Knitting and Kolmbo (sambar)

Professional Development Day or Teacher's Work Day tend to turn into daytime nightmares for me. And it seems like the school district knows this and revels in the fact and therefore keeps dishing them out for free every couple of weeks. There was one on Feb 17th and then before I knew it another one hit me squarely between the eyes this past Friday. When the child in question is grounded, it's pure hell. It means no-one can come over; worse still, she can't go anywhere either. So out come all the kids activities and this last Friday, the knitting wheel was pulled out. It might have been a breeze if the packaging had not been hastily ripped apart and discarded and the instructions for weaving a hat were not lost.

knitting wheel
My daughter got into weaving when she weaved potholders when we drove across the country a couple of times during our move from Chicagoland to Louisville, Colorado. Then she moved onto knitting tubular scarves using a small 4-peg wheel.
She did a pretty good job and her tension was quite consistent for one so young. This large knitting wheel, however, posed a problem. It's used to make hats and while I could start her on the project, I had no clue how to cast off stitches to taper the hat as it grew. I Googled for instructions but to no avail. Then I remembered that my friend frangipani is an avid knitter. But unfortunately, she's so skilled at crochet and knitting that she doesn't need the crutch of a knitting wheel.

pink scarf
I finally found a site that has some semblance of instructions on how to make a hat. But we're working overtime and through the weekend to beat a deadline that it looks like this will have to be the project for the next time that Boulder Valley School District decides to give the kids a break from school. I am hoping to get some of my own knitting done. Like this pink scarf I have been knitting for the last 5 years!

My husband returned from a long 4-week stay in India that seemed like an eternity and we welcomed him with the traditional welcome meal: idli-sambar. Except that this time, I thought I'd try a different type of sambar: Shilpa's Kolmbo, a Konkani sambar made with coconut. It was a great hit, even with my daughter who generally steers away from anything with coconut in it. I adapted the kolmbo to our tastes and, to the die-hard purists, it may not be the way Konkani folks make it but we loved it.


Spicy Konkani Sambar with coconut

  • 1 cup tur dal
  • 1/4 packet frozen grated coconut
  • 2 tsp chana dal**optional
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • pinch asafoetida
  • 7-8 fresh curry leaves or kadipatta
  • 1/2 roll of cinnamon
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 Kashmiri red chillies
  • 1/2 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 tsp tamarind concentrate**optional
  • 3 tsp oil
  • few sprigs of cilantro
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  1. Cook the tur dal in a pressure cooker. General rule of thumb is to add 3 times as much water as there is dal and pressure cook for at least 4 whistles (pressure releases).
  2. On a griddle or small frying pan, heat 1 tsp oil and fry the coconut, chana dal, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, methi seeds, asafoetida, half the kadipatta, cinnamon, cloves and the red chillies. Fry while constantly stirring over medium heat
  3. Allow this mixture to cool and grind in a blender to a fine paste using about 1/2 cup (or less) of water. For quick cooling, drop a couple of ice cubes onto the pan and use less water while grinding into a paste.
  4. Put the cooked tur dal in a pot, add the frozen veggies, tamarind concentrate and the masala paste from the previous step and salt to taste. Add water to make the kolmbo less thick. About 1 cup is adequate. Use more or less depending on how thick or watery you like your sambar. Cook over medium-high heat until the veggies are cooked.
  5. Just before serving the kolmbo, heat 1 tsp oil in a small fry pan or tadka/phodni pan and add mustard seeds. When they crackle and splutter, add the remaining kadipatta to the oil
  6. Add this tempered oil to the kolmbo, garnish with cilantro and serve hot with idlis or rice

kolmbo sambar
I served it with idlis. This is the second time I am making idlis here in Colorado and it just doesn't seem to be working. The first time I did exactly what I used to do in Chicagoland but the batter just did not ferment. I've made the most fluffy and spongy idlis in the middle of a Chicago winter without any problems. I was known for the idlis I made. But suddenly, none of the old tricks work anymore. Some of the factors that are probably coming into play could be the altitude (Louisville is about 5200ft above sea-level whereas Chicago is at sea-level) and the extremely dry weather here. But, persevere I will!


Prachi said...

I think it's a great contraption for kids. Simple, repetitive action and a beautiful product at the end! It also alerts me to what my mum was thinking when she got me hooked on to this hobby!

Accha, I found this site:
which has detailed photographs, which might help.

Also, the altitude problem is quite real in the Front Range. I was in Ft Collins for two years and had similar problems with idlis. I remember even baking instructions were different for 4500 ft plus.

Prachi said...

I took a closer look at your scarf and am curious: what is the pattern and yarn? It looks quite soft and cuddly.

Shilpa said...

Hi Manisha,
Thanks for posting this recipe. I am very happy to know my Kolambo is getting a lot of popularity.
BTW..I love knitting. But I donno much about it. I just started learning it by reading some books. Donno for how long it will go on, bcos once I start working again(as a s/w engineer) I will not have much time left with me for my hobbies.
Lokking forward to learn some great knitting & cooking from you.

Indian Food Rocks said...

Fran, that site is just what I was looking for. Thank you so much!! Once we've worked this loom and made at least a couple of things, I will move her onto knitting with two needles. Or perhaps crochet? I went first to knitting and therefore am not very good at crochet or at least that's what I like to believe. My sister, on the other hand, has crocheted scarves and ponchos flowing out of her home. She used to do 'tatting' and made all these beautiful doilies - I just never had the patience for that.

The scarf is quite painful. The yarn is baby yarn and is about 7 years old. There was no-one to knit my daughter a sweater just for her so I decided to make her one. It turned out to be quite beautiful and I still have it. It's in some suitcase somewhere and I have to dig it out. About 4 years ago, my daughter wanted a scarf that I made because some kid at day-care showed off a scarf that her mother or grandmother had knitted. I wanted to make my own pattern and came up with what is now the bane of my life. And I've also found out that it is not unique nor original. Oh well! It grows when we drive across the country or we visit India (my last visit was in 2003).

Think of 5x5 squares. Start off with a sequence of 5k, 5p. In the next row it becomes: 1p, 4k, 4p, 1k. The next row is: 2p, 3k, 3p, 2k and so on till you end up with 5p, 5k. Start over with 5k, 5p. Arrrrgh! I keep making mistakes and have to unravel every so often but my daughter's enthusiasm keeps me going, however slow I may be! Can you imagine the patience that this child has? She actually cheers me on! And yes, it is soft cos it is baby wool (is one allowed to say that? Wool instead of yarn? Reminds me of my trip to Joann Fabrics in Glens Falls in upstate NY to buy this very yarn that I am knitting with. I was new to the US, had a near-waking baby in a carrier sling around my neck and I needed to make my purchase quickly. The salesgirl sent me over to a corner that only had fabric. Wool means woolen fabric, I learnt and quickly filed that away in my Americanisms folder. I went back to her, made hand-motions for knitting and asked her for the 'thread' that is used in that process. "Oh! Yarn!" said she and led me to a whole section of the most beautiful yarn I had seen since we left Nairobi in the mid-80s. The next time I need to buy the stuff, I will know to say yarn. Apparently there are really wonderful yarn stores in Boulder. Maybe one day...)

Shilpa, thank you and your aayi for the recipe!! Knitting is very easy to take up. If you have a Wal*Mart near you, walk down to the Crafts department and look for starter kits. Consider the activity kits for kids, as well. These are generally more expensive but they get you started. If you are still studying then this might be the perfect thing to take to a class where you don't need to make extensive notes. I attended a lecture at Naropa University on Cognitive Development a couple of weeks ago - oh ! how I long to get back into that mode, but I digress! - and there were more than a couple of students whose hands were busy with knitting needles. And this was in an undergraduate class. If I had tried this during my undergrad days at St. Xavier's College in Bombay or my management school, I would have been dead meat.

Knitting is also a neat thing to do if you commute by train or bus every day or on the days when it's not your turn to drive to work. You can listen to music or a book as you knit, too. I prefer the silence though cos there is cacophony in our house all through the day! Think about it as it is a very relaxing activity with real rewards that you can touch and feel and see! Think about it! You can do it! Check out fran's blog and it will lead you to some of the most wonderful knitting web sites there are! Good luck!!

Priya said...

wow the pink scarf looks really pretty, i had learnt embroidery and crochet in fashion designing classes , but always wanted to learn knitting.Sigh!
And the sambar looks yummy, thanx for sharing the recipe.

Abhi said...

You had mentioned "ripped packaging" as a reason for not knowing how to complete the knitting project; due to lack of instructions. So I was wondering, couldn't you go to the same store (if it is Walmart) and read and/or write down the instructions from another box of the same product?

Indian Food Rocks said...

Priya, kolmbo is a really nice change from the regular sambar I make. Normally I take a shortcut and use MTR's sambar powder. I really enjoyed making my own sambar masala for the kolmbo. My daughter ate so much of the kolmbo that I was really surprised! I don't cook very much with coconut, mainly because of the high cholesterol it contains; at most, I will make a couple of chutneys to go with idlis and that, too, not every time I make idlis.

LOL @ Abhi. Yes, it occured to me that we could do that but it meant taking time off work which unfortunately I did not have the luxury to do. My work schedule is usually flexible but not on that particular Friday. Besides, a trip to a hobby or crafts store when she is grounded is like taking her to the park - she can spend hours and hours in the Crafts section!

Indian Food Rocks said...

Hey Saffron Hut! Glad you found your way here! I just visited your beautiful blog and saw that we have much in common, Ms. Freezer Queen! ;-) There was a comment on your blog that the person disliked freezing cos it means eating the same thing over many meals. Well, not true, I say! Every time I cook, I freeze at least 2 containers of the dish. After a week or two, I can look into my freezer and actually give my family various options for the next meal. I don't feel pressured when I hear: "I don't feel like eating fish today" or "I want mutter paneer" or "Mumma, remember that delicious lamb? When will you make it again?"

And if eating the same thing within a week or two week is too soon, then a cooking co-op might be the answer. You cook the same amount but get the variety from the other cooks in the co-op. It also helps foster a sense of community and develops a support system for all the families involved, especially when we are all so far away from our own families.

Anonymous said...

Coconut oil itself does not have cholesterol - only animal fats contain cholesterol. Non-animal fats such as coconut oil may contain saturated fats but never cholesterol. Check out the website

Anonymous said...

Sulochana, I stand corrected! I should have said saturated fat not cholesterol. Our bodies make the cholesterol. However, most of the fat in coconut meat is saturated fat.

I don't cook with coconut oil because personally I don't like the flavor.

The Visitor said...

Are the idlis coming out better this year? If not, did you check out if the rice used is the right variety - because the rice used for idlis has a different consistency than that used for pulao and the like.

YogaMango said...

My mother makes idlies in Montana (brrr! and 1 mile above sea level)by fermenting in the oven with the warm heat setting.. Perhaps that will help?

Indian Food Rocks said...

The Visitor and YogaMango, thanks a lot for your suggestions! I have since fiddled with the urad:idli rava proportions and that has worked like a charm. In winter, I warm the oven and ferment the batter in the oven but by itself, that did not work. The absolute lack of humidity was the problem. Soft spongy idlis are now the norm again! Yay!

Anonymous said...

great recipies and blog. I have a package of MTR sambar soup mix-\can you please help me? I can not find how much water to use- should I use the entire package? Any help would be great, thanks