Friday, April 11, 2014

What's Cooking at our House: Appam and Sambar

Unlike a regular wheat pancake, appam is covered and left to cook for 3-5 minutes before turning.

Those of us who don't have time to cook every night rely on stews, soups, chili and other one-pot meals that will last a few days. One standard in our house is sambar, a spicy lentil-vegetable stew from south India. This is a vegetarian dish that offers a spectrum of spiciness, and uses readily available ingredents: potatoes, tomatoes, onions and green beans. Some of the spices will likely only be available in specialty ethnic markets (fenugreek seeds, tamarind) or online.

We use the recipe in Curried Favors: Family Recipes from South India (page 68), though there are many similar recipes online and in other cookbooks.

Curried Favors also has a classic recipe for Appam (page 34), a rice-flour pancake similar to hoppers in Sri Lanka.

The batter is left out to ferment (this is a yeast flat bread) for about 24 hours, and is poured into a well-oiled hot pan like a pancake. Unlike wheat-based yeast flatbreads, rice-flour batter becomes frothy rather than rising like a dough.

Unlike a regular wheat pancake, appam is covered and left to cook for 3-5 minutes before turning. This creates a lacy, crispy edge and a wonderful texture.

Here is a bowl of the sambar garnished with fresh cilantro and the warm appam.

Each of these dishes takes time to prep, but the sambar will feed the crew for a few days and the appam batter can also be refrigerated and cooked over several nights.

Both of these dishes happen to suit a gluten-free, meat-free diet, but the wealth of tastes and textures will appeal to a broad range of palates.

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts."

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