This is a blog for people to discuss what they are eating. There is a theory that by journaling eating habits, people will eat healthier. I am trying to cook more at home and feed my family a wider variety of foods. People can just read or join as co-authors. Topics don't have to be recipes with nice photos. You can write about eating habits, special diets, culinary cultural differences, etc.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sambar & Roti

... is a very traditional Southern Indian dish. Roti, is the staple bread of the region, so I was taught by my ex-mother-in-law. Sambar and roti was a part of nearly every meal she served. I am quite partial to it myself. If I don't have it for a long time I start to crave it. There are few ingredients involved and all of them can be changed to suit individual tastes.

Channa Dal is pretty much just yellow split peas. They have a very mild flavor. Toor Dal is a bit darker yellow and has a more nutty flavor. You can make Sambar with either one. This particular day I used the Toor Dal. Because I had them and because I could. lol That is to say, I had no particular reason to use one or the other. It just happened to be Toor Dal today. Please note that it says you should soak the Toor Dal for several hours before cooking. I find that this is not necessary if you use a good heavy pot and a tight lid.

The other ingredients I used today are:
whole dried red chili peppers
cummin seeds
mustard seeds
baby spinach

So, I put one cup of Toor Dal in a 2 qt. pot and covered with water until the water was approximately one inch above the Dal.
Turn the heat to medium and cook until the pot starts to sing. Watch it and make sure you turn the heat down to low and slant the lid a little before the thing boils over. This stuff dries like cement if it does boil over. Once it stops boiling and foaming you can close it back up and let it simmer for an hour or so.

Most of the true Indian recipes I've seen for this dish say to cook the Dal in a pressure cooker, but my MIL never did. I've always used a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid and that's always been good enough.

Once you have your split peas/Dal on the heat you can start prepping your other items:
Heat a non-stick saute pan and heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. The original recipe would actually use ghee, but to make it a tad healthier I use a couple T of canola oil and add about a tsp of butter for flavor.
When the oil is heated put in the chopped onion, saute until nearly translucent. Put in the minced garlic and the red peppers. As soon as the garlic begins to turn golden add the mustard and cummin seeds. Keep a lid handy because the seeds will pop. As soon as the seeds begin to sizzle and pop, remove the pan from the heat and cover.

Close up of whole mustard seed and whole cummin seed.

Once the Dal stops boiling and foaming you can close it back up and let it simmer for an hour or so. This is the time when I usually pull the red peppers out of the sauted onions and put them in with the Dal.

Once the Dal has nearly dissolved you can add the other ingredients. First add the sauted onions and garlic...

... then chop the spinach roughly...

...and stir it into the Dal.

Now you have delicious, mellow, tasty Indian Sambar. Lets make the roti now. The Sambar will taste better after it sits a while.


Lets start with the flour. For roti you have to use whole durum wheat. Its sort of creamy yellow in color and has a different texture than regular white flour. You can make a passable variation with regular whole wheat flour but it just isn't the same.
I've been known to use several types of flour for making flat breads which I and my son just call roti. A particular favorite is made with whole grain rye flour mixed with the whole wheat flour. Really, it's good.

Left to right: Hodgson's Mill brand whole wheat flour, Nirav brand whole grain durum wheat flour, Pillsbury's all-purpose unbleached white flour.

Mix 3 cups of durum wheat flour and 1 cup of all-purpose white flour with 1/2 tsp. salt. To this add, 1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 T ghee or oil. I find that if I use 1/2 cup of buttermilk or yogurt for the liquid I get a softer roti. I like the flavor better, too. But you can use just plain water and it will be fine.

Knead the dough a few times until all the flour and liquid are incorporated. Let the dough sit 10-15 minutes to rest. Then pinch the dough off and roll into approximately golf ball sized balls. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness.

Heat a non-stick, flat bottomed pan, or a nice heavy cast iron pan to medium high heat. Place one roti in the pan and press lightly with rubber spatula. After about 20 seconds flip the roti and continue pressing lightly. You may have to turn a time or two more to get the proper doneness. Your roti should puff up somewhat when it's done. It may not puff up as much as the one shown here, but it should show some bubbles and lightness.
This one was terrific! I always get such a sense of accomplishment when one blows up like this one did. I usually get about one third of them in a batch of 13-15 rotis to do this. Its really exciting. Okay... I know... I lead a very boring life, but this is... LOL


Along with these two items I also made a couple of other dishes. Which I will describe briefly:

Spicy Potatoes
Diced white potatoes
half the sauted onion/garlic mixture described above
tumeric about half a tsp.
garum masala about one tsp.

In the pan I sauted the onions in I cooked the potatoes until tender. To the potatoes I added half the onion mixture and then the tumeric and garum masala. Once the spices had cooked for about a minute I took it off the heat.

I did use a few spoons of this potato mixture to make a couple filled roti (paratha) for Thomas. They were a pain in the patoot and I would only ever do them for him EVER again. This was my first try at it, and I didn't have fun, altho I have to say they were quite tasty.

Burmese Chicken Curry
Cook chicken pieces in a few T oil.
To this add:
2 T Madras style curry powder
2 T Paprika
1 T turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili powder
After about one minute add
One medium tomato, chopped

Once the tomato starts to wilt add one can coconut milk

Let this mixture simmer until it starts to turn red on the top. Then it's done. Garnish with french fried onions and garlic, lemon and fresh cilantro. (Bunny, you should know this one. I blogged about it a while back.)

Then I had this for supper:

It was delicious and Thomas and I enjoyed it emensely. I hope you guys will too, someday.



Blogger Jeannie said...

This is right up my alley, SKW! I can literally taste all of the herbs and spices just sitting here. Would you mind emailing me the recipe when you find the time? Thank you for sharing. Think I'll go suck on a cumin seed or something in the meantime.

November 12, 2008 at 9:03 PM

Blogger Some Kinda Wonderful said...

I certainly will my friend. I'll send it tomorrow. I'm starting to get sleepy right now. Just wanted to say that the sambar can be enjoyed without the roti, just plain like a soup or over rice. And you don't have to put spinach in it. you can use that or tomato, or okra, or pretty much any type of veggie.

Also, you know this Bunny, but others might not: the Burmese Chicken Curry is traditionally eaten over rice noodles not with roti, but we like it either way, or just over rice. So.. whichever way you want to try it, it's good. :)

November 12, 2008 at 11:07 PM

Blogger Arsenette said...

Wow I can't even imagine what this would taste like.. but WOW it's a feast for the eyes!

November 13, 2008 at 8:41 AM

Blogger chaki said...

Holly, I have ten frozen naans I bought cheap from the school bazaar waiting to be eaten with a new curry recipe!! So the roti will have to wait awhile, but going to try stuffing them with the potatoes. You're really SKWonderful, even my Indian friends buy frozen roti... You spoil your boys!!

November 13, 2008 at 5:04 PM


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