Prepare the Sambhar Mix:
- Combine chana dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and 2-3 red chilies.
- Roast on a low flame for 5 minutes until aromatic and lightly toasted.
- Grind in a bullet blender or food processor to a powder.
Cook the Lentils
- Prepare the lentils by soaking for 30 minutes and washing and draining them. Note: Soaking is optional, but it softens them and releases some of the gas producing enzymes.
- If Using an Instant Pot: Add lentils to an instant pot with 1.5- 2 cups water, ½ tsp turmeric powder and 1 tsp salt. Set on pressure cook setting for 15 minutes. Allow a 15 minute natural release.
- If Using Stove top Pressure Cooker: If cooking on a stovetop pressure cooker, add 2 cups of water to the lentils and pressure cook for 10 minutes (around 5 whistles). Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from flame and allow the pressure to release completely before opening.
- Mash the lentils with the back of a spoon. If well pressure cooked, it will be easy to do. The lentils should be smooth when you add to the sambar.
Prepare the Sambhar
- Fill a medium-sized pot half way with water. Add butternut squash, tomatoes and 1 tsp tamarind concentrate, 2 tbsp sambar powder and 1 tsp salt.
- Bring water to a boil and reduce to medium. Simmer until butternut squash softens and is fork tender, around 10 minutes.
- Once butternut squash is cooked, reduce the flame to low and slowly add the lentils to the pot, a little bit at a time.
- Add water as needed until you reach the desired consistency. It should be thinner than a stew, but still be hearty.
- In a separate small pan, add 2 tbsp of sesame oi. Note: While sesame oil is traditional, you may sub a mild vegetable oil such as canola, sunflower. In some regions of the south, even coconut oil or ghee is used.
- Add mustard seeds and set heat to high.
- Once mustard seeds begin to sputter, add red chilies, asafetida and curry leaves.
- Allow to sauté for 1 minute, then add this to the sambar.
- Stir to combine and remove sambar from flame.
- Adjust salt as needed, garnish with cilantro and more curry leaves and serve.
Serve with rice, rotis, idlis or dosa!