Lentils and vegetable curry / Sambar a delectable combination of aromatic spices, nutty dry lentils and coconut, the tartness of tamarind and heat of red chillies.
My way of introducing you to the very traditional rustic easy curry made a million different ways in South Indian homes. Now you are free to concoct something mish-mash called curry from the internet or learn exact nuances of how this curry is made authentically and the exact name. Lentils and vegetable curry is called Sambar (Tenga archa sambar) which translates to sambar with ground coconut. It is something I grew up having often with rice and other vegetarian side dishes . The aroma of roasting the spices makes me so nostalgic even today.
I have a whole section dedicated to my regional recipes - HERE in case you haven't noticed already.
Perfect homemade coconut ground sambar: (secrets)
(Again I say every home has slightly different recipe for lentils and vegetable curry )
- While simple precision is very important in this lentils and vegetable curry. Timing is also very important here.
- A simple recipe which needs patience while cooking on low heat.Again while dry roasting spices to get the aromas released without burning is key. Not boiling ground coconut in high heat is another important point to remember
OTHER DETAILS :
- Brinjal is slightly slimy vegetable when cooked and usually not used with okra/ ladiesfinger.
- Potato is sparingly added to avoid a starchy gloopy mess when split lentils are present.
- The curry thickens as it sits hence add water while cooking accordingly. The consistency is not runny yet pourable.
- The flavors develop as the curry sits hence make it in the morning if serving for lunch.
- Tamarind pulp without seeds is available in Indian stores use that instead of paste for authentic taste. Keep paste as your last choice. Tamarind dissolves better in hot water Make sure to leave it aside for 10 minutes. Mash it very well with your hands to extract the juice once the mixture is cool.
- Asafoetida is a very strong spice hence use it sparingly. Check in Indian stores for all these spices or online.
- Fenugreek seeds can turn the curry bitter so use very little only unlike other spices.
Vegetable substitutions :
- Use a combination of 3 or more vegetables depending on availability.
- Drumstick okra combination is very flavorful and very traditional in my region.
- Other options are :
- Drumsticks - frozen section always has precut really good ones. Simply use in the curry as the fresh.
- Winter melon or ash gourd (Kumbalanga) 6-8 pieces (1 inch size cubes)
- Carrot - 1 (Cut into thick pieces) - Adds slight sweetness to the curry
- Shallots/ pearl onion- 5-6 (no need to cut add whole)
- Brinjal -2 round type (purple or green) / eggplant -1
- Pumpkin- 6-8 pieces (2 inch size cubes)
- Potato - 1-2 (Remember it will make the curry starchy and thick)
RECIPE COURTESY : MRS. RAJANI UNNI
Lentil and vegetable curry
- 3 tsp Toor dal (Split pigeon peas)
- 1 tsp Chili powder (Use less hot variety as per preference)
- 1/3 tsp Turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp Tamarind pulp ( Paste could also be used reduce qty accordingly to 1 tsp or so )
Ingredients to dry roast and grind :-
- 1 tsp Coriander seeds
- 1 tsp Split dry chickpeas (Channa dal)
- 1/3 tsp Fenugreek seeds
- 2 Whole red chili (add more as per tolerance)
- 4-5 tbsp Freshly grated coconut
- 2 sprigs Curry leaves
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 Whole red chili
- 2 sprigs Curry leaves
- 2 pinches Asafoetida
- 4-5 sprigs Coriander leaves
- 2-3 Drums sticks
- 4-5 Okra
- 2 Tomatoes
- PREP WORK TO BE DONE :-Wash the toor dal (split pigeon peas) well then soak in warm water so it cooks faster.Soak the tamarind pulp in 1 cup of hot water so it dissolves fast into the water.(Check video for better understanding)Wash and cut the vegetables into large pieces.( veggie options given above). Cut both ends off of drumstick and okra.
- Pressure cook split pigeon peas (Toor dal ) until really soft say. Mash it well and keep aside. ( say 10 minutes in instant pot manual mode)
- Dry roast on low to medium heat in the following order- coriander seeds, split chick peas, fenugreek seeds, grated fresh coconut, whole red chili, curry leaves in the same order. Do not let the spices brown too much and the coconut change color.(Please refer video to see the doneness) The coconut releases strong aroma and becomes dry that's the stage we want.When this cool grind to paste adding 1/2 cup water.
- Heat a spoon of coconut oil and sauce the okra for few minutes until its slightly soft.
- Boil Tamarind juice and cook drumstick pieces when its half done add the rest of the faster cooking vegetables . Coriander stems too if u prefer. When that's almost cooked add chili powder , turmeric powder, salt add coconut ground paste(from step 3). Boil this for a few minutes.
- Add the cooked masked split pigeon peas(Toor dal). Adjust the heat and salt at this stage.Allow this to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the leaf part of the coriander leaves chopped towards the end.
- For seasoning : - Heat coconut oil add mustard seeds when it splutters add whole red chili asafoetida, curry leaves.(Work on medium heat and really fast else it will get burnt )
- Add the seasoning on top of the curry. Keep it almost covered so the seasoning aromas do not escape.
- Serve the lentil and vegetable curry top of rice drizzled with a few drops of ghee and other vegetable stir fries as desired.
- This is a simple recipe which needs patience while cooking.
- The correct dry roasting ensures the flavor of the curry.
- The curry thickens as it sits hence add water while cooking accordingly.
- The flavors develop as the curry sits hence make in the morning if serving for lunch.
- Tamarind pulp without seeds is available in Indian stores use that instead of paste for authentic taste.
- Asafoetida is a very strong spice hence use it sparingly.
- Fenugreek can turn the curry bitter so use very little only.
Hope you will give this lentil and vegetable curry a try and let me know.