Mumma, will you please write down this recipe? So that when you're dead, I will still know how to make this?
A compliment, I think!
Perhaps it comes from all that talk about my Mom's nankatai, not knowing which recipe was the one she used and how the only way to figure it out was to try both and hope that one of them was it. Either that or it's the prolonged morbidity that has prevailed in our conversations lately!
So many bloggers start their blogs as a legacy of recipes and memories for their children. Others because they hit a wall looking for accurate pictures and descriptions of ingredients and homemade Indian food. Many others use it as a tool to share memories with family and friends far away. Me? I wish I had something even remotely as endearing. But no, I just wanted to figure out how Blogger worked. This was back in March of 2003, and food & family was the easiest topic to blog on. It didn't matter whether anyone would ever read what I had to say, I just needed to figure out what the hype was all about.
I've never really conformed and our life path after marriage certainly hasn't either. However, once there was a child in the picture, a lot of things changed because we didn't want our child to bear the brunt of our lifestyle. But she remains different as do her thought processes, shaped as she is by our attitudes and outlook. Sometimes, a tad too mature for a 9 year old. Other times, too naïve.
So when she asked me to write down the recipe, I wondered whether that could be the new meaning of my blog. And my inner core shuddered. But, like I said, when there is a child or there are children, one's perspective changes. I don't know that my entire blog or all the recipes, anecdotes and thoughts are for her - it's really for me and it's perfectly alright to be selfish on some fronts, I think - but this recipe is definitely for her. As is the backup of all my recipes. My blog, though, remains mine and a release for me and me alone.
- 2 tsp oil
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- pinch asafoetida
- 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 Thai green chilli or 2-3 finger hot pepper, sliced vertically into two
- 2 sprigs of kadipatta
- 1 red chilli, broken into 2 pieces (optional)
- small ball of tamarind fruit pulp, about the size of a dollar coin
- 1 can of Hunts organic diced tomatoes
- 1 cup tur dal (split pigeon peas)
- 3 cups water
- 3 heaped tsp MTR Sambar Masala
- salt to taste
- cilantro for garnish, optional
- Heat oil in the pan of your pressure cooker
- Add mustard seeds and when they pop, add a pinch of asafetida, followed by fenugreek seeds.
- Add green chillies and kadipatta. Be ready with a splatter screen if these are wet or damp.
- Add the turmeric powder and the red chilli, followed by the diced tomatoes. Add about 1 can of water, too. This way the can gets rinsed out, too!
- Add about 1/4 up to 1/3 cup water to the tamarind fruit pulp and heat it in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds. Mash the tamarind pulp till you have a thickish paste. Discard any fibers or seeds. Add more water if needed.
- Wash the tur dal in a couple of changes of water and add it to the pressure cooker, followed by 3 cups of water, tamarind paste, MTR sambar powder and salt.
- Cook under pressure for at least 3 whistles. Sometimes I forget and let it go to 4 without any problems! Or cook for as long as it takes for tur dal to cook in your pressure cooker.
- Allow the pressure cooker to cool before you open it. Remember that it is still cooking in the built up pressure and you want to make the most of that. Plus it is wise to be safe.
- Stir well, adjust for salt and sambar powder, if required. If it is too thick for your liking, add more water and adjust the seasonings again.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice or idlis or dosa.
We love this sambar so much that we can be found sipping on it, rather like soup. It's quite perfect for this cold weather!
- If you aren't sure if 3 tsp of MTR's Sambar powder is the right amount for you, start with 2 tsp and once you have opened the pressure cooker, do a taste test to see if you need more. I used only 2 teaspoons until recently as Medha could not handle the spice.
- I have used a lot of sambar powders, and made my own, too. But for a quick sambar, I think MTR wins in taste and flavor. MTR spice mixes can be found in any Indian grocery store. Remember that you want the Sambar Powder and not the Instant Sambar Mix. Avoid the latter!
If you don't yet have a pressure cooker, I would exhort you to consider buying one as a Christmas gift for yourself. Think about it: it takes 20 minutes to cook something that would otherwise take at least an hour, if not more. It's taken me almost 2 hours to cook 2 cups of dal in a stockpot in Boulder, which is over a mile high in altitude. So much fuel and time wasted, not to mention the added frustration. You can cook directly in the pressure cooker or you can get inserts or containers that fit in the pressure to place different items. Target and Kohl's have pressure cookers in their cookware aisles or you could buy online from Amazon. I have only recently started cooking meat in the pressure cooker and it's so tender that I wonder what that mental block was all about! At least give it a thought!
Update: I am sending this to the lovely Linda, who is the host for JFI: Toor Dal.