Step 1: Soak Tamarind in water and Boil Dhal in the pressure cooker. Vegetables to be cooked separately with minimum water. A little salt to be added while boiling the vegetables
Step 2: Extract Tamarind juice and add Sambar powder, turmeric and salt
Step 3: Heat a little oil and add mustard seeds. When they crackle, add fenugreek seeds and asafoetida.
Step 4: When they become red, add tamarind juice and boil for few minutes
Step 5: Add the dhal and the boiled vegetables and let it simmer. Add water as required and Voila! tasty sambar is ready
The Real Story –
Step 1: Woke up and after performing all other necessary activities, finally decided to make Onion Sambar
Step 2: Hunted for Tamarind in the kitchen, fridge and all possible places and finally found it. Dithered on the amount of tamarind to be added and guesstimated an amount (guessed from vaguely remembering mum doing it ages ago and estimated from POTA – pulled outta thin air – numbers) and soaked it in water.
Step 3: Went to nearby supermarket to buy onion and other provisions. Chanced upon a packet of readily cut mixed vegetables. Quick decision. Onion Sambar upgraded to Mixed Veg Sambar.
Step 4: Back in the kitchen, basic confusion on which Dhal is the Thur Dhal. Tried to guess but realized it was a high risk aspect. Called up Subject Matter Expert (SME) aka Mum, got an approximate description of how it looks, did not help and then mum ,in all exasperation, described the container in which it was kept,(Bless her) and located it.
Step 5: Added 2 spoons of T.Dhal and top up the container with water. Placed the contraption without dropping it into the cooker and (most important) added water to the sides of the container in the cooker and let it boil/cook/do its job.
Step 6: Took the pre-cut vegetable and mulled over whether to cut them further. Realized it was a task beyond me and let it boil in water with little salt added.
Step 7: Extracted Tamarind juice from Step 2. Guesstimated amount seemed to high. So used only half the tamarind extract.
Step 8: One spoon of Sambar powder and a pinch of turmeric powder to be added. Question is how to differentiate between the 2? Both to me looked similar. Compromised by adding quarter spoons of both, hoping that roomie could identify which was what. Salt also added in little quantity. (Salt can be added anytime later, so its better to not overadd it)
Step 9: Determined which oil had to be added. (The cookbooks just say oil!! How is one supposed to determine which oil) by vaguely remembering that Sundrop is meant for cooking and not for oil bath. Heated it and added mustard seeds to the same and added fenugreek once the mustard seeds started to boil.
Step 9.5: Note to self. Never try to cut vegetables on an uneven surface, as the resulting touch, dexterity and balance from my side with the knife is liable (in 100% of the cases), to ensure that the floor is given a fair share of vegetables
Step 10: Added the tamarind extract + added ingredients to the content of Step 9 and since the resulting mixture seemed too little, added a glass of water to the same and left it to boil. It also helped that I was really praying at this stage
Step 11: Allowed the mixture to boil, while removed the cooked T.Dhal from the cooker (without any incidents. Wow! I really must be getting a hang of things)
Step 12: To the boiling mixture from Step 10, added the T.Dhal in stages. We, after all don’t want to make it a paste do we?. Also added the cooked vegetables and allowed the mixture to boil.
Step 13: Got vaguely concerned when the resulting “sambar” looked very liquidy. In desperation, tasted a bit and determined, it tasted just like colored water. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. Added the other half of the tamarind paste
Step 14: Panic sets in. The “Sambar” now tastes like tamarind water. Roomie sauntered in and determined which is sambar powder. Feeling relieved, added a spoon of Sambar powder to the simmering brew. For good measure, added salt too. As a further back-up, started to dial Just-Dial to get nearby Dominoes’ number
Step 15: Faint glimmering of hope emerged after boiling, as the scent starts to be sambar-ish. Further tasting confirms the first impression and corriander leaves added for flavor and the sambar is ready.
Step 16: Thulped and Thulped. Tasted half decent too. (All this and modesty too, I simply rock)
Step 17: Woke up next day and determined that I was still alive (the power was out. In Utopia, I would not be suffering powercuts and be woken up at 9AM on a Sunday. In hell, I probably would not be even be allowed to go to sleep, So this was Earth)
Moral of the story: Dont be so ready to cook unless you are prepared to wash the utensils and clear the resulting battle-field like mess afterwards
PS: Oh btw, roommate also fine. Thanks for asking