Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sambar for Techies

After my roommate who used to do all the cooking moved to his new flat last month, I decided to try my hand at cooking. It wasn't entirely out of necessity. I just didn't want to give up the opportunity to test my cooking skills on the remaining guys. I‘m not much of a vegetarian, so I had never cooked sambar before. So after checking out a few websites and blogs to get an idea of how it’s done, I finally went out and bought some sambar powder and vegetables. At first try, I put in too much sambar powder. Second time around, I forgot to precook the Muringaka and ended up burning the sambar while waiting for it to get cooked. As with software development, the best way to learn cooking is by trial and error. I had just learned two ways of how not to make sambar. Don't put in too much powder, you can always add more later if needed. Same goes for salt. And precook the tough vegetables in a pressure cooker along with the lentils. Having learnt these two lessons, I managed to get it right the third time.

So here is how I make sambar. Chop all the vegetables. Use whatever vegetables you can find. Cook the tough vegetables (basically everything except tomatoes and ladies finger) in a pressure cooker with a cup of lentils and sufficient water till the whistle blows once. Adjust the quantity of lentils depending on how thick you like your sambar. More lentils, thicker sambar. After that’s done, pour a few spoons of oil into a sufficiently sized cooking utensil. Crackle half a teaspoon of mustards. After the mustards stop crackling add the chopped tomatoes and ladies finger. Sauté over a low/medium flame till they start to turn soft. Add a few spoons of sambar powder. (Get a pack of sambar powder, no point trying to reinvent the wheel.) Add the precooked lentils and vegetables. Add tamarind paste and salt to taste. Mix everything together. Then taste to see if you need more salt or sambar powder. Finally add some curry leaves and let it simmer for a few minutes. The results shouldn’t be too bad.

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