I am hoping to improve this dish with some tips and tricks from our new friends, but in the meantime this version is pretty good :)
Many ingredients in this meal will likely require a trip to your local Indian grocery store, but you'll also likely save mucho $$$ over other stores, so grab a friend and have fun exploring!
Masoor Paruppu Sambar
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 cup split red lentils (aka masoor dal, masoor paruppu)
*(these are my favorite lentils because they cook quickly and are easily digestible)
3 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 Tbsp virgin coconut or olive oil
5 whole dried Thai chilies
10 fresh curry leaves (these smell A-mazing and are essential to the dish)
2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (aka methi seeds)
2 Tbsp sambar powder (homemade is best, but store-bought will work too :)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (aka coriander leaves, as our Indian friends know them)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 large tomato, chopped
salt to taste
Ingredients for homemade sambar masala powder:
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh curry leaves
1/2 cup whole dried Thai chilies
1/4 cup chana dal (can substitute toor dal or yellow split peas)
1/4 cup coriander seeds
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds (aka methi seeds)
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
2 (4 inch) cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
I found the recipe for homemade Sambar Masala in a wonderful book called The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes by Anupy Singla. I made a few changes to the original, substituting olive oil for sesame oil and leaving out 1 Tbsp white poppy seeds (I couldn't find any).
fresh curry leaves:
To make the Sambar Masala:
1. Combine all the spices in a bowl. Drizzle the oil over them and mix well
2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the chana dal and spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until curry leaves brown and curl up and the other spices brown (~3 to 4 minutes)
3. Immediately transfer the mixture to a plate and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Once the mixture is cool, grind it in a coffee grinder reserved for spices. Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 months.
Now that we have our sambar powder, lets make dinner....
1. Rinse the lentils and allow to drain, then add to pot along with turmeric and cayenne powder.
2. Add water and bring to a boil. Stir once, lower heat and cover, simmering for 15-20 minutes or until lentils break down (different types of lentils will take different amounts of time)
3. Meanwhile, heat coconut oil over medium heat and then add carrots, mustard seeds, chilies, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves - sautéing for 2 minutes. Add shallots and brown lightly, then add tamarind paste and garlic, cooking for 1 minute longer. Add mixture, along with sambar powder and tomato to lentils and cook 5-10 minutes or until desired consistency. (I like my red lentils "mushy", but some may like a firmer texture)
4. Add salt and possibly more cayenne to taste and serve, topped with cilantro, over warm basmati, brown basmati or other long grain rice.
*for this meal I also served japanese sweet potato (steamed for ~20 mns and seasoned with salt and pepper)
This meal turned out pretty yummy, but I might pre-steam the carrots next time just to make sure they are soft, and I need work on balancing the heat:salt:tangy ratio in my sambar, but we'll definitely be having this again!