Gordon's Great Escape to India takes him south where he creates this tamarind and lentil vegetable stew
Gordon: "This is a thin vegetable stew flavoured with tamarind and thickened with tuvar dal, which is very popular in the southern regions, especially in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Each region has a particular way of eating sambar, but it is almost always served with green coconut and tomato chutneys and either rice or an Indian flat bread, such as dosa. I had the honour of making my first sambar with Sambar Mani, who grew up in one of Mumbai's largest slums, and he now makes a good living catering for small and large events within the slums. Mani has had a lifelong love of cooking and his attention to detail shows in his food. His sambar was absolutely delicious, unlike any Indian vegetarian food I had tried previously in the UK. This recipe is my humble attempt at replicating the flavours of Mani's sambar."
1. Place a frying pan over a medium heat and carefully roast all the ingredients for the masala. When the spices begin to smell very fragrant and are nicely roasted, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool completely. Use a spice grinder or pestle and mortar to grind the spices into a powder. Tip into a small bowl and add enough water, about 3-4 tablespoons, to form a thick paste with a slow-dropping consistency.
2. Put the tuvar dal and curry leaves into a medium saucepan and cover with 1½ litres of water. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat slightly and leave to simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain and set aside.
3. Soak the tamarind in 200ml of hot water for 20 minutes; use your hands to break down the block into smaller pieces. Strain the mixture through a sieve and discard the husks and seeds.
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and add the mustard, fennel and cumin seeds and the dried chillies. Cook for 1 minute or until the spices become very fragrant. Add the aubergine, butternut squash and carrots, stirring well to coat the vegetables in the spices. After 2-3 minutes add the turmeric, salt and tamarind water to the pan and bring to the boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy.
5. Add the okra, cooked lentils, ground masala spice, chopped tomatoes, ground coriander and chilli powder to the pan and stir well. Add more water to the pan if necessary. (The sambar should be quite thin in consistency.) Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 5 minutes until the okra is just tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
6. Just before serving, stir through the chopped coriander and ghee or butter. Serve the sambar hot with freshly steamed rice and warm Indian breads.
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