During my years spent in Bangalore, a bunch of us would often hit the local café right by our college on Saturday mornings to gorge on a hearty breakfast of Masala Dosas and South Indian filter coffee. These Dosas, as I remember them, were delightfully thin and crispy, slathered on the inside with a spicy chutney, loaded with generous helping of perfectly seasoned mashed potatoes and folded into a triangle. The Sambhar that accompanied it had the perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavours. The combination of the Masala Dosa and filter coffee was a treat to my palate, and to date, remains one of my all time favourite ways to begin my day.
For the uninitiated, a Masala Dosa is an Indian crepe made by blending rice and lentils in to a smooth paste. The crepe is fried to a crisp, and often served with an array of sides ranging from Sambhar, spiced potatoes and various chutneys. While Dosas require expert technique (in my opinion, since I have tried and failed in multiple attempts at making them!), Sambhar on the other hand is child’s play. Good quality Sambhar masala is readily available these days and the dish hardly takes any effort to make.
Sambhar is a South Indian spiced lentil stew with a chock full of fresh veggies, and can make for a quick, lip-smacking, hearty dinner on a chilly weeknight. Although it isn’t quite as cold as I’d like it to be currently, the rains definitely have me craving for a bowl of soup. So in I went into the kitchen, and 30 minutes later, I was warming my hands with a big bowl of this deliciously thick soup.
SAMBHAR (SPICED LENTIL SOUP)
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4
2 tablespoon light cooking oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6-7 fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sambhar masala
¼ teaspoon red chilli powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1.5 cups toor/yellow lentils, boiled till tender
water, as needed
salt, to taste
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped for garnish
In a deep pan, heat oil and add in the mustard and cumin seeds along with the curry leaves. Once it starts to sizzle, add in the garlic, ginger and onions.
Fry of a few minutes till onions soften, before adding in the spices. Give it a quick stir and add in the tomatoes and tamarind. Once the tomatoes start to pulp, add in the boiled lentils and about 2-3 cups of water, depending on the consistency you prefer.
Season with salt, and let the Sambhar simmer for a few minutes to allow all the flavours to blend.
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve warm.