Friday, October 16, 2020

Idli with Almond Butter and Persimmon Chutney

Were I to tell you that this recipe is highly reminiscent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you probably wouldn’t believe me, but it’s true. Idli, from Southern India, are soft cakey rounds that are oddly like white bread but pleasantly sour and made entirely from fermented rice and beans. Almond butter is more nuanced than peanut but either would work well, and the chutney is infinitely more vibrant than jelly. Combining these ingredients also came to me entirely serendipitously. About a decade ago I planted a little persimmon tree at the corner of my house, where it received next to no light and even less water. I vaguely remembered it was there, but it never bore fruit and never grew. This past season we trimmed back nearby trees and fixed the sprinkler. I happened to be poking around in front of the house mid October, and what do you know? Three gorgeous fuyu persimmons, crisp and sweet and ready to go on the idli I had just steamed for breakfast.

In terms of cost, I bought a large bag of basmati rice for $5.99 and beans $2.99. To make the idli batter, I used about a dollar’s worth of rice and 50 cents for the beans. The almond butter was already in the cabinet and the persimmon, free. So breakfast for me, just a cup of the batter, of which I had about 7 cups, so that means this cost 21 cents. I tested it a few times to get the cooking time right, so let’s be fair and say 63 cents to test and 25 cents for the other ingredients – a shallot and a few raisins, a spoon of almond butter. Eminently affordable, unusual, and quick. The only thing you need to start ahead of time is the batter, but it takes very little effort.

Idli

2 c basmati rice

½ c urad dahl (tiny white black gram beans with the outer coating removed – not lentils)

Spring water or filtered tap water

½ tbs butter

1 tbs almond butter

   Put the rice in one large bowl and the beans in another. Barely cover each with water. Cover with a dish cloth and allow them to ferment for 2 days. Next put them together in a blender and process until smooth and the consistency of cream. Return to the larger bowl and cover. Let ferment another two days, stirring a few times each day. Don’t be alarmed by any errant aromas the bowl may emit. It cannot go bad. It’s simply adjusting to your house and the lactobacilli are multiplying, fending off other bacteria. At this point it should be frothy and thick and resembles whipped egg whites. If your house is hot it may go quicker and the opposite if cold.

Then generously butter a small bowl about 4 inches in diameter and pour in some batter, about half way up. Place the bowl into a steamer and cook for 12 minutes. A smaller bowl will take a little less time, larger more. Remove from the steamer and let cool for a few minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter to loosen the idli and turn out onto a board. Slice the idli horizontally so you have a top and bottom, like a little bun. Spread the almond butter on one side.

  

Persimmon Chutney

2 tbs neutral oil

1 small shallot

1 knob of ginger

1 small fuyu persimmon

About 20 golden raisins

1 tbs vinegar

    When you put your idli in to steam, peel and chop the shallot and start to cook gently in the oil. Peel the ginger with a spoon, slice and dice finely, then add to the pan. Chop the persimmon finely and add. Likewise chop the raisins and add them. Splash with vinegar. Ideally this should be cooked just enough by the time your idli are done, about 12 minutes. Or let cook a few minutes longer if necessary. Put a good dollop of the chutney on top of the almond butter, close and serve up, just as you would a PB&J sandwich.

 

 

3 comments:

Shava said...

Ramekins/custard cups work just fine for idli. They don't require the round shape but it is traditional, and you have to be a bit more mindful of the middles for the steaming time if it isn't that hemispheric section shape.

Another option is the plates they sell to poach eggs in -- western, but a perfect traditional shape and they make the small idli some people like.

Here in Fremont, you can get an idli plate for very small coin, and online you can get a microwave idli steamer.

Thank you so much for your Great Courses "Food:..." -- It's been so fun to listen to. I did 9 graduate level credits in historical Chinese gastronomy in 1979-1980 and have always loved reading up on anthropology of food. My family is mostly from the Silk Road, so I have a particular perspective on how food influences culture as it travels, lol.

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