Sunday, February 22, 2009

Swiss Chard Sambhar

I started noticing a new label on the milk containers recently about a year perhaps. Most of them now have "rbgh free" and "antibiotic free" stamped on them and it reminded me of why I started buying organic milk for the kids. I was discussing this with a friend recently who asked why I should be buying oraganic at all because the regular milk has (or does not have) what I wanted anyway. It spurred me on to do more research about the difference between the two. CSM to the rescue. Organic labelling is a mandated and enforced whereas those with rgbh free the respecting the labelling is pretty much honrary is my understanding. Does anybody know about the use of these hormones on cows in India? I would love to know more.

If you had asked me if I liked sambhar about 20 years ago, the answer would have been a resounding No. This was when I had access to an amazing range of sambhar cooked up by some of the best cooks. When access is limited attiudes change, now I crave for sambhar and cannot go without it for more than 2 or 3 days. Some vegetables lend themselves to be added to sambhar and are very commonly used like drumstick, radish, beans-carrot-peas-potato, green mango, okra, brinjal and vegetables in the gourd family but for bitter gourd. There is no sambhar police and if you add zucchini or cabbage or spinach or chard leaves you are not going to be arrested.

For me drumstick had been a clear favorite for a long time till recently when another candidate is slowly inching to take that spot. Even the aroma from a drumstick sambhar is enough to satisfy half your hunger. Do you agree with me folks that drumstick sambhar is the best? But this post is not dedicated to drumstick sambhar but its close competitor the Swiss Chard sambhar. If you have not tried it you should and I guarantee it you would be rearranging your favorite list too.

Green Earth
Are you eager to reduce the carbon foot print? Do a small part and join the Swiss Chard Challenge . Don't be taken aback by the word challenge and by Swiss Chard if you are not familiar with it. Greens of any kind have to be grown that is all. Hop over to the link to see what it is all about.

Have you purchased the seeds?
Yes you have to hop on to the dreaded automobile to purchase those seeds but if you combine it with other trips, it is going to be green isn't? Most stores have put out the seeds for sale and I picked mine a few weeks ago.


The recipe is quite simple if you make sambhar but here it is. I have used the pressure cooker to complete the entire sambhar.

Vegetables cooking in tamarind extract along with the sambhar powder


Swiss Chard Sambhar
1. 1 Cup toor dal washed, turmeric powder, drops of sesame oil
2. 1/2 onion chopped fine (or shallots sliced fine, these are the ones used back home)
3. 2 Cups Swiss Chard cleaned and chopped (I used a combination of swiss chard and beet leaves) [any other vegetable can be substituted. See Note:]
4. 1/4 cup tamarind extract from small lime sized ball of tamarind. If using tamarind paste use 3 tsp mixed in a 1/2 cup of water.
5. 1 tbsp sambhar powder
6. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard, asfoetida a tiny bit, cumin and methi seeds
7. 1 tsp oil, salt to taste
1. Add toor dal to the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water, a pinch of turmeric powder and few drops of sesame oil and cook for 2 whistles or till soft.
2. Transfer the contents to a container, now in the same cooker heat the oil add the seasoning, saute the onions till translucent.
3. Add the chard leaves (or any other vegetable) and saute them for about 4-5 minutes and add the sambhar powder.
4. Now add the tamarind extract and mix well. Let it boil for about 3-4 minutes or till the vegetable is almost cooked and soft. Greens cook fast so if you are using any other vegetable boil till the vegetable is soft.
5. Mash the toor dal and add it to the tamarind extract and vegetables and if required add a cup more of water.
6. Add salt.
7. Place the lid and let it cook for another whistle or if without pressure cooking on the stove top for about 6-8 minutes.
Note: If using drumstick which takes a slightly longer time to cook, precook for about 8-10 in about 1/4 cup of water and then add to the sauteing onions. Do not discard the cooking water. It can be added in as well along with the tamarind water. If using okra they have to be cooked differently (required its own recipe).

Serve with rice, rotis, idlis or dosais. It tastes good with pretty much anything.


  1. Totaaly agree with you...drumstick sambhar is the bestest...though I never used to like it too much just a few years ago. Plan to try the swiss chard one very soon!

  2. My favorite sambhar is ANY sambhar, ISG -- but you knew that :) I didn't know till a year or two ago that chard and beets are of the same family, and chard is sometimes called spinach beet! I can't wait for swiss chard growing out back this spring. And now thanks to your photo and post, I'd better go make some sambhar for lunch tomorrow :)

  3. That's one fabulous sambar with swiss chard. Wanna try this one for sure.

  4. Hey Indo, Would you be interested in raw milk? It's legal in DC. But it's illegal here in Ontario/Canada. Let me know, I'll send you some links about why pasteurized milk isn't good, even if it's organic and where you can get it. Just recently started reading about it and now I feel so bad giving pas. milk to M.

  5. I never made fuss about food, ate everything and anything my mother cooked. I love Sambhar,specially Udupi style with simple ingredients.Drumstick sambhar is the best, slurp!

    I bought those Rainbow chard pack last year, they are coming up again themselves,didn't pull the roots out last Fall, can't wait to grow some. Actually, I do have dish made by those in the draft,waiting for some event!:D

    May be in cities, they use the harmones etc, don't think India uses that in towns and villages.

  6. We get the organic one too.

    beautiful sambar yaar. I love sambar esp. if it has greens & veggies in it. still getting to 30s here at night so yet to plant anything:-)

  7. I might be in your neigborhood in April, serve me a bowl of this :D

    yeah. me wants to know about hormones and Indian cows milk too. Even I still continue buying organic milk & eggs for S for same reason

    But pas. milk was a staple in India too. At least in the cities. Like Anand, nandini(B'lore)

    I think at a point you have to weigh the pros and cons taking all factors into account.

  8. You are right.. drumstick sambhar has an unbeatable flavour. I will have to take you up on the swiss chard version... sounds very interesting and definitely healthy.

  9. Sandeepa, come on right over.

  10. I just might join your swiss chard challenge! I don't ahve a green thumb but it looks like swiss chard might be the resilient one that survives despite me! :) The sambar looks delicious, ISG! I don't really have a favorite though. I love sambhar of all kinds!

  11. the clour of the sambhar is very tempting, I don't think that swiss chard seeds would be available in India, any clues??

  12. bindivya, Welcome!
    I don't think you will be able to find Chard seeds in India. If you are interested in the Chard challenge event and I am excited that you are, you can grow greens that are common to your area, methi, mustard, amranthus all are welcome.

  13. i already have methi growing in my garden, i blogged about it recently,, and this u might like this too

    i was soooo interested in ur sambhar, wish i could get those chard seeds...

  14. I don't feel safe at most of the food sold at store/market... well, I better not to worry too much for minutes, simply sit back and enjoy your wonderful swiss chard sambhar!

  15. I will have to try it out.

    I agree with you...When access is limited attiudes change,I did`nt like sambhar either. Drumstick is best for sambhar.

  16. Thats one nutritious sambar.. Lovely! Have seen swiss chard in stores but never tried them.. Will buy next time when i go shopping and try your fabulous sambar recipe..

  17. never used or tasted swiss chard.. i am always reluctant to try varieties of greens that we get in the US.. i stick to spinach, methi, pudhina etc..your sambar looks good and makes me want to try!

    i just buy rbst free milk.. homemade curd tastes good with this milk. somehow it does not taste good when made using organic.

  18. I havent noticed the rbgh free on the milk, but I heard the last part of segment on NPR about organic milk and its benefits. Apparently it will take time to find out if organic milk has better benefits compared to the regular ones.

    The color of the sambhar looks lovely. I usually add spinach and I will keep this green in mind for next time.

  19. This methos is similar to what we make. Looks inviting. My favorite is also the drumstick sambar. How does this swiss chard taste ? can u compare iwth anyhting that available in India ? amma makes a "thanni chaaru" with agathi keerai. This sambar reminds me of that!

  20. I agree drumstick sambar is the best ever, and I appreciate it much more now that I don't get tender drumsticks that easily on Delhi.

    Swiss chard sounds interesting - haven't tasted Swiss chard but think the outcome might just taste a bit like keerai sambar? Your version looks good!

    BTW, my own personal opinion? the taste of making sambar by simmering the tamarind pulp and spices for 15 minutes and then adding the cooked vegetables and dal to it is somehow so much more appetizing that cooking it in the pressure cooker - wouldn't have agreed some years ago, but now I'm a believer :)

  21. gee thxxx will be looking forward to it!

  22. Kay, I am curious to know more. Pasteurization of milk is to heat the milk to a very high temperature to kill the bacteria and increase the shelf life? No in Maryland and DC raw milk is still illegal I think.

    Mahima, tastes differ I guess, but I personally like the curd made from organic milk. But both are way better than store bought

    Nirmala, thandu keerai sambhar I even like the sound of it. I can't think of any green that is similar.

    Miri, I totally agree, you are right and that is the method I usually cook sambhar but the pressure cooker helps when I want fast and quick. The frozen drumsticks seem to cook only after a stint in the pressure cooker.

  23. I absolutely love the idea of using swiss chard in sambar...I have tried sambar with methi leaves which I love but never swiss chard. Definitely to try and soon, maybe even today :-)

  24. Indo,

    Check these..

    You are right.. DC and Maryland don't have any stores listed.. but looks like they do have nearby locations from where one can get raw milk..

    Please don't think I'm pushing my ideas on you.. I'm just sharing what I read. I'm all for informed decisions, whatever it may be.

  25. Kay, not at all. It is good to be informed and make choices make decisions based on them.

    In India all of us grew up close to raw milk but we never drank raw milk. It was boiled to a high temperature and then cooled and used. But on the other hand drinking just raw milk is not so common even there.

    I am sure there are several benefits of drinking raw milk just like eating raw vegetables is far superior but sometimes convenience and availabilty come in the way.

    But Good Luck with it. I will keep my ears open as well.

  26. Swiss chard sambhar absolutely new for me.Healthier version.

  27. Indo, I think by raw milk, these people mean unpastuerized. I've read that some of these pro raw-milk people still scald milk at home. Apparently ultrapastuerization is the problem which changes the constituency of milk and its properties, not boiling-at-home.

  28. I tried this today. Absolutely delicious! I used to only make thoran with this before. Now I have another recipe that is coconut free!

  29. PaakaPriya, thank you for letting me know. This is one of my favorite sambhars and I am so glad you found it delicious as well.

  30. Hi,
    I have to agree, drumstick sambar is the best..i tried the swiss chard sambar...loved it..i've put a picture in my blog.


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