Heat 2 tablespoons oil or ghee in a pan on medium heat. Once hot, add 12 raw cashews and fry them until they turn golden in color. Then remove them from the pan onto a plate.
To the same pan now add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Let the mustard seeds pop and cumin seeds sizzle. Then add generous pinch of hing, chopped ginger and chopped green chili.
Sauté 30 seconds, then add chana dal. Sauté 30 to 40 seconds and then add the curry leaves. Stir and add 1 cup rava/sooji. Mix well so that all the spices are well combined with the rava.
Stirring continuously, roast the rava for 5 to 6 minutes until the raw smell goes away and it's well roasted. Be careful that the rava doesn't burn so stir constantly while doing so. You can skip this step of roasting if using pre-roasted rava.
Remove pan from heat and transfer the roasted rava to a large bowl. Let it cool down. Once it has cooled down, add the following: 1/2 teaspoon salt, grated carrots and chopped cilantro.
Then add plain yogurt and stir. Add around 1/2 cup water and whisk to make a smooth batter.
The consistency of the batter should be like idli batter, not super thick and not thin either. At this point, cover the bowl with a plate and let it rest for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, remove the plate. The rava would have absorbed the water and become quite thick. Add 3 to 5 tablespoons more water at this point to make a smooth batter. Meanwhile, add 2 to 3 cups in your steamer and put the water to boil. Also grease your idli plates with oil.
Add in 1 teaspoon eno (fruit salt). Mix well, you will notice the batter becomes light as soon as you add the eno. You have to steam the batter immediately after adding the eno, so have everything ready (greased idli plates, steamer ready to go) before you add eno.
Place 1 fried cashew in each compartment of the idli plates. Now, fill each of them with the prepared batter. Don't overfill too much as the batter expands during steaming.
Place the idli plates in the steamer. Cover and steam on high heat for 10 to 12 minutes. You will know the idlis are done when you insert a knife in one of the idlis and it comes out clean.
Remove plates from the steamer, let them sit for 5 minutes and then carefully remove from plates. I like to slide a silicone spatula or one of those cake spatulas underneath to take them put. Enjoy with sambar and chutney!
You can roast the rava in advance and keep it an airtight container. This way you don't have to do the step of roasting the rava with the seasonings. Just, add the roasted rava, mix with everything and remove in a bowl.
For busy morning, you can save time by making the entire mix beforehand and keep it in an airtight container. Roast the rava with the seasonings and spices and let it cool down. Then store in a glass container. When ready to use, just add the yogurt, water, let it rest then add eno and steam.
Roast the rava well and evenly and stir continuously while doing it so that the rava doesn't burn. Roast on medium heat.
Steam the batter immediately after adding Eno, if you want the idlis won't turn out soft and fluffy. For best results, the idlis have to be steamed immediately. So have the steamer ready to go and idli plates greased with oil before adding eno to the batter.
Don't try and remove the idlis from the plates immediately after steaming. Leave them for few minutes until they cool down a little and then remove carefully using a spatula. They break easily if you try to remove them when they are too hot.
Grease your idli plates well so that the idlis come out easily after they are steamed.