Friday, 1 March 2013

Barley dosai and idlis with green chutney

I am not a health freak. But I am heath conscious. This means that I do not obsess over only eating healthy food. But I moderate unhealthy food and try to mix in as much healthy food in my diet as possible. Looking back at how and when I started being health conscious, I can clearly point out that, I started to eat healthy since the day I realized that I was pregnant. It is the fact that I am now responsible for another life and that it is up to me and Naz to help the child to grow up healthy, happy and become a responsible adult that caused this change in me. One of the changes I have made for healthy diet is to choose food with low glycemic index  whenever possible. This  became more easier once I started to look beyond the usual recipes that call for rice and wheat based products. Introducing other whole grains like, barley and buckwheat has resulted in tasty and healthy food for the whole family. Food with low glycemic index are particularly great for those suffering from diabetes. They are also great for maintaining a healthy energy level through out the day and avoid feelings of low energy and fatigue. Parents of small children, I am sure, will totally appreciate this ;) For more information on Glycemic Index, you can read,

Dosai and idli are traditionally made from rice and black lentils (urad dal) batters. It is indigenous to and is a staple dish in many southern Indian states. At our home, in Chennai, at least one meal in a typical day will include a variation of either dosai or idli. Steamed batter/idlis are considered healthier option of the two for those who are unwell. So even when unwell you cannot escape idli or dosai. Not that I am complaining. Luckily, there are enough variations to these to keep them interesting :)

What I have done here is add another variation, i.e., replace the traditional rice batter with low glycemic pearl barley batter. For a comparison of glycemic indices of grains please refer to,
Pearl Barley is one of the grains with a very low glycemic index. Even nutritionally, pearl barley is a better choice than rice.
Refer to 
Okay, pearl barley has won against rice as the healthy option. But what about the taste? If it fails the taste test, then, there is no point in going any further. So let's get to the recipe and see how pearl barley fares against traditional dosai and idlis.

You will need (for the batter):
1 cup urad dal (black lentils whole with skin peeled)
2 cups pearl barley
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds/vendhayam (optional)
salt to taste
water as needed

Soak barley and
 urad dal separately overnight or at least for 5-6 hrs.
Grind the urad dal into a smooth batter (resembling whipped butter) in a blender/wet grinder/food processor with very little water as possible. I needed just over 60 ml of water for the 1 cup of urad dal.

Grind the barley into a semi-smooth batter (resembling fine semolina) in the blender/wet grinder/food processor again using very little water as possible. I needed 150 ml for the 2 cups of barley.
 Mix both the batter together.
 Add salt and another 15 ml of water and leave the dough to ferment overnight. In cold places you may have leave it to ferment longer or you can leave it in the oven with the light on. This does speed up the process.
You want both the natural yeast and lactobacilli to grow in the batter and adding salt is a must to help with the activation and control of their population growth. You will be able to smell the sour smell of the vinegar, a by product of yeast eating the sugar. The batter does increase in volume. So make sure you have the batter in a large bowl.
 Once you are satisfied that the batter is fermented (you can check for sour taste) taste and adjust for salt and now you are ready to make the idlis/dosai. Idlis are typically steamed in idli pans (shown on the left). But you can steam them in bowls/mugs too. Just adjust the time to cook accordingly.
Choose the containers you fancy to steam the idlis and grease them well all around with cooking oil. Fill the container/s for steaming up to 3/4 with the batter. Make sure that the batter is thick but pours easily. If not add more water.
Place the container/s inside another vessel/pressure cooker and steam cook the idlis. The time for the idlis to cook will depend on the amount of batter in the containers. For idli pans, it takes around 5-7 mins. For a medium sized coffee mugs it takes around 30-32 mins. When you insert a tooth pick it should come out clean. If it does then the idlis are done. Wait for the container to cool slightly. Run a knife around the sides of the idlis and turn them over on to a place. If the idlis are cooked and cooled enough it will fall off easily. Serve warm with you favorite chutney and/or sambar. See below for the green chutney recipe.

For making dosais, thin the batter down to pancake batter-like consistency, and follow the instructions for making pancakes. For crispier dosais, spread oil generously and spread the batter as thinly as possible. Pearl barley has higher gluten content compared to rice, so, the idlis came out very soft, but, a little denser (but not by much) compared to the rice idlis. At first Anjalie was not sure about the idlis. Usually she prefers dosais to idlis and these idlis were not looking white like the usual rice idlis. After a little persuasion she enjoyed the idlis very much today. Even after eating her dosai she asked for more idlis from my plate. That is rather surprising!

You can try using Oats instead of barley or have a combination of both in this recipe for a variation. After all, consuming a variety of whole grains is one of the best ways of eating healthy.

Note (08/03/13): I am getting requests for these barley-idlis and have promised to make it again next week. Looks like barley idlis have indeed won out in the taste department too :) So a definite keeper!

For the green chutney:

You will need:
2 tsp yellow split peas/kadala paruppu
1-4 dried red chillies (according to taste)
2 tsp coconut powder
30-50 grams of coriander and/or mint leaves (stalk removed and washed)
1 small fresh green chilly (optional)
salt to taste
1 tsp of oil, urad dal and mustard seeds & curry leaves for tempering (optional)

Roast the peas/dal and dried red chillies over medium flame until the dal turns golden.
Add the coconut powder and grind them into a coarse powder in a mill or blender.

 Add chillies, coriander and salt to the mill/blender and grind into a smooth paste.

Adding salt is important to retain the green color (to prevent oxidization). So even if you are avoiding/reducing the amount of salt in your food. Just adding a pinch of salt will keep the chutney looking green.

If tempering, heat oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds and once they have spluttered (take care not to get burnt), add the urad dal and curry leaves and turn until the urad dal is golden in color. I skip the mustard and curry leaves since Anjalie does not like them (due to the bitter taste). This chutney goes well with dosas, idlis, adai, roti or just plain rice and curry.

Sending this to HITS – Diabetic friendly hosted by Sowmya and HITS page by Sangeetha

to "Healthy Me Healthy US" event hosted by Priya Yallapantula. See
for more details.

This one is particularly for you, my appa (Dad), santhanam ramu


  1. super healthy idli!!! bookmarking it!!! Thanks for sending this yummy recipe to my event.. Looking for more yummy recipes... Please add the link to the event announcement page also..

    Ongoing Event - HITS - Diabetic Friendly
    Ongoing Event - What is with my Cuppa?


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