Dhal, shall we do the Sambar?

Hehe! Sorry for the cheesy title, but I could not resist. As you know, I hardly ever make ‘dhal’ as such.  It is usually sambar in our house.  Why?  Well, the first is a a very simple and straightforward dish with lentils as its main ingredient. Turn it into a good South Indian sambar, and you can combine the lentils with a whole lot more, and it is a meal in itself.  We love it with spinach and tomatoes, carrots and potatoes.  You can add whatever vegetables you like to it: okra, sweet potato, capsicum, zuchini.  About the best veggie stew around, in my opinion.

I had to put this one up for you Izzy. Let’s face it: you are a sambar girl from waaaay back. Birthday dinner requests, not feeling well days, absolutely starving days, this is the favoured option. We eat it over rice, and it goes well with an accompaniment of a dry fish or meat curry. It stands alone just fine though, and is always good with roti. And I like a pappadum on the side…..and some lime pickle!

There are ingredients here you won’t have in your kitchen, but they are worth getting because dry Indian spices don’t go off quickly, and you’ll want to eat this dish again and again. And you’ll have all the ingredients right there! So healthy and nutritious, and it won’t cost you a bomb too. Stop into any Indian grocery store and they will have all the items you need. If you buy fresh curry leaves ( they are of course the best), you can store them in a bag in the freezer. They refresh beautifully when you throw them in hot oil. You can also pick up a nice package of chapatis, and some samosas to go with your meal…..Have a feast!


  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • two to three chopped garlic cloves 
  • two teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cummin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons sambar powder
  • 1 cup red lentils (these are the small, orange coloured lentils)
  • a tablespoon of fresh or dried curry leaves
  • about three cups of vegetables of your choice. Pick from yams, potato, tomato, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, capsicums, spinach, etc., cut into pieces.


  1. Heat oil in a pot.
  2. Throw in the mustard seeds, and wait for them to start popping.
  3. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the cumin seeds, the garlic and ginger.
  4. Stir well, and add the curry leaves, then the lentils after a few seconds.
  5. Add the sambar powder and stir everything well together.
  6. At this point, add your hard vegetables ( like root veggies if you are using any) and stir well.
  7. After about a minute, add a boiling jug of water to the lentils.
  8. reduce heat to a simmer, stirring well.
  9. Add more water so that there is about an inch above the lentil mixture at all times. The lentils will expand quickly and soak up the moisture, so watch the pot and keep adding water as necessary.
  10. Now add your softer veggies, like capsicum, tomato and zucchini if you are using them.
  11. Season with salt and lemon juice. The consistency of the sambar should be like a thickened soup: freely liquid, but also very thick. The lentils should be soft and mushy.
  12. Serve hot.
  13. Keeps well in the fridge for about 4 days.


The Lunchtime Omelette

One of the first things you request for lunch when you are home for a visit Izzy, is an omelette.

You love it stuffed with spinach and cherry tomatoes, fresh cilantro (coriander) and onion. We both agree that the caramelized onion really makes it.  The addition of chopped green chillis takes it to another level for me, but that’s me.

As this is your favourite omelette recipe, I will record it here exactly how you like it.

But don’t forget you can do so much with the basic recipe: add bell peppers, and other fresh herbs. Flat leaf parsley, and oregano. Basil of course, and mint. You can turn it into a frittata and serve it with a green salad on the side for a satisfying meal to share.  All you do it scatter the ingredients over the whole surface of the egg mixture, rather than on one half.  Instead of flipping one side over to form an omelette ‘envelope’, you reduce the heat, cover with a lid and let it all cook through like a quiche or a pie.  To make it hearty, you could add tiny brocolli or cauliflower florettes, or thin discs of potato.  All variations produce some nice results.

Also, a few tips:

  • use the best eggs you can find. I use free range Rowe Farm, your equivalent in the Southern Hemisphere would be the crazy good Green Eggs.
  • a tablespoon of milk is optional
  • to bulk up your egg, but keep it healthy still, add more egg whites, available in small cartons in the dairy section usually
  • I know you love the cherry tomatoes as an ingredient, but the more juicy little fellers you use, the more watery the mixture becomes, and the egg and tomato juices separate. Not a pretty mess.
  • one should  really use a non-stick fry pan for best results with eggs.  You’ll need a spatula or what’s called in America: an ‘egg flipper ’.
  • when greasing your pan before cooking, make sure there is no excess oil left before pouring in the egg mixture.

So, here, my dear is your original base recipe.

Isabel’s omelette for two

  • 4 eggs beaten well till bubbles form
  • one to two tablespoons of milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • half a chopped onion, sautéed till soft and golden, and set aside
  • five cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • a hand full of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. With a fork, beat the eggs, add milk, and season to taste (1 teaspoon on salt is usually good). Mixture should be frothy.
  2. Pour into a heated, 20 inch non-stick pan
  3. When the edges start to cook and become firm, scatter the tomato, spinach leaves, cilantro leaves and onion in one half of the egg mixture.
  4. Use the egg flipper to gently coax the edges away from the pan.
  5. Turn the heat down, so it cooks gently
  6. When the liquid mixture is almost all gone, but still a little runny in the middle, gently flip the un-garnished side of the egg over to cover the other half. A little expertise over time will see you flipping the whole ‘envelope’ over to cook evenly on both sides.  Don’t worry if it breaks a little in your first few attempts: it is all in the taste after all.
  7. Another two minutes or so, and you should be able to slide it off onto a waiting plate!