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Tips Tips

In this page, i have shared some tips and techniques which i follow in my day to day cooking.I have compiled them based on my experience and from the tips i got from my mom, MIL and some magazines.Hope it will be useful for all the beginners in cooking :)

Tips for making soft idlis

Let me start with the most important idli recipe.Making a pillow soft,white colored idli is considered as the first achievement in cooking for a beginner. I too learnt my cooking starting with idli ;) So i wanted to share some important tips and the doubts u may get while grinding the batter.

Here are some of the tips and techniques i follow to make white,soft idlis with some FAQs.Hope it will be useful for beginners :).

Ingredients for the batter
  • Idli rice/Salem rice/Boiled rice - 3 cups
  • White round urad dal - 1/2 cup ( varies as per the quality of dal)
  • Methi seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Water & salt - as needed
Some of the frequently asked questions regarding idli batter
  1. Why idlis are not pure white in color?
First most important thing to get white colored idlis is to wash the rice very well before soaking in water.Wash it at least twice.Use ur hands,rinse it well.Use less methi seeds/Fenugreek seeds ie. use 1/2 to 1 tsp to the maximum.Normally my mom doesn’t add methi seeds for idli,dosa batter.My mom’s idli always look super white :)
If u use mixie for grinding the batter,make sure the machine is not hot else its heat will change the color of batter which may result in yellow idli.In those cases,use ice cold water to grind the batter or give some resting time for the machine in between u grind the batter.

2. What should be the ratio of idli rice & urad dal to get soft idlis ?

Most of the people follow 4:1 ratio of rice and dal.But the ratio purely depends on the quality of dal u use.If u use bad qualtiy dal,4:1 would do.Else u can use 6:1 ratio of rice and dal.Adding more quantity of good quality dal will make ur idli flat and small.Similarly,adding less dal yields hard idlis.So u have to choose the ratio by trail and error.

3.What is the soaking time for dal and rice ?

Generally rice has to soaked for minimum 2-3 hours.Dal should be soaked for 1 hour.If u use methi seeds,always soak it along with urad dal for minimum 1.5-2 hours because the quantity of methi seeds will double only if it soaks properly.It gives softness to idli.

4.How much water should be added while grinding ?

Adding enough water gives soft idli.Always Stand nearby the grinder while grinding the  urad dal and add water little by little.Do not add all the water in the beginning.Scrape the sides of the grinder using a spatula for first 10 minutes.Then sprinkle water for every 5 minutes till dal rises well.The urad dal batter should be fluffy and soft.The total time taken to grind the urad dal batter using a table top is 20-25 minutes.It may vary based on the quantity u use.

While grinding rice,add 1 cup of water in the beginning else grinder will stuck.When it runs,add 1/4 cup of water for every 5-10 minutes.Grind the batter smoothly.Total time taken to grind the rice is 25-30 minutes.

4. Tips for batter fermentation 

  • First recommended thing for batter fermentation is to mix the batter using ur hands..Mix the dal and rice batter thoroughly.. Uneven mixing causes failures. Mixing them by hand works the best!
  • A warm temperature is essential for fermentation. 25 to 28 °C (77 - 82.4 °F) will be ideal. If the weather is cold, keep some warm water in a large bowl and immerse the vessel containing the dough. To help maintain the temperature of the warm water bath, cover it with a blanket, or better, use a regulated heater, like a heating pad or aquarium heater. Even easier, turn on the light in the oven, and use that to keep the batter warm.
  • When u grind the batter , pre heat the oven in 90c for 10 minutes and switch off the oven.Now keep the batter covered inside the oven and turn the oven lights on.. It helps ..
  • Add 1/4 tsp of baking soda or baking powder to the ground batter and then ferment. It will help the batter to raise well in harsh cold conditions..
  • Allow at least 8 - 12 hours to ferment. If you don't see tiny bubbles the next morning, the dough will not rise and you have to start all over again.
  • If nothing works for u , try adding a fermentation starter like a spoonful of commercially prepared idli batter as they have live culture, it helps for fermentation..
  • Use chlorine-free water when grinding. Tap water will work, but will inhibit the fermentation a little. Most modern water filters remove both chlorine and chloramine.Use spring water, boiled or filtered tap water to avoid Chlorine/Fluorine.
  • Use non-iodized salt such as ‘Kosher salt’ .I always use crystal salt while grinding the rice.By this way,salt mixes with the rice uniformly.

5. Reasons for hard idli,how to avoid?

The most important reason for hard idlis is the due to insufficient amount of urad dal and inadequate water used for grinding.If u find ur idlis are hard,add more dal and use more water while grinding the batter. Add enough water while grinding itself.Even if u add water while mixing the batter,it won’t work.
The second reason might be,batter needs more fermentation.Sometimes if u make idlis in the morning,it may come out hard.With the same batter,if u make idlis for dinner,it will come out soft.If it happens so, give more time for fermentation.

6.General tips
 Use more dal based on trail and error.U can also use 1/4 cup of aval/Poha or leftover cooked rice for more softness.Skip methi seeds if u don't like that flavor.

Click on this link to see my detailed post with stepwise pictures on "How to make soft idli & crispy dosa batter"

Click on this link if u are interested to see varieties of idli recipes like brown rice idli,oats idli,barley idli etc

Idli batter can be used for making crispy dosas too by slightly diluting the batter.I'll make a detailed Notes for dosa soon :)
Thanks for visiting this page. Have a great day !


Tips to make chutneys

These are the tips i generally follow to make my chutneys easily & to look colorful.I hope these tips would be useful for beginners & bachelors.Experts,do share your tips in my comment section.It would be helpful for all of us.
How to slice coconut
  • During early or busy morning hours,the most noisy & irritating job is to grate coconut in large quantities for chutneys.U can buy grated coconut from the shops, freeze it in a zip lock bag & use them whenever needed.But some people don’t like the the taste of frozen coconut.Its the same in my house too.So what i do if i want to grind coconut without grating is, i slice  or chop the coconut using the back of a thick ladle.I remove it as thin,small slices for the mixer to grind easily.I don’t use knife as it is risky.So i use this ladle (shown in the picture ).This makes my job easier .But one thing, don’t follow this procedure everyday.Ur mixie jar blade may worn out/break soon.So try this option once in a while if u are in a hurry.
  • For some people,most of the time coconut chutney becomes watery & it separates from the chutney.To avoid this,first dry grind all the ingredients adding salt.U will get a wet coarse powder.Then add water little by little and grind it for more time.U will get a smooth thick chutney.( U can also use little milk to get white colored chutneys but its shelf life would be reduced)
  • During winter season,whenever u grind coconut for chutneys,u will find a layer of whitish oil separated from the chutney.Chutney won’t taste good.Use warm/Mild hot water to grind the chutney.The problem will be solved !!
1. Always use fresh grated coconut, little brown coating of shell skin is ok to use. More coconut less pottukadalai/Fried gram  is also a must for white chutneys.
2. Less water for Khatti (thick )chutney, add only if its necessary to run your mixie.
3. Indian mixer or small jars are a must.
4. Use small green chillies and always use less green chillies for white color chutney and increase the spiciness by tempering with more red chillies.
1. Ready made flakes or desiccated flakes or frozen grated coconut will work but don't expect taste and color. Mostly yuck, pale white color with oily look.In that case,follow the above tip i mentioned for winter season.
2. No microwaving for reheating, just thaw to bring back to room temperature. Reheating makes it release more oil and which results in stinky coconut smell.
3. Blender will not work for thick chutney and adding more water will make it thin but consistency will be still coarse.


  • To get  a bright red colored tomato or onion chutneys,use Byadgi red chilli variety (crushed ones) as shown in the above picture.I usually mix byadagi & spicy red chilli varieties to make my chutneys look colorful as well as spicy.Try this tip.It works great.If using chilli powder,use Aashirvad or MTR kashmiri chilli powder.It gives a nice color to gravies & chutneys.
  • Bright green chutneys are always appealing to our eyes.To get a bright green colored chutneys,follow this tip.Saute coriander leaves or mint leaves in little oil  for few seconds before grinding.Add a pinch of sugar while sauting & add a pinch of turmeric powder while grinding.If u don’t want to saute,just add a pinch of turmeric powder & sugar while grinding the chutney.It comes out in super green color.

Tips for making Sambar

For making Idli/Rice sambar successfully, Dal should be cooked well and mushy. I will share some tips to cook dal perfectly.

  • For 2 persons, 1/3 to 1/2 cup of toor dal is enough to make sambar. Pressure cook 1/3 cup of toor dal adding 2 cups of water. Along with dal , add 1/8 tsp of turmeric powder, a pinch of hing, few torn curry leaves and a few drops of cooking oil or ghee. Pressure cook in very low flame for one whistle. After the steam is released, open the lid and mash the dal very well. 
  • Dal won't cook musy if you add tamarind or chopped tomatoes along with it.So its better to add tamarind extract only after mashing the dal. If you want to add tomato along with dal, its good to add as a whole tomato(Do not chop).After the dal is cooked well, you can mash tomato & dal together.
  • Along with dal, you can cook vegetables like Potato, carrot, Radish, Knol khol, broad beans, onion, cluster beans, bitter gourd. But add them as big chunks so that it won't become mushy after its cooked. ( If you wish to pressure cook drumstick, brinjal, raw mango along with dal, keep the vegetables in a separate box inside the cooker and do not add water to the vegetables.They will be well cooked using the steam inside the cooker)
  • If making sambar with cluster beans, knol khol, radish and bitter gourd, saute them in oil before pressure cooking. Sambar gets a nice aroma.
  • For Idli sambar, add few pieces of drumstick and few pieces of  pumpkin to get the flavor & taste similar to restaurants.
  • For 1/2 cup of dal, you can use a big gooseberry sized tamarind. Soak them in warm water for 10 minutes and take the extract using 1 cup of water. 
  • While tempering for sambar, add 1/8 tsp of methi seeds along with mustard seeds. When it turns golden brown, add onions and other ingredients. Tempering methi seeds gives a nice flavor to the sambar.
  • When the tamarind extract + sambar powder boils, add few curry leaves,2 pinches of hing and a tsp of ghee to get a nice flavor.
  • Add a pinch of sugar or a small piece of jaggery when the tamarind extract boils.Do not add it if you use pumpkin or carrot in sambar as they give sweetness to the sambar.
  • When salt goes excess in sambar, add a boiled,cubed potato and dilute a tsp of besan flour in 1/2 cup of water.Add it to sambar,give a boil. Salt would be reduced.
  • After cooking sambar, garnish it with coriander leaves and transfer to a vessel. Add 2 tsp of ghee and close the vessel with a lid.Give a standing time of 15 minutes. Sambar gives an awesome aroma while serving.
  • While making idli sambar, saute 1 tsp of sambar powder after seasoning mustard seeds,cumin seeds and add to sambar at the end.Give one boil and switch off the flame.It will give a nice flavor.
  • If you don't have sambar powder, add 1:2 ratio of red chilli powder & dhania powder.
  • When you make sambar with radish, use less tamarind.
Click here to see my homemade sambar powder ( 2 versions)

Tips for making Vathakuzhambu

  • For vathakuzhambu, small lemon sized tamarind is enough to make kuzhambu for 2-3 persons.
  • Soak it in warm water and take the extract using 2 cups of water. Add 1 tbsp ( 3 tsp) of sambar powder and salt.Mix well and check for taste. If the tanginess, spiciness and salt is balanced well, your kuzhambu will turn out very tasty. Add more sambar powder or salt based on the taste. If the vathakuzhambu tastes too spicy, soak little tamarind in water and add the extract. It would become right.
  • Always fry the sundakkai/Dried turkey berry in oil as the first step.Remove in a plate and then start seasoning other ingredients like mustard, methi seeds, cumin, urad dal, toor dal etc.If you fry sundakkai along with other ingredients, sundakkai won't fry properly and other ingredients may burn. 
  • Add the roasted sundakkai at the end if you like to have them crunchy while eating. If you like to have soft,soggy sundakkai, add the roasted sundakkai while the tamarind extract boils.
  • For hotel style vathakuzhambu, saute one tomato and few small onions along with half of seasoning ingredients and grind them to a paste.Add this paste along with tamarind extract.
  • If you use manathakkali vathal, roast them in oil.When it is half fried, add the other seasoning ingredients along with it.
  • Use sesame oil/Gingely oil for seasoning vathakuzhambu.
  • While seasoning ingredients for vathakuzhambu, saute some finely chopped onion, finely chopped garlic cloves and finely chopped curry leaves. It gives a nice aroma. Apart from this, you can add whole onions & garlic cloves too.
  • After making vathakuzhambu, add 2 tsp of gingely oil/Nalla ennai and cover the bowl. It will lend a nice aroma while serving.
  • If the vathakuzhambu looks too watery, mix 1/2 tsp of rice flour in 2 tbsp of water and add to the kuzhambu. Boil for a minute. Kuzhambu will thicken.

Tips for making Rasam

  • Using fresh homemade rasam powder gives the best taste for rasam.Check out my rasam post to know the recipe.
  • To make quick rasam, extract big gooseberry sized tamarind using a cup of water and add a crushed tomato, few curry leaves,salt,turmeric powder and pinch of hing & sugar. Boil well for few minutes. Grind 1 tsp of pepper corns, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1 red chilli & 3-4 garlic cloves to a coarse powder.Add this powder to rasam, give one boil and switch off the flame.Transfer the rasam to a vessel,garnish with coriander leaves and close the vessel with a lid to retain its aroma.
  • Never allow the rasam to over boil. Its taste will be spoiled. Switch off the flame when it becomes frothy.
  • Use fresh coriander leaves to garnish.Add the stem part too. It gives a great aroma to the rasam.
  • Temper rasam with ghee to get a nice flavor.

Tips for making North Indian Gravies for roti

  • Add equal quantities of oil + ghee while making gravies, It gives a nice aroma, taste and easily makes the oil float on top.
  • To make the gravy rich, soak 10 cashews or almonds in warm water for sometime, grind to a paste and add to the gravy. If you don't have fresh cream in hand, you can do this to compensate.
  • Add 1/2 tsp of sugar to get a mild sweet taste in gravies.
  • Use kashmiri chilli powder to get a bright red colored gravies.
  • Gravies can be made with a red tomato base or white base adding coconut or malai.
  • For making white based gravies, use milk or yogurt, fresh cream and cashew paste or poppy seeds paste.
  • If you don't have fresh cream in hand, add the skin of milk that settles on top after boiling the milk.
  • Add 1/2 tsp of crushed kasoori methi at the end to get restaurant touch,
  • Do not forget to add 1 -2 tbsp of fresh cream to make the gravy rich and delicious if you have in hand.
  • While making paneer based gravies, keep the paneer cubes immersed in warm water till use. This helps to keep the paneer soft. No need to deep fry them.
  • For South Indian kurma, grind grated coconut, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, garlic, poppy seeds or fried gram dal and few dhania seeds to get hotel style kurma.

Tips for crack free kozhukattai

  1. Use good quality rice flour. If u r planning to make by grinding rice, buy raw rice ( in tamil nadu we call as “maavu arisi) ie. the rice used for making rice flour..Its of different quality , not the one we use for pongal.It is cheaper in cost too..
  2. For store bought idiyappam flour,we need water upto 1.5 cups. If u use Anil kozhukattai maavu , use 1 tbsp water less than the above quantity. For home made processed rice flour , water quantity may vary from 1.25 –1.5  cups.
  3. Always add the required water while making the dough.If the dough becomes sticky or dry , u’ll get cracks. Keep the unused dough covered with a wet cloth or a lid while u make modakam.
  4. Its always better to prepare the outer covering after making pooranams/ stuffings to prevent the dough sitting for long time.
  5. U can also add a ladle of milk along with water while making dough.It helps to prevent cracks.
  6. U can refrigerate the unused dough be keeping in an air tight box & use the next day or the same evening.
  7. Pooranam can be prepared the previous day and refrigerated. If u feel there is excess water in dal pooranam,add little gram flour to thicken it.For ellu pooranam,add little rice flour.
  8. Apply sesame/gingely oil in ur hands every time when u make the shape.
  9. Always place the idli plate arranged with kozhukattai after the water in the idli pot starts roll boiling.. This helps for quick cooking & also the kozhukattai remains white in color and crack free..
  10. Last but not the least , do not cook the kozhukattai in idli pot for long time which may lead to cracks.( maximum of 7-10 mins is enough)
  11. U can identify the cooked kozhukattai by its shining look..Always remove the kozhukattai after it becomes warm.Do not remove when it is hot. Kozhukattai may break.
   Thanks for visiting this page. Hope u find this page useful.Wish u all a very happy Ganesh chaturthi celebration !


Tips to make perfect seedai without bursting 

Most of us are afraid of making seedai just because it bursts. But when u follow these tips properly,seedai never burst & it comes out super crunchy and tasty.Here are some of the tips i learnt from my mom & MIL to avoid bursting and to make a perfect sweet seedai & salt seedai recipes.Happy Krishna jayanthi :)
  • U must roast the wet flour for few minutes in low flame if u are using homemade processed rice flour.
  • First important thing to avoid bursting is to “SIEVE” the flour once or twice. U should sieve all the flour ( urad dal flour, rice flour). Sieving the flour properly reduces 90% of bursting.
  • Secondly u should not roll the seedai very tightly. U should roll it to a loose ball using three fingers.No problem if its not a proper round..
  • One more tip is to prick the seedai with a small needle to avoid bursting..Dry the seedai in a paper or towel for 20 mins before frying.This is also very important.
  • Beginners can try deep frying few seedai in “small tempering kadai” .If it comes out well , proceed in a big kadai.Color variations may be there slightly. But u can check whether it bursts or disperses in oil..
  • If sweet seedai breaks or dissolves in oil , it means jaggery may be more or oil temperature is too high or too low.
  • If Seedai bubbles too much after u drop into oil ,it shows the fat ( ghee or butter or oil) content is more..So add more rice flour to the dough & make again..
  • The color of seedai depends on the color of urad dal flour. If u roast the dal to golden brown ,seedai will also turn brown.
  • Uniform heating is also important. In my observation , i feel low to medium flame is enough to get a nice colored and crispy seedais.

Check out these links for my sweet seedai & uppu seedai recipes :

For other Gokulashtami recipes like appam,thattai,murukku :


Sham Hinduja said...

Can you please tell me how to improve Idlis and Dosas, using ready made batter available everywhere nowadays ?

Chitra said...

I haven't used readymade idli,dosa batter.But my friends who use them usually says they just follow the instructions given the packet and they add very little water,dilute the batter slightly,add salt and then make idlis.Can u please tell me in what way u want to improve?did u mean softness ?