A Happy New Year, Including Fennel

antique map of hebrides from here

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a land far away,
in the far reaches of the Hebrides, lived a family.

Theirs was a story of poverty and desperation, emigration and one boy left behind. I’m sure a similar tale has been woven in many families.

In ours, after endless searching, my folks found the descendants of that boy.

After nearly a hundred years, a long lost cousin (my mom) returned to her grandmother’s homeland. Ten years later, her cousins came across the pond
to us.

What a joy it was to see cousin L, who looks so like my sister… to gaze upon dear, jolly cousin D, and see my own mother in his eyes! What an honor it was to invite cousin J to my home, she who has made my mother and father so welcome in hers! How thrilling and surreal, to be seated together around my dining room table, laughing and talking as if we had known one another all our lives.

It was as if we were living in a legend… that tale told around countless tables over countless years had come alive.
Sister A. sailed on the boat — brother A. did not. Yet, across decades and an ocean, there we sat, reunited.

That happened in October, and it still brings tears to my eyes.
We did not want the day to end.


Our long-awaited reunion was surely a highlight of 2010, and I was thinking of it tonight. I believe this is the first time in my life I’ve spent New Year’s Eve alone — and it was not an unhappy thing! I thought it would be depressing, but it has been a refreshing revelation.

Surprise, I can manage to handle a holiday on my own 😉

But what’s that got to do with fennel……..???


A client, knowing my passion for Indian food, gave me a gift certificate to a local restaurant. It was very thoughtful and much appreciated, and I saved it thinking I would use it tonight when the brood was out of the house. When I came to look at the menu however, I started dreaming of sambhar. What’s new…

This is a poor excuse for a recipe.
I threw things together to make this instead of take out,
but it turned out so tasty, I wanted to remember it.

Chettinad-inspired Sambhar

Pressure cook:
1 c toor dal, washed

Boil 2 c water and soak:
1 oz (about 1/3 c) dried jackfruit chips

Boil 1 c water and soak:
lime-sized tamarind (or 1 TB bottled tamarind)

Roast and grind:
2 TB fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 dried red chillies
3-4 whole green cardamom
1-2 whole black cardamom
1 stick cinnamon
3-4 TB grated coconut

Coarsely chop:
4 carrots
1 large or 2 small brinjal
1 small onion
3-4 cloves garlic
1 can green jackfruit, rinsed

Mix to taste with a little water:
turmeric powder
kashmiri chili powder
dhania jeera powder
methi powder


Gather together all the above, then make a tadka of:

1 tsp canola oil
2-3 cloves garlic, cut large
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp urad dal
1/4 tsp methi seeds

When fragrant, add the veggies — carrots first, then brinjal, onion and garlic. Saute a minute, then add tamarind pulp and water to cover. Simmer 10 minutes, then add canned jackfruit and the dried jackfruit with its soaking water.

Simmer 10-15 minutes, until carrots are almost tender. Add ground masala and the spices mixed with water. Allow this to simmer for another 5-10 minutes to blend the spices.

Add the dal and mix well. Cook another 10-15 minutes, until the consistency is to your liking.

Check for seasoning as often as you please — that’s the chef’s privilege 😉


Thanks go to Solai of Solai’s True Chettinad Kitchen for inspiring me to truly appreciate fennel. Her recipe for palakkai pirattal is a regular in my kitchen.
The spices in that dish were the base for this impromptu sambhar.

And that’s what it’s got to do with fennel 🙂

Perhaps 2012 will find me in my homeland as well… my beloved Michigan 🙂

Wishing you all a most wondrous, happy, and healthy new year!!!


  1. indosungod said

    Happy New Year! dear Linda. Here’s wishing you that your wish of homeland comes true.

    How about Poori Masal to ring in the New Year. That’s what we did.

  2. Nupur said

    Happy New Year to you, dear Linda, and here’s to your dreams coming true! Your blog is always a joy and your love for sambar has no parallel 🙂

    How fun to hear of your long-lost family reunion too.

  3. first time here lovely site happy new year

  4. mandira said

    wishing you and your family delicious and healthy 2011 Linda. Hope to see you when you are in Michigan next.

    Wishing you the same, Mandira! And hoping to see you too 🙂

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: