I have fond memories of my mother always making an effort to expose me to various foods and cultures of all types, when I was younger. Years ago there was a South Indian restaurant that we would frequent and that is where I first had and fell in love with a stew called Sambar/Sambhar. This stew truly embraces comfort and quite honestly reminds me of my Mom every time I eat it. Now, I’ve been making a very non-traditional stew similar to Sambhar for several years and I was most recently reminded of that when I had the pleasure of featuring my foodie friend Chitra’s cookbook not too long ago. She has a beautiful and more traditional version of Sambhar in her amazing cookbook called Vibrant India. Traditionally, this stew may include: lentils, a variation of different vegetables, sambhar powder, tamarind pulp, turmeric, asafoetida, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and grated coconut(just to name a few, but not limited to) and is typically served with idli’s or vada.
With all that being said, although I love the traditional version, I felt inclined to share my non-traditional version with you all. In my opinion what makes this stew is the Sambhar Powder and fresh Curry Leaves. I realize that is not something that may be easily obtainable depending where you may live. But, if you have a local Indian Market near where you live, then I would recommend picking up a small packet of Sambhar Powder and fresh Curry Leaves. Believe it or not, my local Kroger actually sells a Sambhar Masala (made by Spicy World) in their international food section of the store. It’s such an amazing blend of spices and it really makes this stew sing. I’ll also be tempering some mustard seeds and a few red chili’s. If you can’t obtain any of those, then no worries, you can omit those all together. It will still be a great stew nonetheless. 🙂 As far as the vegetables, I went with root veggies(potatoes and carrots) and zucchini(because it’s still summer), but feel free to experiment with whatever you have on hand.
Recipe: Serves 3 – 4
3/4 Cup of Red Split Lentils (rinsed)
1 medium Potato (diced)
1 medium Zucchini (diced)
2 medium Carrots (sliced)
1 small Onion (diced)
6 cups of Water
3 tablespoons of Coconut Oil (or an oil of your choice)
1 – 2 dried Red Chili’s (a pinch of red chili flakes can be used instead) (optional)
1 teaspoon of Mustard Seeds (optional)
2 tablespoons of Sambar Powder or Sambar Masala Powder (optional)
4 – 5 fresh Curry Leaves (optional)
Sea Salt to your taste
**Please note: If you have a good curry powder that you like to use, then I can easily see substituting the sambar powder out for that. It obviously won’t taste the same, but it will still taste great. **
In a large pot, on a medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, potatoes, onions, and carrots. Saute for few minutes and then add in sambar powder and give it a stir, just to incorporate ingredients and release the spices in your powder. Then add in your water, zucchini, and lentils. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes or until your carrots are soft. The other vegetables and lentils will loose their shape and that is ok. In a small skillet, add 1 tablespoon of oil, over a medium heat. To ensure the oil is hot enough, add one black mustard seed. If it sizzles or pops, then it’s ready. Add the rest of the mustard seeds. Have a lid nearby to cover the pan while the mustard seeds are popping. As soon as the popping starts to stop (within a few seconds), immediately add the red chili’s and curry leaves, stir for a few more seconds and then pour this mixture into your stew. Be careful with this because you don’t want to burn your ingredients. Give your stew a stir and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy.
**Please note: If using whole dried chili’s, I’d recommend removing those. Curry leaves are edible, but you can push those to the side, if you’d rather not eat them. **