Sambhar Cheera (Waterleaf/Talinum fruticosum) is found growing with wild abundance in the backyards of my native town. The succulent plant is a nutritional treasure trove - Vit A, Vit C, iron, and calcium.
I've used a variation of the archuvitta sambhar (where fresh coconut and whole spices are light roasted and ground to make sambhar masala) to add the fresh bunch of waterleaves I chanced upon in the market. Having a little girl who is allergic to diary fat I'm constantly looking at different vegetarian sources of calcium to be included into her diet. Traditional cuisine that emphasises on the need to cook from whole and fresh ingredients, I've found, is the best guide.
Sambhar cheera (waterleaf) - a large bunch
Tomatoes - 3-4 meium sized, ripe ones
Small onions (shallots) - 6-8 Nos
Garlic - 6-8 cloves
Ginger - 1/4 inch piece
Green chillies - 2 Nos
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
Sambhar parippu (Toor dhal/yellow pigeon peas) - 1 cup
Water - 2 cups
Rinse out the toor dhal well and pressure cook it with everything except the waterleaves added. About 5 whistles on medium flame is what I do.
For the masala
Fresh, grated coconut - 2 dessertspoons
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 teaspoon
Pepper corns - a few
Cumin (jeera) - 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 dessertspoon
Asafoetida - a small piece (I use teh block variety). else, substitute with 1/4 teaspoon of powder.
Dry roast everything, except teh coriander powder, till the coconut begins to turn lightly golden, add teh coriander powder and saute till an aroma arises. Switch off flame and grind to very fine paste adding little water.
Rinse and chop the waterleaf bunch. Throw into a thick bottomed pan and add 1/2 a cup of water. Add in teh ground masala and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove the cooked toor dhal mix from teh pressure cooker and using a ladle blend the dhal and tomatoes well. Add into teh simmering masala. Add more water if the gravy is too thick. Add salt to taste.
Warm a pan and add a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil. Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds and allow them to crackle. Add a couple of dry red chillies and curry leaves. When roasted, top teh sambhar with this.
PS: I add additional vegetables to this sambhar, at times. This time I added a couple of carrots. I pressure cooked them along with the lentils.
2 hours ago