In my first blog I mentioned my Andhra neighbour Susee aunty. Her family and ours have been living next door to each other for over 50 years in Matunga. In the central part of Bombay, Matunga used to be a genteel middle class locality populated predominantly by South Indians and Maharashtrians though it has changed completely now, with ugly high rises and loads of Gujjus and Kutchis all over the place. Ours was one of the two Sindhi families that lived in the building. It seems unthinkable that people have stayed in the same place for over half a century in a city like Bombay but it’s true. Most of the families in our building which also houses a nice big temple are still there.
So, popping in to her place, having an impromptu meal with her and enjoying really delicious Andhra food during festivals like Varlakshmi puja and Ganesh Chaturti were part of my life for as long as I lived in Bombay. To this day, when I visit, she calls me over for lunch or dinner. Of course, Susee aunty [her full name is Susheela Subbarayudu but we all call her Susee aunty] knows my tastes well enough by now so she makes what I love everytime — Rasam [without the dal, just tamarind, tomatoes, water and her homemade rasam powder] and rice with stir fried potatoes on the side. I usually finish my meal with the cream of the yoghurt, her yoghurt is deliciously thick and I love the cream on top. A sprinkling of sugar makes it a divine dessert.
When I started taking an interest in cooking, naturally I borrowed her recipe book and took down several of the recipes, most of which I have loved eating since childhood. Then, Susee aunty very helpfully gave me the recipe for a Sambhar Powder — one you can make and use right away. No storage, no worrying that you have run out of the readymade variety and the aroma of freshly ground spices takes the sambhar to another level.
I have tried it twice and it is extremely simple to make — you cannot go wrong with this version of the much loved sambhar. Even if you have unannounced guests, this dish is easy to make and as for the vegetables, you can add whatever is available in your refrigerator.
I have written the recipe below and tweaked it a little bit by adding pepper to spice it up. You can omit it from your sambhar if you like it bland.
Susee aunty’s Sambhar Powder
Ingredients for Sambhar Powder
2 fistfuls coriander seeds [you can increase all the sambhar powder ingredients proportionately if your dal is of a greater quantity]
1 tsp each chana dal and urad dal
4-5 dry red chillies
1 tbsp peppercorns
Half cup grated coconut [optional]
Dry roast all the ingredients in a non stick pan and grind to a paste with water.
Ingredients for the Sambhar:
1 cup tuvar dal
1 small ball of tamarind, soaked in water
1 cup shallots, peeled
A mix of vegetables — pumpkin, beans, carrots, drumsticks, okra etc. [My personal favourites in sambhar are okra and drumsticks but you can add any vegetable of your choice.]
1 small piece of jaggery
2-3 sprigs of curry leaves
1 big pinch of hing [asafoetida]
Salt as required
A pinch of turmeric
Ghee, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, curry leaves and dry red chillies for tadka
Coriander leaves for garnishing
Pressure cook the tuvar dal with water, salt and haldi and keep aside.
Parboil the vegetables in water and when half done, add tamarind pulp, curry leaves, salt, haldi and hing to the vegetables. Then add ground paste and cook for a few minutes. Lastly, add jaggery and dal and bring to a boil. Give tadka in pure ghee with mustard
seeds, curry leaves and dry red chillies. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice and pappadums.