Vendhaya Keerai Sambar (Fenugreek Leaves Sambar)

It’s been a long time since I posted – mainly because I have been busy. But I did not want the new year to steal a march on me. And my first post in the new year is a sambar. As all my readers probably know, sambar is a tamarind based gravy that is mixed with rice. It is a staple dish in most South Indian homes. Sambar is so popular in India that each state now boasts of its own version.
As I have mentioned before, sambar is prepared with several different vegetables – singly or in combination. When only a single vegetable is used (as is often the case) the sambar acquires the flavour of the vegetable used. Typically, vegetables like eggplant, radish, shallots, pumpkin, ash gourd, okra etc, are used. The sambar presented here is a little unusual since this is only prepared in homes. I have never seen this sambar being served in restaurants.
As with all sambars, one can use a pre-prepared sambar powder or grind the fresh masala. This version uses the sambar powder. For the recipe, please look under “Chutneys & Powders” in this blog.

Vendhaya Keerai Sambar

1 cup fenugreek leaves, washed and plucked from the stems
1 lime sized ball of tamarind, juice extracted
10 shallots, peeled and washed
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1/2 cup pigeon peas (tur dal, thuvaram parupu)
1 heaped tbsp sambar powder
Unrefined salt to taste
1 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1 sprig curry leaves
Pressure cook the pigeon peas with sufficient water for between 6-8 whistles
Let the steam release naturally and open the lid
If there is excess liquid in the lentil, drain and reserve the stock
Just leave enough water with the lentils to mash and get a thick, batter-like consistency
Set aside
Roughly chop the fenugreek leaves and set aside
Heat a pan and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the curry leaves and sauté for a few seconds
Add the shallots and a little water
Cook the shallots for a couple of minutes
At this stage, add the fenugreek leaves and mix well
Sprinkle a little water and cook on medium to low flame for about 7-8 minutes
Once the leaves are well cooked, add the tamarind extract, sambar powder, turmeric powder and salt
If the mixture is too thick, add a little of the reserved stock
Let the mixture boil for a few minutes till the raw smell of the tamarind evaporates
Add the mashed pigeon peas and mix well
Stir well and cook on medium flame for a couple of minutes more
Switch off the flame
Serve hot with steamed red/brown/millet rice
Or serve it with dosa, idli, vada….

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