Today's whole-grain tweak: Brown rice in idlis and dosas. The idli-dosa family of breakfast foods has got to be one of the most strongest contenders in the "nutritious meets delicious" department. There is something about the whole ritual of soaking rice and lentils, grinding them, fermenting the batter and churning out fluffy idlis and crispy dosas that is just very fulfilling. Makes me feel like a real proper cook :D
Until a month or two ago, the biggest challenge for me was the grinding of the batter; I had to manage with my KitchenAid food processor. Just for the record, the food processor was able to gring soaked rice and urad dal (separately) quite well, but was an utter failure when it came to grinding soaked parboiled rice. I would bite my lip nervously every time I made batter wondering if today was the day when my delicate machine would decide that it was not built for such arduous tasks and die on me. The best way to grind these batters at home is to buy one of those heavy-duty wet grinders (developed and manufactured in India) that are uniquely designed for this purpose. But you know what- they are quite expensive and I was quite sure that one was never going to fit into my budget at this time. Then I got one of these wet grinders as a gift! V's cousin bought a newer, smaller version and generously let me have her wet grinder. This is one impressive machine. A huge metal drum with a stone floor holds two huge grinding stones (scroll down in that link to take a look at them). Start the heavy-duty motor, and even the most unyielding dal and rice is churned into a buttery paste.
One of the first recipes I tried in the wet grinder was Jugalbandi's Whole-Grain Idlis. Yes, I finally have some gorgeous rosematta rice in my pantry.
Some time ago, I whined in a post about not being able to find rosematta rice around here. Two kind souls responded: my friend Madhu came over with rosematta rice for me to try and the one and only Linda mailed me a beautiful glass jar of rosematta from far, far away! Now this is when you soberly realize what a lucky girl you are- when even your petulant whining leads kind friends to help you.
I followed Bee and Jai's recipe except that I skipped the 2 T of cooked rice/poha/soaked bread. I like this recipe because (a) it combines brown rice and parboiled rice (the latter, although not technically a whole grain, does retain a great many of its nutrients, if I understand correctly), (b) makes a small batch of 12-15 idlis which is nice because most idli recipes are designed to make enough idlis to feed a small village, (c) includes a tip for soaking the rice and lentils in filtered water and not chlorinated tap water (I never thought of that!).
The batter fermented beautifully without the need for any interventions such as the surreptitious addition of fruit salt :D. I am lucky in that respect; fermentation has never been a problem in my present kitchen. Still, whenever I ferment something overnight, I do tend to worry about it and obsess over it. The first thought as I cross the hazy land of half-sleep is, did the batter ferment? It is enough to jerk me wide awake and get me to stumble in the darkness to the kitchen and check on the bowl of batter. A whiff of the sweet-sour aroma of fermented batter and a look at the bubbling mass in the half-light, and I am able to heave a sigh of relief.
Here are the idlis, served with huli (now updated with a link to Latha's secret family recipe for vibrant huli powder). See all those holes that the yeasty beasties so obligingly made?
And if steamed whole-grain idlis feel a little too healthy, you can always find creative ways to convert them into a guilty pleasure. Exhibit A: fried idli. Idlis cut into 4-5 slices, then fried in a T or so of oil until crispy.
Now that I have the wet grinder, I am like a kid with her new toy- can't stop playing with it. Here's another recipe I tried: Ashwini's Mushti Polo. Her engaging write-up tells us the origin of the name of this dosa. Adding poha (flattened rice flakes) to dosa is something new to me. I did follow the recipe exactly, except to use 1 C brown rice and 1 C white rice in place of 2 C white rice. I figured, with the white poha being refined, I would add some brown rice and split the difference in terms of whole grains. It has worked beautifully for me every time I sub brown rice for white rice in a dosa recipe. Next time, I will try all brown rice in this recipe.
The poha really helps the fermentation along, and this was the laciest and airiest dosa I have ever made in my life. It was great in the lunch-box too! I served this with pearl-onion sambar and parsley chutney (the normal coconut-cilantro-green chillies chutney but using parsley instead of cilantro because it was what I had on hand).
Poha dosas are very popular in the food blog world:
Sharmi's Atukula Attlu looks incredibly spongy and uses sour yogurt or buttermilk to help the fermentation along.
Shilpa prefers to call her poha dosa Masti Dosa- that's how much fun it is to make and eat!
Namratha's Set Dosa comes with a great story of how that name came about.
Mandira, the talented blogger over at Ahaar, just wrote a cover story for Khabar, monthly Indian-American magazine published from Atlanta. Click to read the story, "The Call of the Kitchen". Congratulations on a beautiful article, Mandira. She was kind enough to interview me for it, although I am well aware that I absolutely do not belong in the list of accomplished cooks and writers featured there.
Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and wishes for our puppy. We love this dog something awful and you have no idea how grateful I am for the wishes he gets from folks near and far.