The original recipe for this dish came to me from my friend Shubha Iyengar. Her family has been making it for generations for the temple where her maternal grandfather served as a priest. She was generous enough to coach me through making my own sambhar spice blend and then tolerated my tinkering with her recipe as I searched for ways to make it more efficient. You’re the lucky recipient of all this work, so I hope you enjoy this—along with lots of rice and ghee.
For the first cooking cycle: In the Instant Pot, combine the toor dal, water, tomatoes, onion, sugar, salt, turmeric, cayenne, and spice mix. Stir to combine.
Secure the lid on the pot. Close the pressure-release valve. Select MANUAL and set the pot at HIGH pressure for 10 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, allow the pot to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture directly in the pot until smooth.
For the second cooking cycle: Add the water, pearl onions, green beans, and tamarind concentrate to the pot.
Secure the lid on the pot. Close the pressure-release valve. Select MANUAL and set the pot at HIGH pressure for 2 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, quick release the pressure.
For the tadka: In a small skillet, melt the ghee over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, chiles, and curry leaves. Stand back and allow the mustard seeds to sizzle and spatter for about 30 seconds. Pour the hot flavored ghee into the sambhar and mix well.
Divide sambhar among four serving bowls and garnish with cilantro.
Sambhar spice mix
In a small dry skillet, combine all the ingredients. Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the coconut starts to brown on the edges, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool completely.
When the spices are cool, transfer to a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder and grind to a fine consistency.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a month. Shake or stir before using.
Dr. Urvashi Pitre is the President of a global marketing consulting firm, and also the author of the best-selling Indian Instant Pot Cookbook, one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2017.
She combines her training as a scientist with her desire to make fast, healthy, authentic, global cuisine, and experiments extensively to create the most streamlined recipes that use fresh ingredients.
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