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Monday, November 27, 2006

Cranberry Pearl Onion Sambar

Cranberry Pearl Onion Sambar south indian vegetarian

Sambar, along with rice, is a dish I grew up eating pretty much at every meal about 90% of the time. I like the variety involved: add veggies in season, vary the spices a bit, omit the toor dal to make 'vatral kuzhambu' (aka vetha kozhambu), add coconut-coriander-seeds-dry-red-chilies paste to make 'araichu vitta sambar' and so on.

Sambar, in general, uses cooked toor dal, sambar powder and tamarind. As I ran out of toor dal at home, I used brown lentils and was quite happy with the results: it had the body and flavor of sambar, the heartiness of dal, tartness from the cranberries and a nice rich brown color from the brown lentils.

This recipe here is quite unconventional, so, probably my mom would not appreciate it as much :-)

1 cup fresh cranberries
6-8 pearl onions, peeled whole
1 cup chopped carrots (optional)
2 cups cooked brown lentils, coarsely mashed
2 Tbsp tamarind concentrate*
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder (optional)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3-4 Tbsp sambar powder** (either make at home, or use store-bought)
salt to taste
5 cups of water
coriander and curry leaves for garnish
2 Tbsp canola oil (or any oil)
tempering: 1 tsp each urad dal and mustard seeds
* tamarind concentrate that i use in my recipes is found in asian stores - sometimes sold as sour soup mix - here is a picture of what i use
** sambar powder spices (this is a slightly non-traditional mix)
1 cup coriander seeds
1 cup dry red chilies
1/2 cup chana dal
1/2 cup toor dal
1/8 cup fenugreek seeds
2 Tbsp whole black pepper
2 2" piece of chinese/indian cinnamon bark
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 cup curry leaves (optional)

  1. if making sambar powder at home, dry roast all the sambar powder ingredients, one at a time;combine them and grind them to a fine powder and set aside; can double the quantities and store the sambar powder in airtight containers, or even vary the proportion a bit to get a slightly different flavor - primary ingredients are coriander seeds and dry red chilies and the two dals, the rest is more to suit individual tastes; and from what my mom taught me: try to use (a) equal quantities of coriander seeds and dry red chilies; (b) equal quantities of the dals; BUT, ratio of (a):(b) is 2:1
  2. heat the oil in a cooking pot, add the tempering: urad dal first and when it starts turning light brown add the mustard; when mustard seeds splutter and die down add the pearl onions, carrots and asafoetida powder and sautee for a bit
  3. add the tamarind concentrate and water, a little salt, sambar powder, cover and let it cook over medium-low till onions are cooked, and it reduces a bit; sambar can be thick or thin - i prefer it thick and hearty; if making it thin, add more water and adjust spices so it doesn't feel dilute and bland
  4. add brown sugar, cranberries and cooked lentils; simmer on medium-low heat till flavors meld and cranberries are cooked but not mushy; adjust salt to taste
  5. off heat, garnish with coriander and curry leaves; alternately, the curry leaves can be added at the tempering stage itself to render it slightly crispy, and infused with sambar flavors
  6. serve warm with rice and sides such as snake gourd, snake beans and zuccini or even a simple potato dish.

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