While strolling around the web I come across many different food related websites. I stumble, I discover and I share what ever catches my interest. Time itself seems to just fade away when I sit there in my little online world and it’s ok, especially when I find myself lucky enough to find a page that intrigues me. Almost a year ago I came across Dassana Amit’s wonderful, neat Vegetarian and Vegan Food empire, Veg Recipes of India.
The web boasts a massive amount of Indian Food bloggers (considering the Indian population, it makes sense) and I see a lot of Vegetarian, Egg free, special regional Indian Food Blogs every month, yet I was hooked on Dassana’s blog with her various healthy comprehensive and even innovative recipes and of course not to forget her magical photos. I just couldn’t stop myself visiting her blog secretly. I was quite shy in a way when I first found her blog and only when I discovered that Dassana lived in Goa, did I decide to send her a little email. Little did I know how sweet the lady was, and so very helpful and humble.
Dassana sees herself as a simple person who takes pleasure in small things in life. After getting to know her over the last several months, I can say that her blog reflects her soul and persona. She enjoys gardening, meditating, cooking, reading cooking books, developing recipes and she even just takes some time in her life to sit and listen to the chirping of birds. Dassana is the embodiment of peace on earth and I believe that this can be experienced in each of her dishes that she makes and shares on her blog.
Veg recipes of India boasts a great many Vegetarian as well as Vegan food dishes all written in English. She enjoys healthy balanced dishes and she believes that Vegetarian/Vegan foods can be easily combined with various food groups such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and so on. I am a person who values different type of seasonings and therefore I needed to know which spices or herbs she couldn’t live without. I am not completely surprised, because what would an Indian chef do without the indispensable Ginger root, Turmeric roots or powder and fresh but typical Indian Coriander leaves? We are totally on the same wavelength here!
I always wanted to ask her how she got around to start up a food blog! As I suspected, we have to thank her husband for having motivated our dear Dassana to press the publish button the first time. Dassana’s family loves her cooking and so they literally pressured her to share her precious cooking talent with the world. She was reluctant at first but soon found out that she enjoyed the documentation of her family recipes. In Dassana’s own words:
“It was a Godsend Idea to work on my recipe blog and there is no looking back after that!”
Dassana’s rich audience will know that she has a professional background in cooking. She was trained in Food Science, Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Technology and on top of that she has studied all the aspects of cooking and baking. You are wrong if you think Dassana’s knowledge is limited to just Indian cuisine, in fact the veg chef behind the popular blog studied the rich as well as complex Western cuisine. Dassana confessed…
“I did have professional training to make that perfect black forest cake, make the vanilla pudding at the right consistency and even make a smooth and beautiful fondant layer for a cake. However, I started cooking much before I learned the professional way. My first recipe at the age of 10, was a Sindhi Dal curry which was adapted from a cookbook. I am equally comfortable with Indian as well as Continental food. In fact, I am too fond of European & Mediterranean Cuisine. So, when I make any of these at home, I have to eat them all alone. My family has a strong Indian taste and my folks don’t like to venture in other cuisines.”
Dassana’s ever evolving blogger soul learned the art of photography, writing and SEO over time. She admits though that she isn’t the best at marketing her content, yet she believes that if the recipe is presented well and loved by the readers, they will share it on their preferred social networking sites. In my opinion that is exactly what I love in Dassanas way of handling her blog. Full of self confidence and faith in her work, she launched herself to one of the top visited food blogs in India (over 200.000 Visitors p/m).
I asked Dassana, which recipe from her blog she would recommend a newbie cook to start with and why. S he explained that many of her recipes are easy to prepare, however she would suggest for starters to try the Tandoori Cauliflower, as it follows a simple preparation method and one doesn’t require cooking skills or experience to get it all together right. Further of course it tastes great (I confirm it).
Before interviewing her I wondered what recipe she would present us here today and once she told me that she wanted to share her favorite childhood dish, Kerala Sambar, I was thrilled. This typically South Indian dish is a must for all foodies out there!
Dassana revealed that when she used to come home from her office work, her mother would sometimes prepare sambar with rice and kerala pappadums. This is her comfort food which she grew up with and which she has always relished and cherished! Kerala Sambar is much enjoyed all over India and even abroad since it is a complex flavored dish full of surprises and depths of flavor. A local from Kerala would never so openly share such a family treasured recipe. In general folks here value their traditional foods immensely since lots of effort was invested to perfect the dish over many generations. I imagine too that a Kerala Sambar served outside of India in establishments might never come close to the original. In fact Dassana’s Kerala Sambar recipe will be the only one that you will ever need. Dassana’s recipes are always spot on and flavorful balanced and they make our lives more exciting.
- 1½ or 1¾ cups of tuvar dal (arhar dal/yellow lentil)
- 1 small onion, sliced or chopped
- a pinch or two of asafoetida (hing)
- 10-12 shallots
- 8-10 okra
- 5-7 aubergines (brinjal)
- 1 large tomato or 2 medium size tomatoes
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ¾ cup tamarind pulp – made with ¾ cup water and 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
- 1 to 2 tbsp coconut oil or any vegetable oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp urad dal (black lentil)
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 2-3 dry red chillies (I used small red bor chillies for the tadka)
- For the Sambar Masala:
- ½ coconut, grated – will yield about 1 to 1½ cups of coconut
- 1 inch ginger, chopped
- 5-7 garlic flakes, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 12-15 curry leaves
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp black peppercorns
- ¼ tsp asafoetida
- ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
- 3-4 dry red chilies ( I used 2 kashmiri and 2 guntur red chillies)
- 2 to 3 tsp coconut oil or any vegetable oil
- On a skillet, tava or a shallow frying pan, heat up 2 or 3 tsp oil.
- Add all the onions and fry till they become light brown.
- Now add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute.
- Add the rest of the spice and fry till they are light brown.
- Now add the grated coconut and roast it with the rest of the spices till everything is browned and you get a fragrant aroma in your kitchen. Let this mixture cool.
- Once, cooled, grind this roasted spice mixture in the grinder with some water. This is how the sambar masala paste will look like.
- First, boil the tuvar dal till in a pressure cooker with the sliced or chopped onion and hing, till the dal is soft and well cooked.
- Mash the cooked dal slightly with a spoon when done.
- Chop all your vegetables.
- Add all the vegetables except for the okras (bhindi) to the cooked tuvar dal along with turmeric powder and some water.
- Give a nice stir to the entire mixture.
- Cook the dal with the vegetables until they are half cooked. This takes about 11-12 minutes.
- Now add the chopped okra, tamarind pulp, and the ground masala. Add some more water if the sambar has become thick.
- Add salt and give the sambar a rolling boil once and then simmer till the veggies are cooked. This will approximately take about 15-16 minutes.
- Close the flame when all the ingredients in the sambar have nicely infused with one another and you have a lovely sambar aroma pervading all around in your kitchen.
- Keep the sambar closed with a lid and move on to the next step of tempering the sambar. Ignore the frothy layer on top of the sambar. When you add the tempering all that disappears.
- In a pan or the tadka utensil, heat oil.
- Add the mustard seeds and let them pop.
- Then add all the other ingredients and fry them till they become fragrant. Take care they do not get burnt. Please also ignore the black spots on the tempering utensil. How much I try, I simply cannot get rid of them.
- Once the tadka is ready, directly pour the hot tadka on the hot sambar.
- Immediately, cover the sambar with a lid and let it stay closed for some 5 minutes. We do this at home, so that the flavors and aroma of the tadka gets very well infused with the sambar or dal.
- Give the sambar a standing time of 2-3 hrs. The sambar tastes good when kept for some hours after making it.
- The taste of a freshly prepared sambar is different than the taste of a sambar which has been made a few hours ago.
- Serve the sambar with boiled rice and pappadums, accompanied by a side vegetable dish and a bowl of yogurt or raita. Enjoy
- If there is any leftover sambar, you could have it the next day with dosa, idli, medu vada or dal vada. But keep the leftover sambar in the fridge.
Apart from the regular posting at Veg recipe of India, Dassana is currently working on new Vegan and Eggless cake and bread recipes. She further revealed that an ebook may happen in the future, let’s keep our fingers crossed!
To keep in touch with Dassana and her blog, connect with her via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. She will be happy to make new friends and if you have any cooking related questions then don’t hesitate to ask her. She is a pro in her field!