I pinched myself; Once, twice, thrice and once again I pinched myself. Little harder this time. I had to believe that I am typing these words in the word processor and you will be reading a recipe post almost after an year. Whoa, is it a comeback? I think so. If you were wondering what had happened to me and how my life is I can brief it in one word or might be two words – Blessed and Beautiful.
The infectious smile from my daughter and the occasional treats from her like a hug or a kiss or something that is totally adorable makes me count my blessings. It helps me to stay positive amidst the quadrillion crazy things that happens around me. Someone, a saint like person correctly said “The soul is healed by being with children”.
Every time we return from India, our bags are filled with several pounds of aromatic spice mixes; Sambar Podi, Dhaniya podi, Tiffin Sambar podi, Red chili podi, Kuzhambu Milagai Podi, Idli Molagai podi, Karuvapellai podi (curry leaves powder). The concoction of their aromas would even help us identify our bags among the hundreds in the conveyor belt. These spice mixes/podis are made from scratch by Amma with love and care. The spices are sun dried and then weighed on a white analog kitchen scale and on a mild heat it is roasted to perfection and taken to the flour mill where it is milled to the consistency that Amma wants. As soon as I come home, I unpack my bags fill the empty glass jars with these spices and stock the rest in my refrigerator. They don’t go rancid but it is just me who is overcautious.
I feel handicapped when I run out of these spice mixes especially the two varieties of Sambar Podi. They are the bread and butter of my kitchen and I can never comprise them for store bought ones. But I don’t lament rather feel excited for repeating the process in my kitchen. The whole spice jars hiding in my kitchen cabinet are brought back to the kitchen counter where I weigh the spices individually on my tiny kitchen scale. Then my miniature cast iron pan is pulled out and on a gentle heat I roast one spice at a time until it jumps, crackles and unleash the perfume unique to the spice. Then they are cooled and ground to a fine powder in an Indian Mixie/Spice grinder.
Oh beware, on a whim you can burn the spices if you don’t pay attention to it and ruin the zen place you are creating. So please please dedicate yourself to this yogic exercise. Sorry, if I am terrorizing you. I just want to put this word in your head so that you don’t complain later that I didn’t warn you. I am sure you will do well because you want this best Tiffin sambar podi.
Some of you might wonder how it is different from the regular sambar podi, then you must ask people who crave for Savanna Bhavan or Ratna cafe Sambar which is served exclusively with their breakfast items like Idli, Dosa, Pongal, Upma, Sambar Vada, Mini idly et all. This sambar podi will create such magic in your kitchen.
This Sambar podi is so versatile and it has multiple uses like
- Obviously use this to make Sambar (Pigeon pea and tamrind stew) with your choice of vegetables and lots of shallots. Amma usually makes it with tons of Shallots
- You can also sprinkle it on top of the stir fries (oohh..thy potatoes) or on any stews you make
- Or make an instant gun powder/ Idli Molagai podi. Recipe: Add 2-3 tbsp of this podi/powder, one or two garlic pod and pulse it in the mixie/spice grinder for 10 seconds. later add some sesame oil stir it well and and serve it with hot and fluffy idlis or crispy dosas
- Measure the ingredients and keep them aside. Meanwhile heat a small pan/kadai (preferrably cast iron)
- On a medium heat, dry roast the ingredients one at a time to the consistency specified below
- Coriander seeds until it crackles and releases its aroma
- Split bengal gram and Black gram until it turns light golden brown
- Black pepper until it sizzles and Cumin seeds until it jumps and crackles. This will happen in few seconds
- Dry roast fenugreek seeds until it turns golden brown
- Dry roast Red chili with a pinch of salt until it puffs up. Do not allow it to turn black
- Roast curry leaves until it becomes crisp.
- Allow them to cool. In a clean and dry jar/spice grinder add red chilies and grind to a slightly coarse powder.
- Then add other ingredients and grind to a fine powder (see notes for grinding). You might not get a super fine powder like the milled ones, but it doesn't really matter.
- Let it cool before you transfer it to an airtight jar.
- This yields approximately 3/4 cup sambar powder which can be used 5-7 times depending on the number of people you cook. Notes
- While roasting red chilies add a pinch of salt, it will reduce the pungent smell and the irritation that follows it.
- Do not grind continuously, say more than 15 seconds. This might heat up the spices.
- In between, stir it with a spoon to aerate the powder (not while grinding :D )
- If the mixer heats up, allow it to cool and then proceed.
- You can multitask by using two pans, one fore roasting chili and coriander seeds and the smaller one for the rest of the ingredients.
- Feel free to double or triple this recipe. I prefer to make them in small batches because nothing beats fresh sambar podi.