Drumsticks (not the chicken kind) or murungakkai, as they are known in Tamil, are a great addition to sambar because of the aroma and flavour they impart. Only the insides of the drumsticks are edible - that is, the seeds and the white pith. The outer green parts are usually chewed to get the maximum flavour and then discarded. It's the discarded bits that put me off eating this vegetable - call me fastidious but I dont like to have chewed up food around or on my plate... even if it's food that I myself have chewed! But I love their flavour and I especially love the seeds.
And, by way of general information, Indira of Mahanandi fame has a lovely post on a curry made with this vegetable.
I had one drumstick, not terribly fresh since it had travelled with me all the way from Southampton (5 hours drive away from where I live) and goodness knows how much longer it had been at the market there - but it was fit for my purpose, which was to make murungakkai sambar.
I made the sambar slightly differently from usual by pressure-cooking the tuvar dal, green chillies, garlic and tomatoes together. I guess I could have put in the drumstick pieces as well, but I didnt for two reasons; One, I was afraid the pieces might disintegrate (making it difficult to pick them out later); and Two, I wanted to smell the divine aroma of the drumsticks cooking in the tamarind water!
It's a simple recipe especially if you have a pressure cooker (have I said this before?) - and it tastes and smells great. Serve the sambar over steamed rice along with any dry vegetable curry (I made avarakkai - a kind of flat green bean) or even kootu, for an everyday piece of South Indian cooking heaven!
Recipe for: Murungakkai (drumstick) sambar
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
3 fat cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3-4 green chillies (or to taste), slit
1 cup tuvar dal, washed
1-2 drumsticks, cut into 2-inch long pieces
1 tsp tamarind paste
Salt to taste
2 htsp sambar powder (readymade or home-made)
4 cups water
2 tsp mustard seeds
3-4 dried red chillies (or to taste)
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1 tsp oil
6-7 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
From top right, clockwise: Asafoetida powder, mustard seeds, red chillies, curry leaves
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, roughly torn, for garnish
1. Pressure-cook the tuvar dal, tomatoes, garlic and green chillies in 2 cups water. When the cooker can be opened, mash the dal and tomatoes well. You can remove the green chillies at this point, if you like. Set aside.
2. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 4 cups water, reserving 3 tbsp of the water. Add the drumstick pieces and bring to a boil.
3. Then mix the sambar powder with the 3 tbsp water and add that to the boiling tamarind water. Reduce to a medium simmer and let the drumsticks cook till done (they'll go a dull green).
4. Now add the mashed dal-tomato mixture (if it's gone hard, use some warm water to make it into a thick paste) to the cooked drumsticks and stir well till completely incorporated.
5. Add salt to taste and let the sambar boil for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. If it is too watery, let it cook down. If too thick, add a little more water.
6. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan, put in the tempering ingredients and cover till the mustard seeds stop popping.
7. Pour the tempering straight onto the sambar, so that it sizzles. Stir and let the sambar rest for 2-3 hours. This helps the flavours blend together.
8. To serve, re-heat the sambar on a medium flame till thoroughly hot. Serve garnished with the coriander leaves over steamed rice, with microwaved papad and a vegetable curry.