Although I mostly make chutneys and sambhar to go with idli or dosai, as with every South Indian household, I store this idli milagai podi also. It comes handy whenever I am saving the coconut or onions for something else. Also helps when you want to pack the tiffin box, quickly on days that you lazed just about a few minutes longer in the morning.
Usually, my mother gets such items ready for me to carry. Considering that I cannot hope to get the same quality stuff as I might in "Cheenan kadai" (our long serving grocer in Namakkal, though they have developed and expanded to a grand super market/ departmental store, to my parents the name holds), amma sees to that she packs us home made stuff. This has been her routine, even when I lived in other countries. Off late, she adds to the list what my daughter might carry with her.
During this recent visit though I did not carry such powders. I had in my pantry, dry red chillis stocked in plenty. So, I had powdered my own podi this morning. (and am sneezing heavily as I type this post out.) (there is more roasting and pounding happening, later today.)
Idli/ dosai milagai podi is a blend of chillis, lentils, salt and powdered sesame seeds that is consumed as an accompaniment with idlis and dosais. The powder is usually mixed with some gingely oil and had with the above. When idlis are packed for picnics or travel, they are smothered heavily with the podi + oil mix, thus the flavours blend in the dish itself.
The list of ingredients is short and the procedure very simple.(...only the bout of sneezing and tingling sensation in your nose lasts for a few hours.)
(All measures are with 200 ml cup)
Yield 2 &1/2 cups (625ml)
Dry red chillis 1 and 1/2 cup (300 ml)
Castor oil 3 drops
Split Bengal gram / Channa dhal 3/8ths cup (75 ml)
Split black gram / Urad dhal 3/8ths cup (75 ml)
White sesame seeds 1/8th cup (25 ml)
Asafoetida powder 1/4th teaspoon
Salt to taste (Around 2 heaped teaspoons sea salt crystals will be sufficient. Adjustable as per the heat of the chillis)
Method of preparation:
Rub the castor oil over the red chillis to coat very lightly.
Heat a pan and on very slow fire roast the chillis until they puff, without burning.
Transfer to a flat plate and allow to cool.
In the same pan, dry roast separately the dhals until they are warm to touch and golden.
Keep aside in a different bowl or plate.
Drop the salt in the pan and heat it a bit. When it is warm add the asafoetida powder and toss for a few seconds.
Transfer these to the plate with the chillis.
Finally roast the sesame seeds in the same pan until they pop. This may happen quickly as the pan is already hot. Switch the fire off and keep the sesame seeds in the pan.
Transfer the chillis, salt and asafoetida to the jar of the spice blender.
Pulse until the chillis have been coarsely powdered.
Add to this the dhals. Pulse further until the dhals have been pounded.
Add the warm sesame seeds and pulse intermittently for a few minutes. Do not over run the mixer after adding the sesame seeds.
Transfer the blended powder to a dish and allow to cool.
The ellu milagai podi is ready for use.
Once cool, transfer to an airtight container and store.
If you have plenty of sunshine where you live or when making in larger quantities, the chillis and dhals can be sun dried until very warm to touch and pounded.
Adding few drops of castor oil aids shelf life. Also helps to tone down the heat of the chillis while roasting.
This powder keeps well for a few months. However, the spice level drops as days go by and having added sesame seeds, it is advisable not to keep long.
Enjoy the powder with soft idlis or crisp dosais.