Thursday, 20 October 2011

Sambhar - Lentil Curry with Vegetables

Sambhar or sambar is a lentil- based based vegetable curry dish popular in the Southern states of India such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

I don’t think what I’ve come up with here is particularly authentic in all honesty (for a start I didn’t use sambhar powder but instead a curry powder labelled “Kinot” in the cupboard - I’ve no idea what’s actually in it!) but what I made does contain what I believe are the sambhar staples of pulse, veg and subtle sourness, courtesy of the tamarind. You could of course use whatever vegetables you fancy, or even better need whatever's in the fridge that needs using up. Of course I opted for my current favourite go-to veg: cauliflower and mooli.

Toasted, ground-to-a-paste coconut can also be added as a variation.

You could serve this with idli or dosa (both sorts of pancakes) to up the authenticity or, as I did, with plain steamed rice.

Sambhar - Lentil Curry with vegetables
Serves 2

1 tsp tamarind concentrate
100g red lentils
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 teaspoons rapeseed oil
salt to taste
5 small dry red chilies (or to taste - I used Piquin which are quite hot & nutty with a hint of citrus)
8 curry leaves
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp asafoetida
¼ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tomatoes, cut into eighths then the eigths in half
1-2 tbsp curry powder (or buy / make sambhar powder)
½ head cauliflower cut into smallish florets
100g mooli, peeled and sliced
small handful coriander leaves, chopped

In a large heavy based saucepan bring the lentils and three times their volume of water to the boil with the turmeric and 1 tsp of oil. You should probably wash the lentils but to be honest if you’re using supermarket bought lentils I don’t see there’s a huge reason to. Similarly as the lentils boil you should probably skim off the foam that forms but again, I don’t bother.

Boil the lentils for about 20 minutes - adding more water as necessary but not so much as it gets watery. My lentils pretty much broke down but you can mash them up a bit once soft if necessary.

In the meantime in a separate small frying pan over a medium heat, add the other 1 tsp of oil and when that is hot add the chilies, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek and curry leaves. Sauté for 2 minutes before adding the chopped onion & garlic. Saute for a further 5 minutes or so until the onion is lightly browned.

Add the tamarind concentrate with a tablespoon or so of water to mix and let simmer for a minute or two.

Add the contents of the frying pan to the lentils with the asafoetida, tomato, vegetables, curry powder, and a little salt. Allow this to simmer until the veg are tender, somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes.

Serve, with rice, idli or dosa and a little chopped coriander sprinkled over.

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