First of all, let me jump in and say, I love canned pumpkin. 50% of you reading this page may be totally against canned products. And I completely get it. It is a processed food, and we are advised to be wary of it. But food processing is a mixed bag – You have to selectively choose the good and weed out the bad.
Let’s talk about canning
Canning is just a form of food preservation. I have visited canning plants here in the US, as an engineer, and it is remarkable how efficiently these vegetables are processed without anybody even touching them.
Always read the ingredients. Canned pumpkin is usually 100% pumpkin. How awesome is that? That product just saved me time from going to the store, buying a section of yellow pumpkin, storing it in the back of the fridge, taking it after few days with half rotten parts, struggling with a huge knife to cut into chunks, scrape all seeds out and then cook it.
My other favorite canned products are canned tomatoes, olives, coconut milk and beans. I pick the ones with no preservatives. The very process of canning eliminates all bacteria, so if preservatives are added – that is a sub-optimal product. Also, avoid canned products with too much sugar or salt content in them.
Moving on – Let us deconstruct the recipe
Sambar is a stew made of 4 basic parts:
1) Cooked toor dal – I always cook for 2 days together – refrigerate or freeze the next day’s portion. I know, I am hearing “abacharam” from all sweet, loving aunties. But as long as you preserve it well, you are safe. The colder the temperature, the longer it stays. If it goes bad, trust me you will know – it will be slimy and will smell bad. If that happens, you got to throw it away.
2) Tamarind – You can soak tamarind in water. Again, I do this in bulk too and store it in the fridge. Because tamarind is acidic, it preserves really well. Nowadays, you get 100% tamarind puree (no preservatives) that I also completely recommend.
3) Sambar powder – It is nothing fancy – basically roasted lentils with some south Indian spices in certain proportions. I will attach a link to it, when I make it. For now, you can buy storebought powder or emotionally blackmail your mom to make it for you.
4) Vegetables – Drumstick, zuchinni, brinjal,carrot, frozen veggies etc work very well. I used canned pumpkin here.
Did you see the Vitamin A content of canned pumpkin? At 250% it is off the charts in providing you a very valuable vitamin. As an added bonus, we get iron at 6% of daily value -a much needed mineral for vegetarians.
Using canned pumpkin eliminates the need for me to deal with veggies or the cutting board while making sambar. Using refrigerated dal, tamarind extract lets me pull together a sambar very quickly as an effective side dish.
Pumpkin Sambar Recipe
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
for making sambar:
⦁ Tamarind – Soak a golf ball size of tamarind in 2 cups of water (maybe more if you are storing for later)
⦁ Toor daal – 1/2 cup cooked and mashed
⦁ Pumpkin – 1/3 of a can
⦁ Sambar Powder – 3 teaspoons
for tempering (tadka):
⦁ 1 tablespoon oil
⦁ 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
⦁ 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
⦁ Curry leaves (depending on availability)
⦁ 2 pinches of hing
⦁ salt as required
1. Add tadka items
2. Add 2 cups of tamarind water
3. Add 3 teaspoons sambar powder and salt
4. Add cooked dal
Quick note – the dal should be well-mashed and hot. Only then will it emulsify well into the rest of the stew. Otherwise, you will have lentil puree at the bottom and clear liquid at the top. Individually standing lentils are a quick way to detect a novice cook. You will then have to crack self-deprecating jokes when passing out the sambar. So, remember – well-mashed and hot!! A shout-out to my sweet, patient mom for teaching me this trick.
5. Add 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
6. Boil well.
Additional Notes and Resources:
I will be the first to admit that this is not the chef’s version of sambhar. I am sure grinding coconut or using the right oil will take the dish to the next level. There are some amazing bloggers who get the nuances just right – Try Subbus kitchen or Kanamma cooks for some amazing pumpkin sambar recipes made the traditional way.
My job is to get you in the kitchen, crank out a couple of dishes while simultaneously assisting one child with homework, the other one with the missing shoe while you are mentally preoccupied with the report that is due 2pm in the afternoon.
Don’t worry – with the rich culinary history, food technology tools and me, we got your back. Tune in for more ideas every week. Let me know your comments, your ideas and your success/ failure in recreating these recipes. My readers and I would love to hear from you!!