Of the sambhar varieties I prefer the araiththu vitta sambhar, meaning ground and added type.
The Masala is initially roasted either dry or adding very little oil, ground to a coarse paste and added to the tamarind -dhal mix, that has been cooked along with the vegetables.
The Madras onions (shallots) add somewhat exotic flavour to sambhar and the sweet yet pungent taste of the shallots is by itself delectable. Mostly people cook this sambhar and serve with roasted potato dry curry and hot rice with a small amount of ghee.
When I make this sambhar, I grind along with the usual ingredients, a small piece of ginger and few raw shallots, a tip from a magazine. That enhances the flavours.
A lemon size ball of tamarind
1/4th of a cup thuvar dhal
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
100 grams shallots
Oil to saute the shallots
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 red chilli
Few fresh curry leaves
Dry roast the following:
1 table spoon coriander seeds
6 pieces medium hot dry red chillis
1 teaspoon channa dhal
3 table spoons coconut scrapped
Roast these until the coconut is golden brown and aromatic and the dhal looks oil coated and shining.
Add few raw shallots and 1/2'' piece of fresh ginger and grind to a paste adding little water.
Soak tamarind in water for some time and extract the pulp thoroughly.
Pressure cook thuvar dhal with the turmeric powder added to it until soft.
Peel shallots and retain whole. Heat oil in a pan and add the shallots. Saute them until they are brown on all sides, add some water, cover and cook till they are tender.
To this add the salt and tamarind extract and simmer on medium flame until all raw taste of tamarind subsides.
Add the cooked dhal coarsely mashed, allow to blend and add the masala that has been ground.
Bring to a boil. Allow to boil for further two minutes. Remove pan from fire.
Temper with the mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves.
Cook the sambhar a bit ahead of serving, this enhances flavours.
My aunt used to cook her sambhar about an hour before serving, but she will keep the rasam on the coal stove (kumutti aduppu), until the coals might be dying out until about to be served. You may serve lukewarm sambhar with hot rice and re-heat the rasam just before consumption.