..in other words, “lentil stew with seed pods of the Moringa Oleifera tree”. That was a mouthful. I think I will stick to Drumstick Sambar for the rest of this recipe.

A drumstick tree is quite a whimsical sight. Tall trees that are known to reach heights upto 40 feet tall; they are billowy with seed pods that look like snakes dangling and dancing in the air. Think of the seed pods of the drumstick tree as being somewhat similar to pea pods. There is an outer covering and you have seeds inside. With raw and tender peas, you can eat the entire pod – seeds and outer covering. With the drumstick, you can’t eat the seed pod raw; it needs to be cooked. In addition, post-cooking, the outer covering is still fibrous but the inner is fleshy and the seeds are sweet. The seed pods of the drumstick tree are always cut into appx. 3″ sticks and then cooked, either in stews or curries. The fun way to eat these is to chew each drumstick whole, let the texture and sweetness of the seeds and flesh pervade your mouth, and leave behind the fibrous outer covering. I’ve added a picture at the very end of this page to demonstrate a daintier way to eat drumstick. It starts with the drumstick, separate the three walls of the pod, use your fingers or teeth to clean away the tender flesh and seeds.

This recipe is from the southern parts of India where drumstick trees are abundant. Sambars are popularly eaten there, and are usually a stewed mixture of lentils, one or more seasonal vegetables and spices. Rice and sambar, with a poppadam or two is a typical meal in most households in southern India. A whole lot of people call this comfort food.

Serves 6

1/3 cup tuvar daal or pigeon peas, rinsed
12 oz frozen drumsticks (they are precut when you buy them frozen)
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
4 tbsps thick tamarind juice
2 tbsps grated jaggery

Sambar paste:
4 tsps coriander seeds
2 tsps channa daal
2 tsps urad daal
12 fresh curry leaves
2 dry red chillies
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup grated fresh or frozen coconut

Seasoned oil:
2 tbsps vegetable oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
12 fresh curry leaves
1/4 - 1/2 tsp asafetida

Cook the 1/3 cup tuvar daal in a pressure cooker, with about 1 cup of water until soft. Follow the directions of your manufacturer as appropriate for cooking daal. Once the daal is cooked, mash it up with the back of a spoon and set aside. 
While the daal is cooking, in a separate pot, combine the frozen drumsticks, tomatoes, turmeric, salt to taste, tamarind juice, jaggery and 2 cups water. Bring to a slow boil, cover and cook on low heat until the drumsticks are tender and tomatoes are mushy - about 20 minutes. 

With the exception of the coconut, take all ingredients listed under sambar paste and dry roast on low heat in a heavy bottomed pan until fragrant. Transfer to a blender with the coconut and 3/4 cup of water and blend to a very smooth paste. Set aside. 

Once the drumsticks are cooked, add the daal and the sambar paste to the pot. Combine everything and add more water based on the consistency you like. Keep in mind that sambars are meant to be thick, like the consistency of a split pea soup. So don't dilute it too much. Taste and season again if required. A sambar should have a good balance of spice, sweet and tangy. The spice comes from the sambar paste, the sweet is from jaggery and the tangy is from tamarind. Adjust your seasonings to your liking. 

Sambars are finished off with a seasoned oil. To make the seasoned oil, take a small pan, add 2 tbsps vegetable oil to it, along with the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the asafetida and curry leaves to it. Watch your eyes and face, because this mixture has a tendency to pop! In less than a minute, add this seasoned oil to your sambar, and stir. 

Enjoy sambar hot, with a bowl of steamed rice or quinoa, and a side of poppadoms.