Sunday 7 May 2017

Of Sambhar and memories...

For us Delhiites, the very definition of South Indian food begins and ends with Sambhar. Be it Dosa, Idli, Vada or Utappam, we like to pamper ourselves with Sambhar. I remember during college days, me and my bestie Surbhi would often hang out at Madras Hotel in Connaught Place for some awesome Masala Dosa and Sambhar. The USP of the outlet was its "to die for" Sambhar. The servers or Anna as we called them would serve us generous helpings of Sambhar till our tummies would feel like gas balloons. I remember once we were so full (in the tummy, not in the heart) and sleepy after the meal that it was a tough walk from Madras Hotel to the bus stop from where we had to catch the bus to home (Delhi metro was non existent those days)!

My fondest memories of Sambhar are from my childhood, when my papa would prepare lip smacking sambhar with dosa. I still remember we had this special big tawa/griddle exclusively for preparing dosa. Even though kitchen was mom's baby, Sambhar Dosa was entirely papa's department. 

How Papa, an otherwise non cook material learnt to prepare the perfect Sambhar Dosa is also a very interesting story. Apparently, once during a long wait for bus at the bus stop, papa started chatting with a roadside Dosa stall owner. While the bus came way late, it gave papa enough time to learn the art of preparing the perfect Sambhar Dosa. So perfect is he with his dish that often his boss would drop by our place for savouring Dosa Sambhar. While mom would happily don the hat of an assistant that day, papa would be so full of zeal on being the head chef! Since we were a family of 6, the batter would be prepared in a large vessel in huge quantity. After the day long fermentation, it was time to savour the Dosa and Idli.  There was also a giant pressure cooker bought just to prepare enormous quantity of Sambhar.

Despite a Sambhar expert available at home, I never bothered to pick up the skill, being the lazy chef that I am! Even after marriage, Dosa Sambhar to me meant a visit to the popular Dosa joint in the WEA market in Karol Bagh and pampering myself to Dosa and unlimited Sambhar.

But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention...

After we moved to Mumbai, the spicy North Indian style Sambhar became a luxury. I still remember the first time I had Sambhar in my office cafeteria. I walked up to the server and asked him if they put the sugar by mistake in Sambhar! Pat came his reply to my horror, "M'am that's how Sambhar is to be, how else?" Oh My God! For the Delhiite used to spicy Sambhar, this was nothing short of a cultural shock! Not willing to give up that easily, I tried my luck with few more joints so called "popular for their South Indian food" however, the ordeal repeated each time. 

At the cross roads, the foodie in me had just two options - either to forego the joy of relishing sambar or learn to prepare Sambhar as per our North Indian preference.

I decided to take things in my stride and became a pro at preparing Sambhar, thanks to my mom in law.

Sharing the simple and easy Sambhar that saves my day each time I have the craving to eat South Indian food.


Ingredients (for 4 portions)
  • Tuur/Arhar Dal - 150g (soaked for an hour) (I have learnt a simple measurement rule from my mom in law - a fistful dal per person)
  • Water
  • Vegetables (Bottle Guard, Pumpkin, Onions, Tomatoes, Potatos, carrot, french beans) - Diced in mouthful size pieces (Sambhar is the best way to use the leftover grocery in the fridge!)

  • Salt - to taste
  • Turmeric - 1tsp
  • Tamarind - to taste (deseeded and soaked in water for half and hour)
  • Sambhar Powder - 2-3tsp
  • Oil - 1tbsp
  • Onion - 2 chopped
  • Red Chilli Powder - 1tsp
  • Rai/Black mustard seeds - 1tsp
  • Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch (aids digestion)
  • Jeera/Cumin seeds - 1tsp
  • Curry leaves - few

Method -
Wash the soaked Arhar  Dal and drain out the water

In a pressure cooker, take all the diced vegetables, add the Arhar Dal and water. The water should be half index finger level above the vegetables.

Add turmeric powder and salt. Close the lid and pressure cook. 

After the first whistle, keep on low flame for 2-3 minutes and turn off the stove. Remove the lid and mash the vegetables a bit with the back of a round spoon (this will give a rich, thick Sambhar. You may skip the mashing if you like your Sambhar to be watery)

In a separate kadhai, heat oil. Add the asafoetida, rai, cumin seeds and curry leaves.

When the rai and cumin seeds begin to splutter, add the chopped onions and sauté.

When the onions turn golden brown, add the sambhar powder and sauté.

Next, add the red chilli powder and sauté till the mixture leaves oil on sides. 

Add the mashed vegetables and water and mix well. Finally, mash the soaked tamarind into a homogeneous paste (you may also choose to blend in a blender) and add to the Sambhar.

Give the mixture one nice boil. 

Tadaaa! Piping hot Sambhar is ready!

For the Onion Utappam
  • Dosa batter - I am a lazy cook and allow myself some shortcuts in the form of readymade Dosa batter from the South Indian store nearby!
  • Spring Onions - 2-3 chopped
  • Green chilies - 2-3 chopped
  • Salt - to taste
  • Asafoetida - a pinch
  • Oil - 1tbsp

Add a pinch salt and asafoetida to the readymade dosa batter for a good flavour and easy digestion.

Mix together the chopped spring onions and green chillies and keep aside.

In case the batter is too thick you may add a bit water to dilute else skip the step. The batter should be flowy for crisp Utappams.

Heat a tawa/griddle. Spread some oil.

Once the oil is smoky hot, with the help of a round spoon, spread some batter on the tawa. The technique is to pour a spoonful batter on the tawa and make circular motions with the round spoon, reading the batter from centre to edges.

Spread some onion chilli mixture evenly on the utappam. 

Smear oil and once the other side looks brown, change sides.

Once both sides are cooked, the Utappam is ready to be served with Sambhar.

Monday 1 May 2017

Movie - A Dog's Purpose

Genre - Drama/Comedy
Duration - 1h 40min
Director - Lasse Hallström
Based On - A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
Cast - Josh Gad (narration), K.J. Apa, Dennis Quaid, Bryce Gheisar, Peggy Lipton, Juliet Rylance

My View
If you are a dog lover, keep a pack of tissues handy.

If you are not, don't bother watching for there is nothing the movie has to offer you.

A Dog's Purpose was not one of the most popular choices for cinema lovers when I came to know about it. Blame it on Bahubali2 that is ruling all the theatres. But since I am not a part of the Bahubali brigade, the movie seemed like a nice weekend watch. The first thing that prompted me to go for the movie was the innocent face of a golden retriever in the promos. Isn't he adorable?

Dogs and emotions have become by now the USP of director  Lasse Hallström. His last movie Hachi:A Dog's Tale remains one of my favourite movie, for it spoke so much about Dog-man relationship. I had therefore, high expectations from his latest offering.

A Dog's Purpose is very different from Hachi:A Dog's Tale, or Marley & Me. While the latter speak about the life of a dog and his relationship with his master, A Dog's Purpose revolves around all that goes in the mind of a dog during his various lives. 

The major part of the movie is about Bailey (Josh Gad), a golden retriever, or rather an intelligent golden retriever who always has questions in his mind about his existence. What, why, who, where....Bailey is an inquisitive dog and sometimes one wonders this is a dog thinking and feeling like humans! From the lap of his mother to dog catchers, Bailey is on the move till he gets rescued by Ethan and his mom Elizabeth. Despite resistance from Ethan's father, who clearly comes across as a non pet lover, Bailey finds his place in the home and heart of Ethan and his mom. The first half is a treat for dog lovers as Bailey is seen to have a great time with Ethan in the 60's. Like a true buddy, he follows Ethan everywhere. True to epitomising friendship, Bailey ensures to be a part of all the important moments in Ethan's life. He shares Ethan's joy when he enjoys a baseball match; his happiness and excitement when Ethan meets his girlfriend Hannah; his sorrow when the family goes through a split. Surprisingly, Bailey also plays the cupid in Ethan's life which was kinda cute to watch. Bailey also is a true loyal, for he risks his life to protect Ethan and his mom when their house burns down. 

Ethan's life however, changes after the fire incident. Bailey moves with Ethan to his grandparents' house in the countryside. Ethan goes through tough times when he loses his scholarship and breaks up with Hannah. Bailey tries a lot to cheer Ethan up however, all his efforts go in vain. With Ethan leaving for college, Bailey loses the focal point of his life and soon succumbs to old age and illness.

While one wonders the story is over, Bailey surprises us with another incarnation as a female German Shepherd Ellie since he remembers each detail of his previous birth. In his short but adventurous life as Ellie, the police dog in the 70's, he discovers that the purpose of his life is to protect mankind. 

In his next incarnation as a corgi named Toni in the 80's, he learns that the purpose of his life is to bring happiness and remove loneliness in the life of Maya and helps her find true love. 

His last life however, is the most eventful one. Born as a Saint Bernard in the 90's, he has a short stint with an abusive family indicating so much about people who bring dogs home without thinking whether they are prepared to raise one. After the family abandons him, he goes through major coincidence. While in every life, he missed the warmth of his relationship with Ethan, a chance meeting with an old Hannah brings back all the smells afresh in his memory. He soon sets out in search of Ethan and finds an old and lonely Ethan in the same house. With Ethan back in his life, Bailey aka Buddy's life finally comes a full circle and he does best to bring happiness back into Ethan's life.

Although Bailey feels that his purpose in life is to live in the moment and spread happiness, I felt it was more about Bailey's love for Ethan and his homecoming. 

I guess, A Dog's Perspective could have been a more appropriate title!

  • The cute and innocent faces of pups would make you go Awww.
  • One sure shot way directors know to make the viewers go numb is putting generous dose of playful doggie moments. If you ever had a dog you will remember him each time you watch Bailey playing with Ethan. 
  • The director successfully triggers your tear glands. A pack of tissues will be helpful for you will see a dog dying multiple times in the movie.
  • The actors are skilled in their craft to invoke the right emotions in our hearts.
  • The most interesting part of the movie is the constant narration in the voice of Bailey that gives a dog's perspective on all that he sees. 


  • Despite the director trying his bring in the whole concept of purpose in a dog's life, by retaining Bailey's memory and his love for Ethan, it appeared more like Bailey's story and his homecoming. 
  • A strong story is the base for a good movie. Somehow, I found the story to be weak. The director seemed confused between depicting a dog-master affectionate relationship and various experiences in a dog's life, or rather multiple births.
  • Dunno how true this is, but a clip by TBZ went viral on internet showing cruelty to the German Shepherd during the shoot. Though, American Humane Association later concluded that the video was tweaked to mislead people, yet the incident led to a lot of negative publicity for the movie.

My Rating