Thursday, May 30, 2013

South Indian Inspired Sambar Vegetable Curry

Sambar Spice Vegetable Curry by Meeta K. Wolff

My parents were anxious and zealous to instill the values and cultures of our Indian traditions and roots to their two children, who spent their entire lives living outside of the homeland. As young and new parents of a first-born girl, they decided never to force the rituals on me. Both my brother and I were given plenty of room to grow and develop our personalities without being harangued to live by very conservative rules.

It was a double-edged sword for them: on one side they had to be open-minded to allow the influence from the “western” environment and on the other, how to pass on the important values, morals and traditions they grew up with, without confining their children from their peers or making them stand out.

They did it with curry and stories!

Sambar Spice Vegetable Curry 0039 by Meeta K. WolffSambar Spice Vegetable Curry 0050 by Meeta K. Wolff

Looking back at our mealtimes at home with my parents while growing up, one of the most prominent dishes on the dinner table was always a curry or a dal. This was served with other dishes and condiments and always accompanied with stories from my mum’s and dad’s childhood. My dad’s stories would be exciting and funny of him growing under simple circumstances in Lahore and my mother would weave stories about  living in the plush lifestyle of the capital, Delhi with a very strict father. The stories always touched on typical traditions and rituals and covered much of our heritage painted in colorful tales.

Sambar Spice Vegetable Curry 3 by Meeta K. Wolff

As I moved away from home and arrived here in Germany several years ago, mealtimes were often incomplete and strangely morbid. The pastas, pizzas and potatoes were insipid and people never talked while they ate here! It drove me crazy.

And so, I began cooking curries and invited my friends over, sharing with them the great stories I was told by my parents.

I am still cooking curries and telling those stories mostly to my son - and we enjoy our meal times. Yes, he usually asks for pasta and pizza but he soon finds out the stories are more interesting when the curry is on the table.

Sambar Spice Vegetable Curry 0036 by Meeta K. Wolff

My vegetable curry is inspired by the South Indian curry called Sambar, a spicy yet simple dish made of pigeon peas and vegetables using a special spice mix called sambar powder. Sambar carries long and broad ancient traditions of lentil-based stews and is very popular in southern India. A typical Sambar is based on legumes and vegetables and typically served with steamed rice.

With my Sambar Vegetable Curry I am satisfying the palate of a North Indian with flavors of South India. Enjoy!

Recipe: South Indian Inspired Sambar Vegetable Curry

Printable version of recipe here

Sambar Spice Vegetable Curry 3 by Meeta K. Wolff

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 150g canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 piece of ginger about 2 cm thick, mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon sambar powder (see notes)
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • 200g cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
  • 2 carrots, cut into slices
  • 100g paneer, cubes (How to make paneer)
  • 150g peas, fresh or frozen
  • 150g chickpeas, canned
  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee
  • Handful of coriander leaves

Method:

  1. In a large non-stick pan melt and heat the tablespoon ghee. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the spices and cook for a further few minutes making sure the mixture does not begin to burn. Pour in the tomatoes with some of the juice and cook the mixture for approx. 10 minutes on a slow heat till the oils begin to separate. Then add the tomato paste and mix to incorporate till you have a paste-like mixture.
  2. Transfer the cauliflower, sweet potatoes and carrots to the pan pour in just enough of the stock so that the vegetables are covered. Simmer for approx. 15-20 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften, adding more stock if required and according to the consistency preferred.
  3. Add the paneer, peas and chickpeas and mix well. Pour in the coconut milk and heat through. Serve hot with chopped coriander leaves sprinkled on top, steamed basmati rice and sweet and spicy mango chutney.

Notes:

  • The consistency of this curry depends on your individual preference. I personally prefer to have a thicker gravy so add just enough stock to keep the vegetables in a good simmer. The coconut milk also adds to the consistency so make sure you go easy with the stock.
  • You can buy store-bought sambar powder at any good Indian/Asian store or use this amazing recipe from the talented Sailaja.

Verdict

Sambar Spice Vegetable Curry 2 by Meeta K. Wolff

This South Indian inspired vegetable curry can be made in a hurry and that’s what I love about it. It is perfect for a weeknight dinner, satisfying and soothing. Soon you’ll be telling stories of your own! Biting into the silky paneer will come as a surprise but it complements the crunchy and bolder vegetables, soaking up the delightful flavors of the spices.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop News

Dubai2013WorkshopBadge-SidebarWhile the Amsterdam Workshop in September sold out fairly quickly I am glad to announce that the Dubai workshop still has a few slots open. We are filling up nicely and I am thrilled that Simone of Junglefrog Cooking has registered. Not only will I be hosting the Amsterdam workshop with her but I will be looking forward to seeing her again. Also great to see other familiar faces registering for the Dubai workshop. 

For more details and and to register for the Dubai Workshop please visit the announcement page. Hope to see you there!


More curry comfort from WFLH:

EggCurry01b-framed[2] Butter Chicken 01 framed[4] Dal-Maa Di Dal 01 framed[2]
Egg Curry in a Creamy Coconut Gravy Creamy Butter Chicken Kaali Maa Di Dal - Mum's Creamy Black Lentils


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2012 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

51 comments :

  1. Food and stories are a great way of instilling culture/traditions and values in children. That vegetable sambar looks magnificent. I bet it tastes really good!

    Delightful clicks and lovely retro scale!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Thank you so much Rosa. My parents and grand-parents did do their best and the curries and stories always made us sit up and want to know more.

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  2. You owe me one of your curries ;-) Last picture is my favorite - wonderful! And thank God, germans food culture and table habits are changing and a good chat is appreciated.
    Hugs,
    Sandy

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    1. Yes, I would love to cook a curry for you but first we need to get over eating tarts LOL! I agree I have noticed a fantastic and positive change in the German food culture. It's great to be a part of it!

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  3. beautiful post and gorgeous pictures, it took me back to my childhood too. Am so glad i was never forced to any set of values and customs, am glad I had freedom to be who I am. Can totally relate to that, i guess not everyone comes from homes with such freedom, we are really lucky.
    Am tempted to make this from my home made sambhar powder..

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    1. I am sure many of my fellow Indians can relate to this. Glad to hear your parents never forced the rituals. This dish is a quick and easy way to enjoy wonderful inspired curry dish!

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  4. The blessings of conversation and good food at the family dinner table -- spicy food and talk truly warms the heart Meeta! This looks so delicious and tasty.

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    1. You always say it so well Robin! The best way to treat friends close to the heart!

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  5. Great post; I always love seeing your photos.

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    1. Thanks so much Kalyn. Always love having you around!

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  6. Sometimes I wish my parents had told me those stories when growing up.. ;) I would have loved to hear them! And I am soooo excited to be seeing you at least twice this year Meeta! Ofcourse Amsterdam, but I am also very excited about Dubai coming up soon... Can't wait! O and bring some of that curry please...

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    1. I am totally excited too. It's going to be a good year and I am sure we will be indulging in curry when we are in Dubai!

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  7. Fantastic! This curry looks so delicious...and so great to be passing down your parents' stories to your son. :)

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    1. Thanks Sara. I hope I do a good job with my own son. My parents were natural story tellers and made everything sound glamorous and exciting.

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  8. This is perfect comfort food! Yummy photos, Meeta :)

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    1. Yes it is ... just what was needed! Thanks so much Kiran!

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  9. Indians cannot live without curry or daal :) This sounds lovely and i am so much in love with the props you used out here!

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    1. Thanks Kankana. I think the curries and dal were infused into our bloods upon birth LOL!

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  10. Although this looks delicious, I am not sure if it is anything close to a sambhar. We do not add coconut milk, paneer or make it without dal. I love your blog but this is a misrepresented dish.

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    1. Thank you for your comment and feedback and I appreciate your thoughts. I think if you read the post (and the title) I do say that this is an inspired dish from the South Indian Sambar. I have not said anywhere that this is the traditional version.
      "My vegetable curry is inspired by the South Indian curry called Sambar (...)Sambar carries long and broad ancient traditions of lentil-based stews and is very popular in southern India. A typical Sambar is based on legumes and vegetables and typically served with steamed rice."

      So this is not a misrepresented dish but one that I have chosen to interpret in my way. That includes coconut milk, paneer and making it with chickpeas instead of the dal.

      Delete
  11. A good conversation and delicious food at the family dinner table truly warms the heart. Love your food weighing machine :)

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    1. That scale is my favorite prop! I love getting together with the family and re-living the stories, especially now as my son and husband are part of the family.

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  12. I love hearing how families instill their homeland stories to a new generation of children growing up outside of their heritage. It is all so interesting to me and yes, food is a wonderful conduit for all of that learning! Loks delicious.

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    1. I would love to hear your stories some day Sarah. I am sure we'd have much to talk about. xo

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  13. Oh Meeta, this curry recipe I definitley have to try out!! It sounds just delicous and I have to admit, somehow I envy your son that he has the chance to eat those delicious curries so often and hear your stories :)
    Hugs Eva

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    1. We just have to make a date ... a curry date and enjoy the food and stories together!

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  14. I can totally relate to how you parents tried to instill desi culture :) I make a lot of unauthentic use of sambar powder too so this is just my type. xo

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    1. Sometimes one just has to break free of the traditional use of certain dishes to enjoy it in a new way. I love re-creating dishes and fusing them differently. It never gets boring.

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  15. Meeta! Such a beautiful looking dish. For a moment, on seeing the pictures, I wondered how different Sambhar looks from the way I make it, until i read the whole article. I love the lovely flavours of Sambhar masala, and how creatively you made another recipe out of it. It has just given me more ideas.

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    1. Thanks so much! I am glad you can appreciate the different use of the sambar masala. I love experimenting in my kitchen and Indian spices are so versatile. Would love to see what you come up with.

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  16. The pictures looks so yum. And I am coconut milk fan, so this sambhar of yours works perfectly for me. Gotta try this. :)

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    1. I too love coconut milk. Let me know what you thought of it!

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  17. I'm definitely going to try this recipe. The Indian food is so bad at most of the restaurants here so finding a good one from someone I trust means a lot. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks El. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. It's a different way of using this particular masala but it provides a versatile basis for many ideas. Hope you enjoy this!

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  18. I love Indian food! I'm allergic to tomatoes, but will find a sub. Thanks so much for posting this recipe!

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    1. You can totally omit the tomatoes in this. I like to add it for it's tangy, fruity flavor but it should work without it too. Glad you liked it.

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  19. What a lovely post. I think very few Indian parents know how to strike a balance between letting their children know the culture in which they are born and the country in which they grow in. Your parents seem to have done a great job. My father used to tell us stories about the mughal history at the dinner table. And hence my love for Indian history and food grew :) A very lovely recipe you have there Meeta.

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    1. It's such a balance act as parents isn't it. I understand it now as I am a mother now. My dad told us many stories about the moghul empire and the luscious food. It's probably why I love the food so much!

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  20. Love the Sambhar and the article.....don't you love the way Indian parents talk about their childhood. I can totally relate to you and admit I share many stories with my own daughters. We are lucky to have such special memories!!

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    1. Thanks! I think everyone has great stories to tell. I just appreciated the way my parents were able to instil our culture and traditions without us feeling pressured.

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  21. This looks so delicious and comforting, Meeta. It reminds of good home cooked South Indian food.

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  22. Sambar is one of my favs, though never had one with paneer or coconut milk! quite a strange deviation, that! :)

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  23. Wierd!! Sambar doesn't have garlic, paneer or coconut milk. You have missed the main ingredients toor daal and tamarind pulp. This is more of like curry....nothing close to sambar.

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    1. I'll just copy and paste my comment from above for you ...

      Thank you for your comment and feedback and I appreciate your thoughts. I think if you read the post (and the title) I do say that this is an inspired dish from the South Indian Sambar. I have not said anywhere that this is the traditional version.
      "My vegetable curry is inspired by the South Indian curry called Sambar (...)Sambar carries long and broad ancient traditions of lentil-based stews and is very popular in southern India. A typical Sambar is based on legumes and vegetables and typically served with steamed rice."

      So this is not a misrepresented dish but one that I have chosen to interpret in my way. That includes coconut milk, paneer and making it with chickpeas instead of the dal.

      Delete
  24. I love it!! I am a south indian and sambar is my daily staple, have never tried the spice with paneer, will surely give it a try.

    A huge fan of your site!!

    Deepa

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  25. Food is a great way to instill cultural values...Liked the twist you did on the sambar. Will try it.

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta