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‘Nei’/Ghee Idli’s

It  has been a cold and rainy day, dull and gloomy. Roads were slippery with the sleet, a cold bitter wind blew……


Times that make you want to stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet of cozy warmth……


There are foods that comfort you, memories wrapped in their aroma, recreate magic however far you live from your place of birth. Steamed rice dumplings have always done that to me, for as long as I can remember, it is called “Idli” from where I come from, a staple South Indian breakfast, a versatile dish and a healthy one at that, has had many avatars of it’s own, paired with different spicy combo’s is something you will never forget once you taste it.

Today, being Matin Luther King Day, it was a holiday, had time on my hands and in a mood for some culinary adventure.My thoughts flew back to the time, I first tasted ,’Nei Idli’s’.’Nei’/Ghee is clarified butter and Idli’s are steamed rice dumplings in the South Indian language of Tamil.It was in a small restaurant near the University hospital in Vellore, a city in the north eastern part of the state of Tamil Nadu. I remember  the distinct taste of ghee coating every lentil in the sambar ( a lentil based  vegetable curry, another staple in every South Indian home) and being immensely happy after tasting it, that I went to the same place each morning during my stay there in the city. It was served in a little bowl, with hot piping sambar and these happy Mini Idli’s swimming gleefully on it, that it is impossible to resist.The ghee is the icing on the cake, like I said, it makes your heart smile.

This cold and rainy day, I was determined to recreate that magic in my kitchen, I pulled out the mini Idli pan which has been safely packed in the pantry …..


I already had the Idli batter…..


I quickly made some yummy sambar to go with it & Voila! before I knew it, the ‘Nei Idli’ was sitting in my dining table all dressed & ready to go. The weather outside was soon forgotten, each soup spoonful of Nei Idli was just what we needed  on this day, comfort foods  always taste like that, they wrap your taste buds and your frail nerves with the tenderest of heart strings and you are no more the same.Even our pet demanded a second helping, need I say more ?

 For the Idli Batter :

Ingredients :

Idli Rice- 8 cups

Uradh Dhal – 2 cups

Methi/Fenugreek seeds- a pinch

Salt- to taste


Wash them separately ( the Methi /Fenugreek seeds is soaked along with the Idli Rice, to make soft fluffy Idli’s with a distinct flavor), and soak them overnight. Grind them separately and mix the batter together (with enough water, not to make it too runny but to be able to contain it within the confines of the Idli pan). Set the mixed batter aside,  add salt for taste and sit it for another 8 hours, for the batter to ferment and rise up enough to make fluffy Idli’s next morning. ( You can have a whole lot of Idli’s for a week or more with the above ingredients, twice a day if you must, remember each Idli pan comes with 20 holes in them to pour Idli’s in, the Mini Idli pan has even more since they are much smaller !). Pour the batter in the Idli pan after greasing the pan with cooking spray, steam it for 20 minutes and serve hot on removing it from the pan.Mini Idli’s need a little more patience in pouring it into those multiple mini holes on the pan plate, but all for a yummy result at the end.

Sambar (  Vegetable  based Lentil  curry to go with the Idli’s)

Ingredients :

Onion- 1 big (finely chopped) or 8-10 shallots(Shallots taste better in this curry )

Tomatoes- 2 (cubed)

Vegetables – (frozen or fresh) – 2 cups ( any vegetable will work or mixed vegetables too!)

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Sambar powder (home made or store bought) – 2 tbsp ( if you like it spicier)

Tamarind extract- 1 tsp

Salt – to taste

Lentils/Thuvar Dhal – 1 cup ( washed and pressure cooked with enough water to soften into a pasty consistency)

Cilantro/ Coriander leaves- to garnish

Oil- 2-3 tbsp

Seasoning – mustard seeds, Channa dhal & Uradh dhal ( a tea spoonful), a sprig of Curry leaves, a pinch of Hing/Asaefoetida



1. Heat oil in a thick bottomed vessel ,add the seasoning to it. To this add the onions and gentle saute till they become translucent. Now add the turmeric powder & stir some more.

2. Add the cubed tomatoes to the above & stir till they soften.

3.Now add the cleaned and washed vegetables and stir it for a few minutes.

4. To this add the  cooked Lentil/Thuvar Dhal curry and mix it well, after adding the tamarind extract to it.

5. Now add the sambar powder and salt to taste & stir well.

6.Allow it to cook for the next 10- 15 minutes with the lid covered.

7. Garnish with cilantro and a dollop of ghee.

8 Serve hot in a soup bowl with floating mini Idli’s on top of a base of lentil curry and ghee or ‘Nei’/clarified butter.


Your ‘Nei Idli’ is good to go, spreading happiness & comfort all the way ! Enjoy!


You can find more of my Idli recipes here:

1.Idly Upma :

2. Colorful Cocktail Idli’s :

3.Idli with Cauliflower Kootu :


Sakkarai Pongal /Sweet Pongal

“Pongal” is the name of the festival and also the name of the dish cooked on this day. “Ponga” means to overflow with abundance, so the wishes for this day & here on, is may all the good things in your life overflow in abundance, to signify this truth, Rice, the staple food of South Indian’s is cooked in earthen ware pots in the farm where it is cultivated, where man and cattle worship in reverence and gratitude to the elements of nature, the Sun God, the rains, the wind and everything in between that served the farmer in his land to grow a bountiful crop that year. The joy is shared by distributing the sweetened meal, signifying all the relationships between the farmers and their farm help, always stays sweet & pleasant.The cattle is fed first coz in the days of yore when the cattle was used to plough the fields, bounty started at the willingness of the cattle to move forward to help man. Love this festival for the joy it brings and for the simple reason that in front of the Almighty ,man and cattle and the elements of nature are all one, together we harvest a bounty!

Here is the recipe of the Sweet Pongal made especially on this day, from my blog posted a few years ago.Enjoy!


Sweet Pongal/Sakkarai Pongal


Venn Pongal


For those of us who like a touch of spice in our food, here is another version of Pongal, the spicy kind, goes so well on a cold winter day or a tropical rainy day.
This paired with fresh coconut chutney and piping hot sambar ( healthy lentil curry with a good dose of veggies ) is something you will remember forever, once you taste it, so go on choose how you want to celebrate Pongal today, you have both the sweet and the Spicy version posted here, from my blog post from a few years ago.

Happy Pongal /Harvest Festival of the South of India



While the land I grew up in is celebrating Pongal , the harvest festival in the South of India and offering prayers to the Sun God, I am finding new ways to scrape snow of my car wind shield, without getting frost bite. The contrast is what makes the memories sweeter.

Even if you have moved far away from the country you grew up in, you will FOREVER take a part of it with you, wherever you go.

Wishing each one of you, a very Happy Pongal, sharing my blog post from last year, for those of you who are interested in knowing the significance of the festival itself and what memories and joys it stirs in a cold cold land. Here it goes….


Winter Update….


A dense foggy morning…..img_6029

Poor visibility, temperature still in the high 20’s , so YAY!!!!img_6042

A golden sunset on a glazed and frozen lake. Mirror, mirror on the wall…..img_6137

A different kind of fog, with sunlight hiding somewhere there, you can feel it but you can’t see it……img_6212

Ice rain, sleet which looks innocent on the surface, extremely dangerous driving conditions…..img_6230

Wait  there’s more coming, snow , sleet, rain  and all, don’t go away, until next week…….

Happy New Year 2017


Starting the New Year 2017, with the blessings of Maha Ganapathi, fondly called Ganesha, the Elephant God, the remover of all obstacles ! May his grace be with each one of us throughout the year and each day of our lives.

The temple was crowded to say the least, rolling into the parking lot was a feat by itself,


……surprisingly it was a warm beautiful day for this time of the year, the snow has almost melted, the number of cars that moved in and out of the temple premises made me smile, FAITH is a beautiful thing when you believe in it. Irrespective of each one’s religious background, we are all the same, we BELIEVE in an Almighty, who watches over us and that means there is HOPE!


The cars slowly moved bumper to bumper to get the coveted parking spot closer to the temple, irrespective of the sunlight, the wind was still blowing cold. Oblivious of what was going on in the human mind which rushed from one reality to another, the cool Canadian geese were doing a “Walk like an Egyptian” number on the frozen lake, the sun rays slanted so beautifully on the frozen lake, while the geese seemed to be in no hurry to reach the shore, they were having fun.The message for this year in geese language, “Live life and remember to have fun while you are at it, however frozen the surface may look the sun rays will still get to them.Have faith in a higher power that will steer you safely to the shore !”


HAPPY NEW YEAR, dear readers. Thank you, for taking the time to visit my blog, share your thoughts and encouraging words. Together, we will win!