Sambhar – South Indian Lentils

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This is my favourite dal recipe, it has a delicious nutty flavour and is the perfect accompaniment to masala dosa and lemon rice. it’s really important to use toor dal for an authentic flavour and remember to prepare the sambhar masala first!

Serves four


250g toor dal (split pigeon peas)
1 tbsp chana dal (split chickpeas)
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
10 fresh curry leaves
3-4 dried red chillies
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp sambhar masala
1 tbsp tamarind paste


Add the toor dal and chana dal to a saucepan along with the salt, turmeric powder and 1.5 litres of cold tap water. Bring to a boil and cook on a low to medium heat for 40-45 minutes until the lentils are soft and have burst open. Turn off the heat and leave to one side.

Heat the sunflower oil in a pan, and add the black mustard seeds, dried red chilies and curry leaves and let the spices sizzle. As the spices start to pop, add the sliced onions and cook for 5-6 minutes, until soft and lightly golden. Add the sambar masala and fry for a few seconds.

Check the cooked lentils and if you think the mixture is too thick, add a little boiling water. Add the tamarind paste for a sour flavour and then mix the sambar masala spiced onions into the lentils. Stir to combine and check the seasoning. You may need a little extra salt if you added more water to the lentils.

Serve on top of some piping hot steamed or lemon rice or with some masala dosa.

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