Here, on The Aspiring Home Cook, I love to make things from scratch. I have tried a made from scratch version of Sambhar too, and it was okay, but didn’t turn out like my Mother’s did. So for this one, I’m following her recipe and since she’s uses a store bought blend called a Sambhar Masala, I did just that. This Sambhar Masala is a delicately balanced blend of spices and gives a beautifully complex depth of flavor to the dish. Now, I always have a box of this masala in the pantry. I’ve used a couple of brands in the past like Everest and MDH, both of which you should be able to find at your local Indian grocery store, and they are both good. This time around, I’ve used the Everest Sambhar Masala.
Moving on to the vegetables. I use a mix of all sorts of veggies. This time around, I used some sweet potato, carrots, eggplants (I grew these ones in my own backyard, so I’m thrilled about them), okra / lady fingers and drumsticks. You can also use bottle gourd (white pumpkin), pumpkin and potato if you like. Use what you have on hand. Typically a sambhar always has drumsticks, eggplant and some bottle gourd. For those of you who aren’t familiar with drumsticks, its the fruit of the moringa plant and supposed to be very good for you. They come in long canes ranging from 1 to 2 feet in length. They are chopped into smaller pieces, about 2 inches long and you don’t eat the outer hard skin. Your after the pulp on the inside and the seeds. It is eaten much like how you would scrape the icing from the inside of an oreo cookie with your teeth.
This sambhar can be served up with some plain, boiled rice and a side of papad (poppadums) and Indian pickles of your choice. This sambhar pairs very well with idlis or dosas. I also enjoy a bowl of this stew with some crusty bread.
If you want to see this being made, check out the video version of the recipe here –
1 cup toor dal (pigeon peas)
1/2 sweet potato
A handful of okra
2-3 small eggplants
A couple of drumsticks (A handful of frozen pieces)
8-10 curry leaves
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
3 dried Kashmiri chillies
1 tbsp Sambhar masala
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilly powder, or any mild red chilly powder
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Tamarind, the size of a small walnut
Cooking the lentils –
Wash through the toor dal with cold water and drain. Do this 2-3 times.
Cover the dal with fresh water till the dal is fully submerged and set aside to soak for about 10 minutes.
While the dal is soaking, chop up the vegetables you are using into similar sized cubes.
Drain the dal, and rinse through with fresh water and drain again. Pressure cook the dal with 2 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt. Cook till tender, almost mushy. It takes about 5 minutes in my WMF pressure cooker. Follow your manufacturers instructions to get you the best results. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply boil it in a pot with plenty of water till it is well cooked.
Once the pressure dies down, open the pressure cooker.
Cooking the vegetables –
While the dal is cooking, place the chopped vegetables in a large pot, top off with water from a recently boiled kettle and 1/2 tsp salt. Boil the veggies till they’re almost done. Don’t over cook the vegetables, because they will continue to cook in the sambhar. When the veggies are ready, drain them and set them aside. Reserve the water the vegetables were boiled in.
To make the sambhar –
Soak the tamarind in a small bowl with about 1/8 cup of warm water. Set aside till later.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in large pot on medium heat.
When the oil is hot, carefully tip in the mustard seeds. When they start to sputter, add the curry leaves and the Kashmiri chillies.
When they have warmed through and released their flavors and aromas into the oil, lower the heat and add the cooked lentils and the water it was cooked in. Stir through.
Now add the sambhar masala and red chilly powder and stir through.
Add 1/2 – 1 cup of the vegetable stock to loosen the lentil curry as needed. You can add as much or as little of the stock as you need, depending on the consistency you’d like the sambhar to be. Keep in mind, the sambhar tends to thicken a little as it cooks.
Bring this back to a boil and add the cooked vegetables.
Once everything has heated through, check for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.
Now, mash the tamarind with your fingers in the water it was soaking in to extract the pulp. Pass this through a sieve into the pot of sambhar. Add this tamarind extract to taste.
Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
Black Chana Fugad / Black Chana Sukkhe
Soak the dried chickpeas in water overnight (or about 8 hours). Make sure the water is about 2 inches over the chickpeas and use a large bowl because the chickpeas will expand in size.
Drain the water and rinse the chickpeas fresh water and drain again.
Place the chickpeas in the pressure cooker with the water level about 1 inch over the chickpeas. Add 1 tsp of salt and 2 whole dried red chillies (preferable Kashmiri chillies) and pressure cook till tender.
**Every pressure cooker is different so I can’t give you an accurate amount of time it will need to cook. I use a WMF pressure cooker and when the pressure builds to the gentle cooking pressure point, I turn it down to a simmer and leave it to cook for about 4 minutes. If you do not have a pressure cooker, just cook the chickpeas in ample amount of salted water till tender. Use your manufacturers instructions to gauge how long to pressure cook the chickpeas.
Release the pressure and after the pressure has completely died down, carefully open the cooker.
Drain the chickpeas and reserve about a cup of the stock.
To make the fugad –
Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat.
Add the mustard seeds and let them sputter.
Now add the curry leaves and crushed garlic cloves. (You just want the cloves bruised and popped open, you do not want to mince it or make a paste.)
Now add the onion and saute till soft and translucent.
Add the chilly, coriander, cumin, black pepper and turmeric powders and stir well.
Now add the chopped tomato and stir well. Cook this till the tomato has softened a little.
Add the drained chickpeas and stir well.
Add the tamarind paste gradually and to taste. (You may or may not need all of it, depending on the tartness of the tomato you have used.)
Add a couple of tablespoons of the stock and let it all cook down for a minute or so.
Check for salt and add more, if needed.
Add the grated coconut and stir well. If you want more gravy you could add a little more stock.
We usually have this dish on the dry side, so we let the stock cook down completely.
Once the coconut has cooked for a couple of minutes, take off the heat and serve hot.
This dish goes beautifully with chapatis or rotis.
Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you how to use these fritters to make another yummy snack.
South Indian fare is very popular street food in Bombay. Today, I’ve got a little twist on the the traditional fare, but I promise you it is good, so very good. Typically, South Indian snacks like dosas and idlis take a while to make. The batter is made with a base combination of rice and urad dal (black gram). The ingredients have to be soaked, ground and fermented etc. (not necessarily in that order). In time, I’m itching to try out the traditional method. This take, however, is a quicker, simpler version. Its almost an instant recipe. The idlis turn out really delicious and I made a quick coconut chutney that my mum always made to go along with dosas and idlis. My mum has this amazing lady for a neighbor. She is from South India and ever so often whenever she has time away from school, where she’s a full time teacher, assistant head mistress and I don’t know what else, she’d treat us to a huge portion of breakfast snacks like this that she’d make for her family. I miss those days. And honestly, she was the first person I thought about while I was eating these. I should try and coax her to give me her recipe for the traditional rava idli.
But back to the instant rava idlis, they make a quick healthy snack with rava (semolina) and it is steamed. What could be healthier? For me, this is like soul food.
1 cup rava or semolina
1 cup curd or plain unflavored yogurt
Salt to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup water (I used a almost half)
A pinch of soda bi-carbonate
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and make sure there are no lumps.
Let it stand for 20-30 minutes. During this time you can make the chutney (Recipe below).
Pour the batter into idli moulds and steam for about 10 minutes.
Open the steamer and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Then take the idlis out of the moulds. A small spatula or the blunt end of a knife should be just right incase you need to help the out of the moulds.
Enjoy them hot with some Coconut Chutney.
1/2-3/4 cup of freshly grated coconut
1-2 green chillies
Salt, to taste
A ball of tamarind, the size of a large marble, soaked in a little water
Blitz all the ingredients together in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning.
And thats it. In half an hour you can treat yourself to something yummy and wholesome.