Sambhar has become my new one pot meal for lazy suppers. When in doubt about what too cook for dinner, I simply scroll through the refrigerator and use all the leftover veggies to go into the lentils to cook up a super healthy and flavourful curry in about half an hour.
Actually I should do a blog post on this no brainer pot of meal. Next in line!
What is Sambhar/sambar? Sambhar is a typical South Indian lentil preparation where boiled and cooked lentils are mixed with sautéed vegetables of your choice in a special spice mix called Sambhar powder. Towards the end, tamarind paste is added which uplifts the curry to a whole new level altogether. It is then paired up with Idli, rice or vada and chutneys for the meals. This platter is not only well balanced and nutritious, it’s very comforting for the mind and body.
There could be about hundreds of ways you could make a humble Sambhar at home. Some people add coconut, some even jaggery. When it comes to feeding my own self, I have no specific recipe and just go by my instincts and taste buds. Also, I keep no track of vegetables I use in sambhar. I simply gather everything I find begging in the fridge to be used up. And any lentil which I haven’t had for a few days.
But when it comes to serving others, I go specific with the taste and variety. So a few days back, for our lunch, I prepared this very flavourful Sambhar which is called Vengaya sambhar. Pearl onions or shallots used to make this sambar, are the smaller, pink variety which carry a distinctive taste of their own and hence bring a lot of flavour and benefits to the curry. I make this quite often, usually with other vegetables as well. But this is how it’s traditionally made.
If you haven’t tried this version of Sambhar yet, take my advice and do it as soon as possible. I promise, you would love it!
What you need?
For cooking daal
- ½ cup Toor/arhar daal (Pigeon peas lentil)
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- 2 cups of water
- About 8-10 pearl onions/shallots/chhota pyaz
- 1 small carrot, diced (optional)
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped roughly
- ½ tsp tamarind paste (**See notes if you are using whole tamarind)
Spices and rest:
- 1 tbsp Sambar powder
- 3-4 dry red chilies
- ½ tsp Mustard seeds (rai)
- 5-7 cury leaves (kadi patta)
- 1 tbsp Oil (I used coconut oil)
- 1 tsp Salt or to taste
How to make?
Cook the lentils: Rinse and soak Toor dal for half an hour. Drain the water and cook the dal in a pressure cooker along with ¼ tsp turmeric powder. Stir and pressure cook the lentils for 2 to 4 whistles or till they are cooked completely. Once cooked, mash the lentils using the back of your spatula or ladle.
In the meanwhile: Peel and cut the pearl onions into halves. Keep the chopped tomatoes ready.
Cooking: Heat oil in a wide pan or wok, and throw in the mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add dry red chilies and fry for about 10-15 seconds.
Add in the halved shallots and curry leaves. Sauté till the onions turn translucent, about 7-10 minutes at medium gas. Add in tomatoes, salt and sambhar powder, mix well and let it cook covered for about 4-5 minutes till the tomatoes turn ma bit mushy.
Add about 1 cup of water along with the carrots and tamarind paste, stir and bring this mix to a boil. Let it simmer for a few minutes till the raw smell of tamarind (if any) fades away.
Next, add the cooked and mashed dal. Mix and adjust the water as per your preference. Simmer for a few minutes and turn off
You may garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with Idli, plain rice or vada. Or just gobble on its own as I do.
If you don’t have readymade tamarind paste– Soak ½ tbsp tamarind in about ½ cup of hot water for half an hour. Then drain, squeeze and extract the pulp from the mix and keep aside for using in the Sambhar.
I have seen some recipes advice to soak the pearl onions for a few minutes before frying. I haven’t tried that myself and I am not sure if it brings any difference to the curry or flavours.
Using carrots is optional. I only add them to squeeze in more health benefits from one curry. It does take good in the Sambar though
You may use Yellow mung dal instead of Toor dal, that also tastes very good
If you don’t have pearl onions or shallots with you, use any regular variety of onions for this Vengaya sambhar. Try and find the pink variety though to get closer to the taste.
If you like lentils with vegetables, try these healthy and yummy recipes:
Beetroot Sambhar – Super healthy version of Sambhar
Chana dal with turnips (shalgam) – Very flavourful lentil curry
Chana dal with Paalak– A Maharashtrian version of the combination
Toor daal with spinach– Another everyday easy lentil preparation
Lauki chane ki daal– Bengal gram cooked w/ bottle guard (opo squash)