Chicken Sambar

This was a favourite curry of mine as a kid; not a family recipe, but something my mum would always order from the local Indian takeaway. It was tasty, spicy and lemony.

Not many places would have this on the menu, but my mum would always ask if they could make it especially for her. The answer was usually yes!

A few years ago I remembered this curry and decided to recreate it. Sambar is a vegetable stew/soupy-like curry dish with lentils, using sambar masala spice. However, I always remembered lemon being a vital ingredient, so this is my version of the sambar I had as a kid.

  • Serves 4/5
  • 265g chana dhal lentils/yellow split peas (dried)
  • 2 pints of boiling water for the lentils, plus 200ml for the curry
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2” chunk of ginger
  • 1 red chilli
  • 3 or 4 small tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. oil, I used sunflower
  • 1 tbsp. black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp. curry leaves
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp. cumin powder
  • 1 heap tsp. turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp. fenugreek powder
  • 1 tsp. crushed black peppercorn
  • 10 chicken thighs, skins removed
  • 1 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 1 large lemon, un-waxed
  • 30g fresh coriander, chopped
  • Salt
  • Place the lentils in a pan with the boiling water and salt. Bring back to a boil then turn the heat to medium and let it bubble away. Keep stirring as it may stick; add more water if needed. The idea is for the lentils to be soft, almost mushy, and the liquid to be thick. Do not drain this water away as this becomes the sauce of the curry.
  • While the lentils are boiling, prepare your curry; blend the garlic, ginger, chilli, and the fresh tomatoes, set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a deep pan, add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. The mustard seeds will start to pop; when they do, add your onions and turn the heat to medium. Cook the onions until they are soft, then add the dry powders and crushed peppercorns and stir.
  • Add the chicken and coat in all of the spices. Once coated, add the tamarind.
  • When the chicken turns white add the tomato mix and cook for 3 minutes, then add 200ml of hot water; or just enough to cover the chicken. Try not to put too much liquid in, as we still have to add the lentils. Cook for 10 minutes.
  • Chop half of the lemon into wedges and add to the pan; squeeze in the juice of the other half. Put a lid on and cook on a medium heat for 25 minutes.
  • Whilst this is cooking, check your lentils; if they are still a little hard add more water and keep it bubbling away. Once the lentils are nice and soft, set aside along with any excess liquid.
  • After the 25 minutes the chicken should be tender.
  • Add the lentils and liquid, mix well and season with salt to taste.
  • Add chopped coriander and mix well.
  • Serve with rice and breads.
  • The lemons should be soft enough to eat whole.
2015-10-12 07.50.53


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