This labor intensive process used to be even more arduous in the days before food processors and machines. I remember seeing my mother grind this on a stone "grinder". I use the term grinder loosely here since all the efforts would be of the person grinding. It was a solid stone container with a large rim and a deep hole in the center to contain the batter that looked like an inverted hat and another large pear shaped stone which would be used to grind the rice and lentils into batter. The soaked lentils/ rice needed to be placed in the center of the stone in the deep hole and place the pear shaped stone over that lentils / rice and crush it and keep rotating the pear shaped stone to make batter.The stone container was so heavy that it could not even be lifted and had to be rolled from its usual resting position to the center of the room to use and rolled back to its usual rest later on. As I watched my mother make batter in this way I used to marvel at how she managed to make this difficult process look really simple . Of course after all that trouble the end product used to be so soft, tender and fluffy. Nowadays though, the stone grinder of the past has almost become extinct and has been replaced by a lot of machine versions that do the same job at a touch of a button.
As with any other type of dish idli's also have instant versions that are quick and flavorful and that do not need grinding and fermenting. One such version is the rava idli that refers to steamed cake made with semolina and yogurt and spices for flavor. This really quick method to make idlis is a life saver on days when time is short.
Using the basic idea of rava idli, I have been substituting it with oats to make for a healthier idli. This was something I tried as yet another way to include the all important oats in our diet. But I loved the soft idlis made with oats so much that I now only make these type of oat idlis whenever I make instant idlis. The oats is so well blended in this dish that you do not miss the semolina, in addition when flavored correctly the addition of oats is not obvious making this an excellent way to sneak oats in with picky eaters :-) So give this a try when you are in the mood for some quick and healthy dish and all you need is some chutney or sambar to make this a complete meal.
Click here for a printable view of this recipe
Ingredients and Method to make Instant Oats Idli
3 cups oats (1 minute quick cooking oats)
1 1/2 cups fine semolina (rava)
5-6 green chillies cut very fine (the small thai variety) ( or according to taste)
2 tsp split chick pea lentil (chana dhal)
6 tsp broken cashew nuts
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp salt ( or according to taste)
1 tsp baking soda
handful cilantro cut fine
2 tbsp olive oil (or any other oil)
plain yogurt (about 4 1/2 cups for the entire quantity of oats idli powder)
Dry roast the one minute oats in a heavy bottomed pan on medium to medium high heat stirring continuously until it turns creamy/light brown. Keep aside to cool for a few minutes.
In the meanwhile dry roast the semolina on medium to medium high heat for 3-4 minutes stirring continuously, then remove from heat and keep aside to cool.
When the oats is cooler, grind coarsely in a spice grinder in batches. Take care to process these in short bursts as they grind very quickly and they only need to be ground to a coarse consistency.
Mix the cooled semolina and coarsely ground oats together.
Add to this mixture salt to taste and baking soda and mix well.
Heat oil, add mustard seeds to it, when mustard seeds begin to splutter add split chick pea lentil (chana dhal) and cashews to it and saute for a few seconds.
When the lentil and cashews begin to turn brownish, add cut green chillies to it and saute for about a minute until the green chillies start to change color.
Pour this oil + lentil + green chillies mixture on the dry mixture of oats and semolina. Mix very well.
Take out the required amount of this mixture and mix with equal parts of plain yogurt. Add cut cilantro and mix well.
Grease idli moulds and place spoonfuls of this mixture into each mould and steam for about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat, cool for about a minute, remove each idli and serve with sambar or chutney of choice.
For about 1 1/2 cups of this mixture the yield was approximately 12 medium sized idli's
The unused portion of the oats idli powder can be refrigerated and will stay fine for about a week to 10 days.
Do remember that once the idli powder is mixed with yogurt it needs to be steamed immediately otherwise it will not rise well so only mix required quantities of mixture with yogurt.
The fine semolina can be substituted with coarse semolina ( I used fine because I like the softness and texture from the fine semolina )
You can very easily double or half this recipe to make quantities that you require. Just maintain the proportion of 2: 1 for oats to semolina
This turned out to be very mild with the number of green chillies I used so if you like your idli's really spicy then you may want to increase the number of green chillies in this recipe
If you do not have an idli mould you could very easily place the mixture in a greased curved stainless steel plate, steam until done and cut into squares before serving.
Oats dosai ( Savory Oat Crepes)