Sambar

Sambar is a delicious richly flavored lentil and vegetable stew, native to South India. Many versions of sambar exist, and each one is just as delicious as the other one. The key for a flavorful sambar is a good sambar masala. Like there exists many versions of garam masala powder, similarly every South Indian household has their own version of the sambar masala. I have always only used the ready made MDH Sambar masala powder that is easily available in stores. But I really loved Padma’s Sambar and since then I have only been using her sambar masala to favor mine. I was so glad to discover the right sambar masala for me.

Idli served along with Sambar

Warm Sambar is a delicious accompaniment to South Indian classics like idli, wada, dosa, or just along with plain simple rice, etc. Today I have made Okra Sambar because I had only okra at hand, but the mixed vegetable sambar is the conventional and most delicious. The addition of a variety of vegetables add their own flavor to the spicy and aromatic sambar. Tamarind is the traditional souring ingredient used, but if unavailable you can use lemon juice.

Sambar – Spicy Lentil and Mixed Vegetables Stew
Adapted from here

Ingredients:

Toor dal – 1 cup
Tomato – 1, large, chopped
Green chillies – 4, chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Canola oil – 3 1/2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 3/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 3/4 tsp
Dry red chillies – 4, each broken into half
Curry leaves – 3 sprigs
Mixed Vegetables – 2 cups (chopped/cubed: brinjal, potato, taro root, bottle guard, radish, zucchini, okra, drumsticks, french beans, carrot, pumpkin, beetroot, etc; peeled & whole pearl onions/shallots; cauliflower or brocolli florets) (I used only okra – 340 gms) (also I did not have shallots so I used 1 large sliced onion instead)
Thick Tamarind pulp – 5 tbsp
Jaggery/gud – 1 tbsp, grated
Cilantro – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Salt – to taste
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Sambar masala:
2 tsps of bengal gram/chana dal
2 tsps of black gram/urad dal
2 tsps of cumin seeds/zeera
3 tsps of coriander seeds/dhaniya
½ tsp black peppercorns/kali mirch
½ tsp of fenugreek seeds/methi
4 dry red chillies/sukhi lal mirch
¾ cup dry desiccated coconut/khopra

Delicious Warm Sambar

Method:

1. In a non stick frying pan dry roast all the spices separately under the heading sambar masala until they are just a few shades darker. Transfer all the roasted spices to a spice grinder and add a little water and grind to a smooth paste. Keep aside. This is the sambar masala.
2. Wash toor dal in several changes of water. Soak it overnight or for 2-3 hours in surplus fresh cool water. Drain, and wash in several changes of water. Add the washed and soaked toor dal to a pressure cooker. Add 1/2 tbsp oil, chopped tomato, green chillies, turmeric powder and 3 cups of water. Close the lid and pressure cook until the dal is mushy. Using a whisk or a dal ghotni or an immersion blender, blend the dal into a paste. Keep aside.
3. In a large saucepan at medium high heat, add the remaining oil. As soon as it is warm, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When they begin to crackle add the curry leaves and dry red chillies. (If you do not have pearl onions or shallots in hand, add the sliced onions and sauté them until they are pink). Immediately add the prepared mixed vegetables and mix well. Add salt and red chilli powder. Lower the heat to medium and pour in two cups of water. Cover with a lid and let cook until the vegetables are tender crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the tamarind paste and grated jaggery. Now add the toor dal paste prepared earlier along with chopped cilantro and sambar masala. Mix well. Add water to give it a thin consistency. Half cover with a lid and allow it simmer for around 15 minutes more until the vegetables are soft and a good aroma fills your kitchen. Stir frequently and well, as the toor dal tend to sink to the bottom and stick. Serve warm along with plain rice, or dosa, or idli, or wada.

Luv,
Mona

Puran ke Laoz

Chana dal, or split bengal gram are an essential item among Pulses in Indian cooking. The other dals most commonly used by indians in their everyday cooking are Tuvar dal or yellow lentils, Masoor dal or Red lentils. These three pulses or dals are the basic source of protein intake in an Indian, chiefly vegetarian diet. Mostly savory dishes are prepared out of dals, but a few of the sweet dishes like the one I am writing today are my favorites.

Chana dal and a block of Jaggery/Gud

My Ammi prepares the following halwa a lot. It brings back many sweet memories from my childhood. It is a simple meetha, which everyone will enjoy, and it is healthy too. It has got chana dal which are rich in proteins, ghee which has got many health benefits and lots of nuts to add flavor and richness.

This meetha is quite subtly sweetish in taste. Once this meetha is done, it is spread out evenly on a flat greased dish and left to set until cool. It is then cut into diagonal pieces, hence called laoz. You can always add more sugar or khoa for flavor according to your preferences. The prepared chana dal or split bengal gram paste is called as ‘Puran’. It is also used as a stuffing for Parathas, just like Aloo Parathas, to prepare ‘Mitthi Roti’, and also as a filling in the ‘Halwa/Puran Puri’ which are the halwa stuffed deep fried pastries/puri which I will write about soon. Khoa and nuts are added to the Puran for that purpose.

Kadai

It is better to prepare this meetha in a non-stick heavy bottomed kadai or saucepan, so that it wont stick to the bottom and burn. A kadai is a deep Indian kitchen utensil. It is wok shaped, has thick walls, usually used to for deep frying purpose. Mine is a new addition to my kitchen utensils, recently gifted to me by my MIL.

Puran ke Laoz – Bengal gram Halva

Ingredients:

Chana Dal – 1 cup
Sugar – 75 grams
Jaggery – 40 grams
Powdered cardamom pods – 1/4 tsp
Khoa – 3 tbsp
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pistachio, almond, pine nut) – 1/8 cup
Slivered nuts – for garnish

Puran ke Laoz – Bengal gram Halva

Method:
-Soak the dal for about 3-6 hours in surplus cool water. Later, drain and wash the dal. Pressure cook the dal in fresh cool water, until it is soft. Let cook until there is little or no water left. Once cool, puree it to a fine paste in a blender.
-Grease a stainless steel thali or any swiss roll tin with a little oil/ghee. Keep aside.
-Put the paste into a non-stick Kadai at medium heat. Add the powdered cardamom powder, ghee, jaggery, sugar and khoa. Mix well and keep stirring continously and let it cook until it thickens, no longer sticks and leaves sides of the pan. It will take around 20 minutes (time depends on the amount of water in the paste). Once done, stir in the chopped nuts. This is the Puran. Put the puran on the greased thali or swiss roll tin and spread it evenly to a thickness of 1 cm or half inch. Flatten the surface using a flat spatula. Once a little bit cool, put it in the refrigerator for an hour to serve later.
You can store these meetha stacked in an air tight food storage box for upto a month.

Luv,
Mona

Imli Ki Chutney

Tangy Chutneys and sauces go very well with fried bhajiya’s and crisp pakodas (Indian snacks) in cold weather when it is raining outside. You can also use this pungent chutney along with Indian chaats.

Store this sweet, sour and hot chutney in air-tight glass jars in the refrigerator. Use in within a month.

Imli Ki Chutney – Tamarind Sauce source

Imli Ki Chutney – Tamarind Sauce

Ingredients:

Tamarind – 250 gms
Jaggery/Gud – 300 gms (you can also use sugar instead)
Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
Cumin seed/Zeera powder – 1 tsp
Black salt/Kala Namak – a pinch

Method:

1. Soak the tamarind in a small bowl with warm/hot water just enoughg to cover ir for 1 hour. Then extract a thick pulp from the tamarind by pressing it down a sieve to remove all the fibres.
2. Take a heavy bottom pan and cook the pulp. Add sugar and keep stirring till it becomes thick. Add spices and salt and cook it 3 mins more Remove from heat. Pour into sterlised bottle and store upto 1 month in a refrigerator.

Luv,
Mona