I don't really mind idli from a mix but I've had homemade and they are truly delicious: stark white, spongy, slightly sour and the perfect thing to dip in a delicious chutney. Every time I think of making my own, however, I remember the soaking and grinding and fermenting and abandon the whole plan in the realization that I should have planned ahead.
Well, for once, I did (and I'm out of mix!). I put the rice and urad dal to soak Friday evening, ground it into batter Saturday morning and left it to ferment for 24 hours. This morning I carefully spooned it it into my oiled idli stand, and made some coconut chutney while the idli steamed.
Looking forward to fluffy white idlis, you can imagine my disappointment when I unlocked the pressure cooker and found the blobs looking not much different than when I placed them in the cooker. Worse than their appearance was their gummy, unappealing texture. Thinking my batter was too wet I thickened it with rice flour and added a bit of baking powder to help the batter rise. Round 2: still gummy and nasty. Clearly it wasn't my day for idli but I still needed something to eat and got to thinking......
I knew that idli batter could also be thinned and used to make dosa, those delightfully chewy-crispy crepe-like pancakes. But I didn't want to muck around making a filling so instead, I just tossed in some finely chopped onion, cilantro, and chile, ground in a bunch of black pepper, and recycled my failed idli batter into highly successful uttapam batter.
I love idli and dosa so much that when I get a chance to eat either at a South Indian restaurant I skip the uttapam so I was not really 100% sure what I was aiming for but what I got was delicious, a thick, savory pancake which I tore into bits and dipped happily into my coconut chutney (you also see coriander chutney in this photo but it did not taste right so I ended up tossing it).
This batter makes a dense pancake that sticks easily so I used a fair amount of coconut oil in my cast iron skillet and re-applied it before flipping. I also covered each pancake with a pot lid as I cooked the first side to trap some heat and help it cook more evenly.
Though these don't have the wonderful spongy texture of idli, they do still have the tangy fermented taste. And they get on the table a lot faster than idi and require no special equipment. Despite being gluten free they are filling and satisfying and quite nutritious. Clearly I need some help in the idli department but I think I could eat uttapam pretty regularly and be quite happy.
If you'd like to give this a try, the recipe for batter and chutney is here.