Spicy lentil soup with squash, tomato and green beans (sambar)

Preparation time
less than 30 mins

Cooking time
1 to 2 hours

Serves 4-6

Sambar is served over rice or with dosas or idlis in Tamil Nadu, and most people eat it every day. This easy lentil soup is topped with a ‘tarka’ of fried onions with spices.
This meal, if served as six portions, provides 192kcal, 5g protein, 16g carbohydrate (of which 5.5g sugars), 11g fat (of which 1.5g saturates), 4g fibre and 1.3g salt.

By Rick Stein

From Rick Stein's India


For the vegetables

  • 100g/3½oz tur dal (yellow split pigeon peas), well rinsed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 100g/3½oz carrots, cut into 2cm/¾in chunks
  • 100g/3½oz pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm/¾in chunks
  • 100g/3½oz green beans, cut into 2cm/¾in lengths
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1½ tsp salt

For the masala

  • 50ml/2fl oz vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp chana dal (Bengal gram or split yellow peas)
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 dried Kashmiri chillies with seeds
  • handful fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tsp asafoetida

For the tarka

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1½ tsp fenugreek seeds


  1. For the vegetables, pour 1.5 litres/2½ pints of water into a large, deep pan and bring to the boil. Add the tur dal, onion, carrots, pumpkin, green beans and tomato and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, sugar and salt and simmer gently for a further 15 minutes, or until the dal is soft.

  2. For the masala, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the rest of the masala ingredients and fry for 30 seconds to one minute, or until fragrant. Tip them into a spice grinder or mini food processor, along with the oil, and blend to a paste. Stir the paste into the pan of vegetables.

  3. For the tarka, heat the oil in a clean frying pan over a medium heat and fry the tarka ingredients for 10 minutes, or until the onion is softened and golden-brown. Stir this into the pan with the vegetables, along with any oil, and serve.