Saturday, April 4, 2015

DIY Sambar Podi (Powder)

Sambar, for those unfamiliar with the term is a South Indian dish made with vegetables and lentils, flavored with tamarind extract and spice powders. It is one of the most popular dishes served as an accompaniment for rice, dosa, idly, and more. Special occasions like weddings and birthdays are quite incomplete without this delicacy. But the thing about sambar is that almost every household has their own recipe for it. Some use a powder, some don’t, some use coconut while some swear against it…you get the drift, right?  

I used to rely on a store bought powder too until a few years ago, when our former neighbor in Chennai offered to make some for us. Aunty came over and demonstrated the process and I jotted down the approximate measurements and steps. She made enough to last me for quite a long time, so I did not bother to try making my own. Finally, when the stocks started dwindling, I decided to give it a try…and the rest is sambar history.

Ingredients (to make about 1 cup)

1 tsp - Fenugreek seeds (methi)

3 tbsps - Split Bengal gram (chana dal

1 tbsp - Coriander seeds (dhania)

6-10 (depending on taste) - Dried red chilies, preferably the round variety


Heat a small pan, on medium heat, and add the fenugreek seeds. Toast until they turn slightly darker and start spluttering. Remove onto a plate.

Add the split Bengal gram to the same pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the dal turns a shade darker. Add to the plate.

Sauté the dhania for 2 minutes or until they become crunchy (try pressing them with a spatula and they should crack easily). Remove onto the plate.

Finally, add the red chilies and sauté for 2 minutes or until they give out an aroma.

Now you have all your ingredients roasted and ready to powder.

Allow them to cool a bit, place in a blender/mixie, and make a fine powder. Store in an airtight container to maintain the freshness. You can even put it in the refrigerator, if you will not be using it too often.

I don’t have exact measurements for the lentils/tamarind/and other ingredients that go into the sambar, but I’ll definitely add a sambar recipe soon. Until then, for those who already know how to use the podi, go ahead and try this one. I am sure you’ll not go back to store bought ones again. Bon Appètit.

Note: I have used long red chilies in this batch and they work fine too. You can always use lesser chilies in the powder and compensate by using chili powder when making the actual sambar.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Milagu-Kariveppilai Kuzhambu (Pepper-Curry Leaves Curry)

During our July 4th Weekend and Catching Up With Friends episode, Gomathi had brought this thick, delicious kuzhambu with strong flavors of pepper, curry leaves, and tamarind. We loved the curry and almost licked our plates clean. I have called it a curry for lack of a better word. It can be made slightly runny to be mixed with rice or made thick like a chutney.
When I tried it for the first time, my husband took one taste and asked, "Isn't this the kuzhambu Gomathi had made?" Yaay, I had got it right!" Here's the recipe for all of you to try.
2 tbsps - Urad dal
2 tbsps - Toor dal
1-2 tbsps - Whole peppercorns
2-3 Red chilis
1 cup (loosely packed) - Curry leave
1/4 cup + more to taste - Tamarind extract
1/2-3/4 cup - Water
2 tbsps - Gingelly oil
Salt to taste
For Seasoning
1 1/2 tsps - Mustard seeds
1 - Red chili
Soak the tamarind in hot water for about 10-15 minutes. Squeeze out the pulp and keep aside.
Dry roast the red chilis, dals, and pepper until the dals turn a shade darker and the pepper splutters a bit. Allow it to cool.
Grind together the roasted mixture, curry leaves, and salt to make a thick paste.
Heat the gingelly oil in a deep pan or vessel. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and the red chili and wait till the seeds stop spluttering.
Add the ground mixture and some water, reduce the heat, and allow it to simmer and thicken. Add more water if you want it to be in a semi-gravy consistency.
If not, allow the mixture to thicken more and remove from the heat. Serve hot with plain rice. You could have this as a side dish or mixed with hot rice and some gingelly oil or ghee. Either way, this flavorful kuzhambu will be a sure hit in your home. Bon Appètit.