Weekend Lunch @ Ramachandrans
Growing up in Delhi, everyday food at home was mainly north-Indian, interspersed with some south-Indian regulars like kootu (south-Indian dish of lentil and vegetables) and rasam (South-Indian soup). There’d be roti, dal and subzi at all meals and, rice and rasam or kootu every other day. Sundays lunches meant south-Indian food and sambhar would be the highlight.
I used to look forward to the mandi day (the weekly vegetable market) on Thursdays because you could get typically south-Indian vegetables like banana flower, chow-chow and podalangai (gourd varieties) and sambhar onions (shallots). I’d scour amma’s market bag soon as she entered home to see if she’d got the special onions and banana flowers – those were two of my favourite vegetables in a Tamil meal.
Now, of course, I live in Chennai, where these vegetables are a regular affair and sambhars and rasams are on the lunch menu most days. But whenever I visit my ma back in Delhi, I ask her to prepare my favourite shallot sambhar. This time round, she indulged me with a sambhar that was made even more special with the addition of home-grown spring onions.
Spring Onions in the Kitchen Backyard
Shallots have an almost sweet taste compared to the strong flavour of the regular big pink/white variety. Spring onions are even more subtly onion-y than shallots.
Spring Onion Sambhar
This was the first time I’d had sambhar with spring onions, which I’d used so far only in preparing Chinese and to add an interesting dimension to north-Indian curries. And the fact that they were fresh from the kitchen garden, and plucked minutes before cooking them lent a wonderful fresh flavour to the sambhar. She used a mix of readymade sambhar powder and Freshly Ground Sambhar Powder. The addition of the fresh powder also adds its touch to the sambhar.
Colourful Summer Salad
Now, for the Spring Onion Sambhar recipe.
SPRING ONION SAMBHAR
Spring onion (greens intact) – 8-10
Toor dal (split pigeon peas) – 1 cup
Fresh tamarind – size of a big walnut OR tamarind paste – 1 tbsp
Tomato – 2
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Readymade sambhar powder – 1 tsp
Fresh ground sambhar powder – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – 1 tbsp
Chopped coriander leaves – 1 tsp
Cook the dal (pigeon peas) in a pressure cooker with 2 cups of water till 3-4 whistles. Mash with a ladle once cool
Halve spring onion bulbs and finely chop the greens. Keep aside
Boil tamarind in ¼ cup of water. Once cool, squeeze out the pulp and mix well with ½ cup water. If using tamarind paste, mix in ½ cup water
Put the tamarind water to boil
Once the quantity is down by half and the raw smell of tamarind has disappeared, add tomatoes and readymade sambhar powder and boil for 10-15 mins
Add salt, mashed lentil and water as required to adjust consistency (around 2 cups)
When the liquid starts to boil, add fresh ground sambhar powder and chopped greens from 2 or 3 spring onions
Cook for 2-3 mins and remove from heat
Heat oil and add mustard seeds
When mustard starts spluttering, add onions and sauté
When onions turn translucent, add greens and sauté for a min
Add onions and chopped coriander to sambhar
Mix well and serve
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