12-13 standard size idlis
1 big tender green cucumber (I use slender English cucumbers with skin on)
1.5 cups of idli rave/rice rave
1 Tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
4-5 green chilies (adjust to taste)
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/2 Tsp cumin
How do you make cucumber idli? 
  • Wash and cut the ends off cucumber. 
  • I do not peel cucumbers for this recipe as I like the slight green tinge it gives to the idli. If you are using regular cucumbers and the skin is thick, go ahead and peel it before grating. 
  • Grate the cucumber in the bowl you are going to mix the batter so no liquid is wasted. 
  • Coarsely grind shredded coconut and green chilies without adding any water and add it to the bowl. 
  • Add salt, chopped cilantro and idli rave to the bowl and mix well. 
  • Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. 
  • Prepare your idli plates by brushing them with a couple drops of cooking oil. 
  • After the resting period, pick up a large lemon size portion from the batter and press it into a ball in the palm of your hand. It should hold the shape without breaking apart. If it feels too dry, add a spoonful of water. 
  • Put the ball into the dip of the idli plate and repeat for remaining batter. 
  • Steam the idlis in medium heat for 18-20 minutes. 
  • Switch off and let cool for 10minutes before removing them. 
  • Enjoy with any spicy chutney or sambar of choice.
  • Sweet idli version: If you have a sweet tooth, skip the green chilies and coarse grind coconut with 2 Tbsp of jaggery (indian brown sugar) and add it. Reduce the amount of salt in this version. Rest of the process is same as above. 
  • Depending on the water content in your cucumbers, you may need to adjust the idli rave quantity slightly. Remember you are looking for a batter(after the resting period) that comes together into a ball and is not dry. Hold a portion of the batter in your hand and if you can set it into the idli mould without it breaking all over you, you are good to go. 
  • Resting the batter and steaming idlis on medium heat is important, it gives the time to the raw rave to cook completely and not stay grainy or dry. 
  • Use medium sized (not too fine but a little grainy) idli rave for this recipe. If it is too coarse, the idlis turn dry and a fine rave will make your idlis go flat. 


Sangeetha Nambi said...

That's a new recipe to me ! Bookmarking !

R said...

This is so cool!