Anyone who loves Indian food will know all about idli – the spongey steamed ‘cake’ made from fermented rice and lentils. In southern India it is usually served at breakfast time, along with a tangy yellow dahl and coconut chutney, and I personally have always found it a splendid start to the day.
But the idli itself, whilst ostensibly a savoury item, is plain enough to go with almost anything, which is why I was tempted by this packet of chocolate idli mix. Yes, I know that packet mixes are a total cheat, but making idli at home requires hours of laborious preparation and life really is too short.
Anyway, I did buy this from an Indian store, despite the fact that it is made under licence from giant US food company Pilsbury. At least it meant the instructions were in English, which always helps.
Compared to the labour that would have been involved in making this from scratch, opening the packet and whisking in milk was easy. There’s even a helpful line drawn on the packet of powder, to measure the amount of milk you need. Unfortunately, the instructions tell you to add a lot of vegetable oil as well at this point, which did not appeal very much. So I cut back on that a bit, which in retrospect may not have been the best idea (daughters #1 and #2 would tell you I am incapable of following a recipe to the letter…)
Not having the specialist equipment needed to steam idlis the Indian way, I resorted to silicone cupcake moulds inside my rice cooker and a brief spin in the microwave. This worked a treat, even taking a mere 5 minutes as opposed to the 30 recommended on the packet.
The idlis turned out to be pretty dense, which was probably because I failed to add the necessary amount of oil, but never mind because otherwise they were very definitely the genuine article – surprising for a packet mix.
The only downside was that, like regular idlis, they did not have a great deal of taste and could have done with a sweet alternative to spicy sambar as a sauce. But all was not lost, apparently there is nothing that homemade super-thick chocolate orange vodka cannot improve…