At the mere sight of a canister filled with idli-dosa batter inside my refrigerator I feel totally relaxed as it helps my meal planning easier. With this multi-purpose batter I can make simple podi-dosa when I feel lazy, or treat ourselves with a sumptuous feast, or give a traditional twist to overcome our meal monotony. It is needless to say that this batter is the quintessential stock inside the refrigerator in every South Indian’s home across the globe.
Before moving onto the procedure for making batter we need to look into 3 essential factors for a fail-safe procedure:
- Consistency (water requirement)
- Measurement (rice & lentil ratio)
- Time (required for soaking, grinding & fermentation)
Consistency: I feel we need to give utmost importance to the batter consistency particularly for making soft idli because if the water used is less than required, then idli becomes hard; if watery it does not rise above while steaming and gets deflated as shown below:
Our mothers & grandmothers had managed to get the right consistency instinctively as they acquired this knowledge through years of practice. But now you don’t have to wait for years to derive this formula! I share it here after several successful attempts: water required for grinding lentils is 1:3 and for rice is 1:1.
rice : lentil : salt = 2 cups (400 g) : ½ cup (100 g) : 1 tbsp
Time : Soaking time of any grain or lentil depends on the growing period of those crops. (ie.) if your legumes take little time to get soaked, or cooked it means they were harvested from early-maturing crop varieties and vice versa. In a thickly populated country like India farmers prefer to grow early-maturing crop varieties than the conventional late-maturing varieties to meet the growing demand. So if you find grains or legumes taking longer time to get soaked or cooked, don’t get annoyed instead thank the farmer for sacrificing his profits considerably by growing traditional crops and continue buying from the same source to support him !
The soaking time of rice & lentils available here in my locality is :
- Lentils – 1 hour
- Rice – 3 hours
- Lentils – 30 min.
- Rice – 20 min
Fermentation Time: It takes 10 to 12 hours during winter (approx. 20 to 30 deg C), 6 to 8 hours during summer (upto 40 deg C) here; you can adjust the fermentation time according to your climate. You may also speed up the process by an hour if it is kept in a warmer (but not a hot) place.
With no further ado lets look into an infallible procedure that I meticulously follow to churn out batter for making soft spongy idli or thin crispy dosa even while the last scoop of batter is used:
- Wet grinder (capacity mentioned by the manufacturer is 2 Ltrs.)
- A bowl for soaking rice
- A bowl for soaking lentil
- A large vessel with a lid for fermentation [with the capacity of 8 Ltrs]
- An air-tight container for refrigeration [I used a good quality Stainless Steel (eco-friendly) canister with the capacity of 5 Ltrs]
Yields: 5 Ltrs
- Idli rice – 6 cups (1200 g)
- Black gram (skinned) – 1½ cup (300 g)
- Fenugreek seeds* – 1 tbsp (optional)
- Salt – 3 tbsp
* Fenugreek seeds are useful to make idli & dosa spongy, these can be soaked & ground along with lentils.
Step 1 : Soaking
Wash and soak rice & lentils separately in water in the following ratio and the remaining water may be used while grinding lentils and rinsing wet grinder at the end:
- rice : water is 1 : 0.8
- lentil : water is 1 : 2
So I soaked 1200 grams of rice in 1000 ml of water (approx. 80%) for 3 hours and the remaining 200 ml of water will be used for cleaning wet grinder after grinding rice. Similarly I soaked 300 grams of lentils in 600 ml of water for an hour and the remaining 300 ml of water will be used while grinding lentils.
Step 2A : Grinding lentils
- Switch on the clean wet grinder and add lentils along with its soaking water* into it.
- Pour 150 ml of water after 10 minutes and then remaining 150 ml of water in the next 10 minutes.
- You may have to use a broad wooden spatula to turn about the batter every now & then for making it homogeneous.
- Switch off in 30 minutes, remove lentil batter from grinder and gather into a large mixing vessel.
Step 2B: Grinding rice
- Turn the power on again and add rice along with its soaking water* into it.
- Allow it to grind into a smooth batter for 20 min.; no need to pour water while grinding rice.
- Add salt just before removing batter and turn off.
- Pour rice batter into the same mixing vessel.
- Finally rinse wet grinder with remaining 200 ml of water by running it for a minute and pour into the batter.
* Since fermentation begins to take place even while soaking rice & lentils, the soaking water should not be discarded. However soaking them for quite a long time also affects the quality of batter.
Step 3 : Fermentation
- Mix both rice & lentil batter with hand as the heat from our palm facilitates the fermentation process.
- Keep the vessel covered allowing fermentation to take place and leave it undisturbed for a stipulated time.
- Stir vigorously when done using a ladle for a minute and transfer it to a canister.
- Now the batter is ready to use and can be refrigerated up to 10 days.
Guidelines to be followed:
- We should not soak rice or lentils in hot water (to reduce the soaking time) for making batter as it will not yield the desired quality. You can follow this only when they are intended for cooking/ boiling but not for grinding.
- Salt should always be added into the batter before being left for fermentation as it also plays an important role during fermentation.
- If you leave batter longer than the stipulated time for fermentation, it becomes too sour and may rise up & spill over the vessel.
- Based on the quantity of rice you are planning to use, you may have to select the appropriate mixing vessel, storage container & even wet grinder. I used a mixing vessel (8 Ltrs) & a storage container (5 Ltrs) for 1200 grams of rice; my wet grinder (2 Ltrs. capacity) is just right for grinding 300 grams of lentils not more than that.
- You may treat this recipe as a reference and adjust all your variables accordingly to get the desired batter quality.