Dr. Padma Garvey
The plant-based Doctor Mom
Indian cuisine, more than any other cuisine I know of, utilizes a large variety of lentils and creates a wide variety of dishes with each of them. Such an assortment of flavors, textures, and tastes using lentils is one of the reasons why vegetarianism sprang from India and is practiced so widely there still. Basically....it is a lot easier to be a vegetarian if you know how to make Indian food.
Idlis and sambar is a classic South Indian dish using urad dal to make light, fluffy sponge cakes and toor dal to make a spicy, hearty stew to pour over the cakes. It is low in oil, packed with protein and flavor. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner.
Take 2 cups of urad dal and soak for about 8 hours in water in the refridgerator. Drain the water and grind the urad dal in a food processor until you get a thick batter. You will need to add some water in order to get the dal to grind. You don't want your end result to be runny however. You want the consistency of a stiff pancake batter. Add two tablespoons of salt and one cup of cream of rice. Take on packet of yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and mix in a small amount of warm water. Let the yeast activate for about ten minutes before adding to the urad dal batter. Mix well, cover and let rest in a warm place. The batter will expand so make sure you have it in a container that can accommodate the rising batter. Give it 6 hours at least or 24 hours and make the next day.
You need a special stacked tray that you can purchase at any Indian grocery store or even online (look for Idli maker or Idli tray). You ladle a large dollop of the batter in the compartments and place the whole thing in a large pot with a lid. You add about 1-2 inches of water in the pot, bring to boil and then steam your idlis. It will take about 10 minutes. Then, using a knife, you gentle shell your idlis out.
Traditionally, the idlis are eaten with a hearty stew called sambar. To make sambar:
Take 2 cups of toor dal and roast in a skillet until just turning brown. Then cook the toor dal in two cups of water in your pressure cooker for about 15 minutes of high pressure. Once the 15 minutes are up, turn off the flame and let the pressure cooker rest.
Alternatively you can use green split peas instead which can be added to six cups of boiling water directly as below.
In a medium soup pot, add about 6 cups of water and heat. To the water, add one large onion finely chopped, two jalapenos, sliced in half, one large tomato finely cut, two carrots, chopped, 1/2 green bell pepper chopped, and 1/3 eggplant, chopped into small pieces. Add one tablespoon of salt. After the mixture has boiled for about ten minutes, add two tablespoons of sambar powder, one teaspoon turmeric powder, one teaspoon of tamarind paste, and one teaspoon of sugar. Take the toor dal from the pressure cooker and mash into a paste using a large spoon or an emersion blender and pour into soup. Let the soup cook for another 20 to 30 minutes until it becomes a hearty stew.
In a small skillet, add one teaspoon of oil and heat to medium. Add one teaspoon of black mustard seeds, ten menthi seeds, one dried red chili. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add three dashes of hingh powder. Quickly pour the contents into the soup mixture. Stir and take soup off of heat.