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Nadia Lim's Sambar (Lentil Vegetable Curry)


Nadia Lim's Sambar (Lentil Vegetable Curry)

For more on Nadia Lim, head to  My Food Bag

Sambar is a lentil-based vegetable curry or stew that has to be one of the most commonly eaten dishes in India - it was served in every place we ate at. Some versions add a bit of coconut milk to it.

Serves 4-5
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups tamarind water*
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (optional)
1 inch ginger, peeled and minced
Spice mix: 1 teaspoon ground cumin,1 teaspoon ground coriander,1 teaspoon ground turmeric,½teaspoon ground chilli
1 x 400g can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot, sliced
1 cup chopped cauliflower florets
100g green beans
1/2 eggplant, cut into 2cm chunks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
chopped coriander, to garnish


Combine the lentils, water and tamarind water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are soft and mushy (about 30 minutes).
Heat oil in a medium or large fry pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until starting to turn golden brown (about 6-8 minutes). Add a bit more oil, garlic, mustard seeds, ginger and spice mix. Cook a further 2-3 minutes until the mustard seeds start popping.
Add onion mixture, crushed tomatoes, salt, carrot, cauliflower, beans and eggplant to the pot of lentils. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Mix in lemon juice at the end, taste and add more salt and/or pepper to taste.
Garnish with fresh coriander.

*To make tamarind water, soak 3 tablespoons tamarind pulp in 1 1/2 cups hot water. Use a fork to mash it up a bit and when cool, use your hands to squeeze the tamarind pulp to break it up further and extract as much flavour as possible. Strain the liquid through a sieve.
*Dried tamarind pulp comes in a block and is a dark maroon colour, similar to the colour of prunes. You can easily find it in Asian supermarkets and some conventional supermarkets now sell it too. An alternative is to use tamarind concentrate. Tamarind gives a distinctly sweet and sour flavour.
*If you can't find tamarind, just use an extra 1 1/2 cups of water in the recipe.


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