I came across the concept of combining dhal with celery, as Celery Sambar, in a North Indian cookbook. It was a misnomer, as the dish was not a sambar because it did not have either the ingredients or the procedure that makes a sambar a sambar and gives it its distinctive flavour. This recipe was just a curry. It still appealed to me, though, as celery is not used in Tamil cooking, and it tickled both my curiosity and my taste buds. After several attempts I have retained the ingredients but changed the procedure to make it quick and easy. I have also pressure cooked the celery because my son complained that the celery stalks were too crunchy 😀
I do not know why we Taimilians do not use celery in our cooking because celery, both leaves and stems put together, is a great source for the antioxidant beta carotene, as well as fibre, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. Combined with red gram dhal, which gives about 22g of protein per 100g, this curry is highly protein rich vegetarian dish with the exotic celery flavour.
- ¾ C Red Gram Dhal
- 1 very large Celery bundle/bunch
- ½ C Coconut scrapings
- ¼ tsp Mustard Seeds
- 2 T Vegetable Oil
- 3 tsp Salt
- 3 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
- 1 tsp Cumin Powder
- ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
- ¼ tsp Asafoetida Powder
- Grind the coconut to a fine paste in a mixie or blender.
- Select a very large pressure cooker with 3-pan capacity.
- Remove the root portion of celery. Wash the celery in running water.
- Chop the leaves coarsely. Cut the stems the small pieces. While cutting the stems, take care to remove the stringy fibre.
- Mix the celery with a teaspoon of salt and the chilli, cumin, and turmeric powders. Fill 2 pressure cooker pans with the celery mixture, and add half a cup of water to each pan.
- Wash the dhal and place in the third pan of the pressure cooker with 3 cups of water.
- Arrange the pans in the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 15 minutes. Cool and remove the pans.
- Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, lower heat and add the asafoetida powder.
- Immediately add the cooked dhal, celery, ground coconut, and the rest of the salt, and stir.
- Bring to boil.
- Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with rice.
- If you would like to retain the crunchy texture of the celery, boil it in a saucepan instead of pressure cooking it.
- Asafoetida, when heated, gives off very strong and irritating fumes. Therefore, add the dhal and the celery immediately after adding asafoetida to the oil.
- I prefer using Kashmiri Chilli Powder for its glorious colour and mild flavour. If you are using any other variety of chilli powder, use only half the amount.
- I use sunflower oil supplemented with rice bran oil for its neutral flavour and cholesterol lowering properties.