Friday, March 27, 2009

Nani's Saambhar

Getting back home at around 8-8:30pm everyday, the last thing I want to do is to cook a full elaborate meal of dal, chawal/roti and subzi. Though I love cooking and most of the days do go with the full meal routine - dinner being our most substantial meal of the day, since we just grab some quick bites at lunch in office - there are days when I just want to sit back, relax and do nothing. One of the most onerous tasks of married life is cooking everyday, and it becomes especially cumbersome if both partners are working fulltime. And if you are like us, who are fed-up of eating lunch outside every single day and crave good, wholesome home-cooked food, then ordering in is simply not an option.

Yesterday was such a day, er, evening and while I didn't want to cook anything elaborate, I also didn't feel like going out or ordering in - as Sunny suggested. So instead of going hungry, I just whipped up something that was one of Nani's special go-to recipes - easy, fast, wholesome, tasty and nutritious. The best thing about it is that its a full meal in itself, and though as self respecting bheto-bangalees we had it with rice, it can be easily served with fresh buttered bread/rolls/buns/toast. Better still, just fry-up some croutons and pop them in. Very tasty!


Masoor dal (Red lentils) - 1 cup (washed till water runs clear and soaked)
Vegetables: potatoes, beans, okra, brinjal, pumpkin/squash/gourd, carrots, seym (snow peas), drumsticks: no need to be specific here, just go wild - 3-4 cups, washed and chopped into medium dice

Mustard seeds - scant 1 teaspoon
Curry patta/ sweet neem - 1 tablespoon, washed and dried
Whole dried red chillies - 2
Onion - 1 large, sliced
Garlic - 2 large cloves, sliced finely
Ginger - 1/4 teaspoon, grated
Tomatoes - 2 medium, diced
Turmeric - scant 1/4 teaspoon
Red chilli powder - scant 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1 teaspoon
Sugar - 2 teaspoons
Amchoor (dried mango powder) / Tamarind paste / Kokam - 1 teaspoon
Coriander leaves - 1 tablespoon, chopped
Salt - to taste
Mustard oil - 1 tablespoon
Water - 5 cups

1. Heat oil in a wok/pot until smoking and add the mustard seeds, whole dry chillies and curry leaves.
2. As soon as they stop spluttering add the garlic and stir for about 5 seconds or until fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn.
3. Immediately add the chopped vegetables and onions and stir-fry on high for about 5-6 mins.
4. Add the soaked dal (minus the water) and stir to combine. Let fry for a minute.
5. Add salt, sugar, cumin and turmeric and mix thoroughly. Fry for 2 minutes on high and then add the water.
6. Bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer on low until the veggies are cooked through (around 20 minutes).
7. Add the tomatoes, ginger, coriander and amchoor. Mix, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.
8. Remove from flame, taste and adjust the seasonings and serve hot in individual bowls.

If you want to make it more fragrant, as Nani typically did, just add a blob of pure ghee and a scant teaspoon of roasted methi (fenugreek) powder. Divine!
I didn't have either yesterday, but it tasted luscious all the same.

Serves 2 as main course, 4 as accompaniment.


  1. nice one... u will like it.. visit mine ..

  2. Lovely! Aren't you doing a superb job of managing everyday living! Kudos, and more of them! :) ...and that makes you, methinks, way more versatile than just another 'bheto bangali' :P

  3. Signed back in --
    Keep up the contextual anecdotes leading to the preparations; they add to the dollops of charm your foodosphere is smelling of!

  4. @Ved: [Bows humbly] I'll just say that your comments make my day..... keep signing back in, & I'll ensure that you are charmed enough to do so! :D