1 tablespoon chana dal
2 teaspoons urad dal
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 dried red chillies (ideally Kashmiri which give excellent colour without too much heat)
1 clove
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1⁄2 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
1⁄4 cup split red lentils
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp (or use 2 tablespoons tamarind paste)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or coconut oil
1 onion, sliced
6-7 cups vegetables, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 x 400g can cherry tomatoes
1-3 tablespoons sambar powder
1-2 teaspoons jaggery, coconut sugar, palm or brown sugar
lime juice
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
pinch asafoetida (optional)
1-2 sprigs curry leaves

I find lentil dishes very comforting on grey, dull days, especially when loaded with vegetables cooked low and slow enough to be completely tender. I find it a good way to clean out the fridge, if required! For this particular batch I added squash, eggplant, cauliflower, green beans, green capsicum and carrots. I make no apologies for this making it such a large batch of sambar as the flavours get better after a day or so.

Toor dal are split pigeon peas, bright yellow in colour with a nutty flavour. You could use split chickpeas (chana dal) or even yellow split peas, although the flavour will be altered.

Don’t omit the soaking step – they really need the long steep. The sambar powder keeps well. One batch should be enough for 2-3 batches of the sambar depending on how much spice you add into it.

View the recipe collection here


1.Soak the toor dal and red lentils in water for 4 hours. Drain and rinse.
2.Put into a pot with 2 cups water, the turmeric and the salt.
3.Bring up to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes until tender.
4.If you prefer a smoother texture, you can blitz this with a stick blender (I didn’t bother).
5.Meanwhile, if using tamarind pulp, soak in 3 tablespoons hot water for 20 minutes, strain through a sieve to get around 2-3 tablespoons tamarind paste.
6.Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and fry for a couple of minutes.
7.Add the vegetables and fry lightly. Add the tomatoes, 500ml water, tamarind paste, 2 tablespoons of the sambar powder (or more if you want it a little spicier), the jaggery and cooked dal.
8.Bring up to a simmer and cook over a gentle heat for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.
9.Thin down with water if you want a looser mix and adjust seasonings to taste.
10.When ready to serve, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, add the mustard seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, if using, and the curry leaves, and cook until the seeds pop.
11.Pour over the hot sambar. Ladle into bowls.
12.Traditionally served with idli, but equally good with rice.

Recipes & food styling Ginny Grant / Photography Aaron McLean / Styling Jess Hemmings