Thursday, July 23, 2009

A simple lunch

Lunch at home typically consists of sambar,rice and a vegetable side.In this picture you're looking at drumstick sambar and curried yam.Today I'm going to share the recipe for the sambar.Best of all you don't need sambar powder for this one.You can make your own in a pinch!

A simple lunch

Sambar is typically the main entree for most south Indian meals.It is a thick stew made with lentils,vegetables,coconut in some cases and spices such as chilli,turmeric,cumin,coriander and so on.The lentils are a rich source of protein and when eaten with rice gives you the benefit of a complete protein.Southerners in India are largely vegetarian.

You would typically find drumstick,brinjals,white pumpkin,radish and okra used as vegetables in a traditional sambar.That reminds me of a weird story I heard from my husband about a bachelor friend who makes his sambar with Brussels sprouts and broccoli!
That's as eclectic as bitter gourd lasagna to me.

What really brings out the authentic flavour of the sambar is the magical and fragrant curry leaf.It is a commonly grown plant with a hard woody stem and it's leaves are used widely in Indian cuisine.It also has various benefits.
Here's a picture of a fresh bunch of vibrant green curry leaves that I picked up from the market today.


Now everyone makes their own version of the sambar powder and you can even get some good store bought ones like MTR. This version really just uses some basic spices from your pantry and as the masalas/spices are fresh the sambar turns out real well. And no grinding as I don't use coconut in this version.



1/2 cup split red gram dal (toor dal)
2 cups vegetables cut into slightly large pieces(drumsticks,brinjals,okra,white pumpkin)
4 cups water
1/2 onion chopped fine


1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp methi powder
a pinch of hing/asafoetida
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 lime sized ball of tamarind soaked in hot water for 1/2 hr or nuke in the microwave for 30 secs
1 tomato cut into 8 pieces
10-12 curry leaves
2 tsp peanut oil


1)Pressure cook the dal with 2 cups of water with a pinch of turmeric and a few drops of oil. Let it cook for 1 whistle and then simmer and cook on low heat for 5 mins more.Let the pressure completely die down before you venture into opening the cooker lid.
2)Once the dal is cooked you can start with the tadka.In the meantime you can mix together your own sambar powder - mix the chilli,coriander,methi and turmeric powders.Keep aside.This is your sambar powder.
3)For the tadka or tempering - heat 2 tsp of oil in a heavy bottomed(giggle giggle) vessel.Add the mustard and cumin seeds.When they start to splutter add the fresh curry leaves and a tiny pinch of asafoetida.Roast till an aroma is given off.then add the finely chopped onion and saute until lightly golden brown and soft.
4)Add the cooked dal and then the vegetables of your choice. If you are using okra fry the okra for about 5 mins in a tsp of oil to prevent it from making the sambar slimy.Quickly stir in the spice mixture and add salt to taste.Add the remaining water to bring the sambar to a pouring consistency.
5)Bring the sambar to a boil for 5 mins or until the veggies are half cooked.At this point add the tomato and the tamarind pulp.Do not add these ingredients earlier as they would prevent the dal from breaking down and melding together with spices and veggies.
6)Cover and cook for 10 mins on a low flame. Check for salt and sourness.The dal should have completely cooked down and the veggies should be fork tender.
7)Serve with rice/idli or dosa. Oota is ready!

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