Occasionally the local Asian shop has Chilli Leaves and we are always excited to bring a bunch home. We have a few favourite ways of using them – they are so unusual in Australia. One of our favourite ways is to make a Chilli Leaf Sambar. It is a standard sambar with an onion tadka, into which the cooked leaves are stirred. The flavours are allowed to develop and the sambar is served with rice.
I have topped it with melted ghee mixed with some Indian chilli powder for a spicy lift to the dish. This isn’t necessary, but a small pat of ghee on top of the sambar makes a delightful finishing touch.
This sambar can be made with Mustard Greens, Drumstick leaves or Amaranth Greens too.
Chilli Leaf Sambar
0.5 – 1 bunch chilli leaves, chopped finely
0.5 cups toor dal
0.25 tspn turmeric powder
0.25 tspn ghee or Indian Sesame Oil
1 tspn brown mustard seeds
1 tspn urad dal
0.5 tspn fenugreek seeds
0.5 tspn cumin seeds
2 Indian dried red chillies
8 – 10 curry leaves
1 Tblspn ghee or Indian Sesame Oil
1 large onion, chopped
0.25 tspn asafoetida powder (hing)
1.5 tspn sambar powder
0.2 tspn turmeric powder
small amount of tamarind
Put the toor dal on to cook with the turmeric powder and few drops of ghee or sesame oil until the dal is very soft and mushy. Depending on your dal and stove it will take 30 – 50 minutes.
Soak the tamarind in 1 cup warm water for 20 mins, then strain to remove all the seeds and fibres. Push the paste through the sieve and set paste and liquid aside.
When the dal is cooked, mash it a little or pulse it with an immersion blender. Add more water if needed until the desired consistency is reached.
Heat the Tblspn ghee in a kadhai or medium pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow to pop. Add the methi seeds, urad dal, cumin seeds, dried chillies, and asafoetida powder. When the seeds and dal begin to turn golden, add the curry leaves – they will splutter.
Then add the onions, and saute until transparent. Add the tamarind extract, sambar powder, turmeric powder, salt, and 1 tspn ghee and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the cooked drumstick leaves and dal, and enough water to cover the leaves (if necessary). Simmer for a few minutes until the leaves are cooked.
If the sambar needs thickening, mix 0.5 – 1 Tblspn chickpea flour or rice flour with a little water to form a smooth pourable paste. Add just enoug to the sambar to thicken it – add while stirring and simmer, stirring, for about a minute or so.
Transfer the sambar to a serving dish and drizzle 1 tspn ghee on top. Serve and enjoy.
recipe notes and alternatives
A pureed tomato can be added with the tamarind extract.