"This is a journey of my life since I was all of 12 yrs when I started my hand in cooking to now with displays of my learning and creations of recipes from around the world. My inspiration and role model has always been my Mum who has always created dishes from around the world and excellently well. I do not believe I would ever match to her culinary skills. I remember the times she could cook and bake almost 4-5 dishes in one go without ever letting one go under cooked or burnt! I was born and raised in Dubai, UAE and recently moved to India for family reasons. Kitchenette just means that over the decades, my kitchen has changed from that of my mum's to my uncle and aunt's, to my home in UAE and now in India. Pala't'te, describes both global cuisines ('Palatte'-diverse flavours) and pleasing diverse 'Palates'."

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Brahmin Sambar (Lentil based vegetable chowder)

I can tell you that Sambar is one of the many dishes I refused to try until I knew that I could make it just right! There are a few such dishes I took time to cook not withholding Keralite Fish curry which I have made countless times now, avial, etc!

The best Sambar I have had thus far are three, my Mom's (as always), my hubby's Mom (I refuse to call her my MIL as she is one of the sweetest people I have been blessed with. In fact when I was getting married, I was warned by my Dad not to upset her ever! Apparently everyone in the families knew of her nature and my dad knows what a little tom-boy I could have been. I can tell you for certain I have never upset her till date although I have cried on her shoulders a couple of times. She is an excellent listener too! I feel sorry for those who crib about their mom in law! Anyways I better stop about talking her. I know a zillion women who would be jealous at knowing that such a MIL exists :)! I don't want any bad eyes to fall upon her :D!) The third is of a woman I don't want to rave about as she turned out to be a thief - she was our part-time maid and there is this tradition of a new mum having mostly vegetarian food right after having a baby esp. during the first 40 days. This lady used to make me some amazing Sambar after I had Izzy. If I could I would ask her how to make it in lieu of some of the money she stole but even if I knew her number she probably would not answer as she owes us a lot of money (not considering the cash she stole from both Dad and Mom).

This was a recipe I have tried on my own considering all three recipes plus some advice from my friends who come from a Brahmin household. Remember Sambar can have as many variations of vegetables. I have suggested ones that I have recently tried. You can opt out any vegetable with which you are not comfortable.

Sambar goes well with rice, idlis (steamed cake of rice) or dosas (Fermented crepe made from rice and ground pulses). I remember in Dubai we used to conveniently get  cut vegetables called Sambar mix vegetables either from Sunrise Supermarket or Lulu. No such luck here! :-(

You need:

  • 5-6 small onions, crushed with the back of your knife
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic, crushed and diced (Nos of cloves are optional but I like my sambhar to be accented with garlic flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds
  • Vegetables - carrots (2 nos), drumsticks(3-4 nos, each stick cut into 2" each), eggplants(4 nos small sized), ash gourd (400-500 gms), potatoes (2-3 nos), okra (300-400 gms), tomatoes (2 nos); chopped in medium bite size pieces
  • 1 cup Toor dal
  • 1 tbsp Chana dal (optional) [I sometimes add masoor dal or moong dal instead of chana dal]
  • 1 tbsp Sambar powder (My marital mom introduced me to Brahmins' Sambar powder. In case you do not have Sambar powder where you stay, you can attempt to make it. Recipe here or here)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • 2 pinches Asafeotida
  • Tamarind (1 gooseberry sized ball ), soak in hot water and strained
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tbsp Red Chili powder
  • 1 cup gated coconut (optional) [I would add coconut very rarely - not a practice at home]
  • Curry leaves, 1 sprig
  • Salt to taste

For the seasoning:

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • Curry leaves, 1 sprig
  • Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped finely
  • Oil

The Make
 Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes | Preparation time: 10 minutes | Serves 3-4 adults

1. In the pressure cooker, cook the washed/cleaned toor dal, add a pinch of turmeric powder and asafoetida.
2. In a large covered pot, cook the vegetables (except the okra and drumsticks) with the turmeric powder, salt and tamarind juice.
3. Meanwhile, in a small pan, add a drizzle of oil, the onions, half quantity of crushed garlic and sambar powder. Saute well taking care not to burn it. Next add in the okra and drumsticks and saute for about 2 minutes. Add this to the cooked vegetables.
4. Next in the same small pan, add another drizzle of oil. Toss in the curry leaves, chana dal, fenugreek seeds, red chili powder and coriander powder. Saute well. Then set aside to cool and grind it a paste. You can add the coconut (optional) at this stage and make it into a fine paste.
5. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the ground mix and pressure cooked dal to it.
6. Add some oil to the small pan, add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and remaining garlic. Saute for a minute on medium-low heat. Set aside.
7. Add salt to taste to the cooked vegetables and allow it to run to a boil.Once bubbles appear, add the seasoned oil from the small pan.
8. Garnish the Sambar with the coriander leaves and serve hot with rice of your choice or idlis/dosas.

*The pictures I have added are from two versions of Sambar I made. Variations are in terms of the dals used and the choice of vegetables.

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