18 January 2016

Veg Sambhar (Pongal spl)

              In continuation with Pongal celebrations, comes 'Maattu Pongal' , the day when, in villages, people worship their cattle. I keep hearing about many interesting stories & rituals attached to festivals from my mother, who spent a good part of her growing-up years in a village. 
              One such story/ritual related to Pongal was that during this harvest season all the farmers living in the lane adjacent to our ancestral home, would simply dump their produce in the house's backyard. This was then left stacked up in a special store room in the house, free for any neighbour to take their pick and stock. As a thanksgiving, on the day of Maattu Pongal, the ladies of the house would prepare a huge urn-full of a special tamarind and vegetable stew, using the very produce given by the farmers, and this would be then supplied to the latter, as much as they could take.
              Simple rituals like these brought together people of all walks & occupation, and helped strengthened the bonds at a time when social life had a much more human touch to it!!
             This is a mixed stew that we prepare on Maattu Pongal, but slightly different to the one mentioned above. This one is a relative of the Sambhar family and includes a bit of every possible & complimentary vegetable as part of the tradition. We live in times when we hardly appreciate the seasonality of vegetables anymore. But those days were special, when tired of the monotony of Bhindi (Okra) and Tinda (Apple gourd) in the summer months, we used to look forward to winters, when vegetable shopping was a sinful pleasure :)

Ingredients :
Chopped vegetables - 1 cup
[Potato, Raw banana, Red pumpkin, White pumpkin, Lima beans or Mochai, Fresh green peas, Broad Beans, French beans, Capsicum, Sweet potato, Carrot]
Tamarind - size of a small lemon (using enough water extract juice to make 1.5 cups)
Curry leaves - a few
Pigeon peas (Tuvar/ Arahar dal) - 1/4 cup (cooked using a little turmeric powder)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves

For Sambhar powder - (If you have a readymade Sambhar powder available, you can use 2 tsps of that)
Coriander (dhaniya) seeds - 2 tsps
Fenugreek (Methi) seeds - 1 tsp
Bengal gram (Chana dal) - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds (Sarson) - 1/4 tsp
Dry red chilies - 2 (medium)

Sesame (Til) oil - 2 tsps
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
Dry red chili - 1 small
Asafoetida (Hing) powder - 1.5 tsps

Method :

1. Cook vegetables in a large saucepan using just enough water, little salt to taste and haldi powder. The veggies need to be just 3/4th cooked. If using a pressure cooker, take care to shut off flame immediately after the first whistle and keep aside to let the pressure drop. Drain the water.

2. Heat a small pan, dry roast mustard seeds till they start to splutter. Now add the methi and coriander seeds, followed by chana dal and red chilies. Roast for 3-5 minutes. Take care not to let the methi seeds become too brown else they will taste sour. Let cool and dry grind in a mixer.

3. Add vegetables to a large saucepan or wok, add tamarind juice, salt, curry leaves, about 2 tsps of ground or Readymade sambhar powder and let boil till tamarind juice leaves its raw flavour & aroma. This should take about 10 minutes.

4. Whisk the cooked tuvar dal, keep the consistency slightly thin but not too watery. Add this to the sambhar mix, stir and let simmer on low for 7-8 minutes more. Add chopped corainder and stir again.

5. Prepare the seasoning by heating the til oil, adding mustard seeds, methi seeds, the red chili and finally the hing powder. The hing powder added in the end gives the sambhar the "kick" it needs!! Add this to the sambhar, and remove from flame. Serve hot with rice.


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