Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Kataachi Aamti - Spiced Lentil Stock Soup

Growing up in Mumbai and spending a lot of time in my neighbour's house meant that I was eating more of poli thup, varan bhath, usal and shikran more than idli and sambar! And though I resolutely refused to have rasam at home (didn't take a liking to it till much later in life) I used to love the aamti Patankar Aunty used to make.

Aamti is a staple of Maharashtrian cuisine and while it can also refer to other gravy dishes, it usually describes a lentil preparation with a wonderful mixture of spicy, sweet and sour notes. I loved the consistency - not as thick as sambar and not as thin as rasam - just perfect to be eaten with steamed rice or chapattis.

The tempering, the dals used, the spice mix, the proportion of jaggery and kokum or tamarind - all this produced a lot of variations of aamti. Different regions and different families have different recipes just like we have different types of sambar all over South India. Read more on Nupur's wonderful A-Z series

I of course didn't know much about the different kinds of aamti at that age. It was only much later when I started cooking, that I naturally tried making many of these recipes which were a big part of my childhood memories (and which of course you didn't get in restaurants unless you were sitting in one of those small eateries in B.B Dadar or Parel!).

One of the recipes I came across was Kataachi Aamti - a dish made from the lentil stock in which the chana dal, used in filling Puran Polis, was cooked. Puran Polis are another much loved Maharashtrian delicacy - deliciously sweet flaky stuffed flat breads - see one yummy version complete with pictorial here

My first Tamil New Year in Chennai after marriage saw me really homesick for Mumbai and since we anyway make "sweet bolis" as a festival dish I decided to make it the Maharashtrian way. The difference being that we use maida for the "bolis" and a coconut and jaggery filling while puran polis use wheat flour and a much drier chana dal and jaggery/sugar filling.That was the first time I made Kataachi Aamti, using a recipe I found in Femina.

I have made it many times after that, but without the puran poli bit....
This light soupy dish is perfect for the summer and you don't have to make puran poli to make the aamti! Just use the chana dal for some other preparation like a kootu or a tempered dal.

I am sending this dish to the April edition of Think Spice. This wonderful series which was begun by Sunita of Sunita's World has covered spices like mustard, ginger, saffron and star anise over the past six months and introduced us to a veritable feast of recipes showcasing the star spice of the month and its unique properties.
Sunita has now graciously extended this series to the rest of the food blogging world and from this month onwards Think Spice will be guest hosted by other food blogs. Gretchen of Canela & Comino hosts Think Spice - Cloves this month all the way from Peru!

My earliest memories of clove are not from food but seeing my Dad sucking on some clove after a rich meal to freshen up his mouth and my brother being asked to suck on a clove to tide over a toothache till he could get to the dentist the next day.

This aromatic spice (among others like pepper, cardamom and cinnamon) has been a precious commodity since time immemorial - wars have been fought, countries annexed and monopolies created for this spice which was worth its weight in gold! It has penetrated different global cuisines today and is easily available - but what you may not know is that besides its culinary uses it has so many other properties - antiseptic, analgesic, antispasmodic and even anaesthetic!

Clove imparts a very distinctive flavour to this dish and is a perfect example at the way it makes itself at home in almost all cuisines across India.

Kataachi Amti


5-6 cups (1.2 litres) of chana dal stock
(cook about 2 cups of chana dal in 8-10 cups of water till it is soft, drain water and use for this recipe; the cooked chana dal is usually used to make the filling for puran polis but you can also temper it to make a dal accompaniment or add vegetables like cabbage, chow chow or bottle gourd (ghiya/sorakai/dudhi) to make a more substantial accompaniment.

Tamarind (imli) - lemon size ball soaked in 1 cup water
Sprouts - 1/2 cup (the original recipe called for 2 drumsticks cut into 1 " pieces)
Crushed jaggery (gur/vellam) - 2 tbsp
Dry coconut sliced (copra) - 1/4 cup
Cumin seeds (jeera)- 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 2 tsp
Goda masala - 1 tsp ( a Maharashtrian spice mix)
Salt to taste

Oil - 2 tsp
Cloves (lavang) - 5
Cinnamon - 1 " piece
Cumin seeds (jeera) - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds (rai) - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 6-7


1. Extract tamarind juice and add to the dal water. Heat the dal water in a kadai(wok) and bring to a boil. Add sprouts and boil for 3-4 minutes till half cooked.

2. In another pan, roast cumin seeds and dry coconut for about 4-5 minutes on a low flame, cool and grind to a fine paste.

3. Add chilli powder, salt and jaggery to the dal water and boil for 3 more minutes. Add the cumin coconut paste and goda masala and simmer for another 4-5 minutes.

4. Heat oil for tempering in a small pan and add the mustard seeds, when they pop season with cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Pour the seasoning over the simmering aamti and turn off heat.

5. Serve hot with steamed rice , chappatis or puran polis. The consistency is very watery as compared to most other lentil dishes and is very conducive to slurping right from the wati (bowl) in which it is served!!


sunita said...

Miri,that is a beautiful post on cloves...really love the recipe :-)

Anonymous said...

You transport me to another world! Honestly, I feel well-traveled having read your post. Thank you. This looks amazingly delicious.

xoxox Amy

Divya Vikram said...

thats a nice entry using cloves..

Cynthia said...

One bowl of this and all my troubles would melt away :)

Miri said...

Thanks Amy and Sunita!

Cham said...

Beautiful post about clove i came across. The dhal is totally new to me, should be delicious

Siri said...

the soup looks delish Miri and thanks for dropping by my blog!!..:D Nice post!


TheCooker said...

Katachi amti always equates to special occasions and happy times.
That bowk looks mighty delicious.

SMN said...

Miri thats so wonderful nice entry

ANJALI J. said...

I like all the amti recipes.. ur soup looks delicious :) u have got a good collection of recipes in ur blog.

Meera said...

Awesome!! I love Kataachi Amti. Looks delicious.

Sig said...

I loved reading this piece Miri, and I loved the recipe... Love the idea of just slurping it right out of the bowl... :)

Miri said...

Thanks Divya,Cynthia,Cham, Siri, Cooker, Anjali, Meera and Sig - hope you can try it soon and enjoy this dish!

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Thank you so much. The recipe looks so delicious.

Miri said...

You are welcome Vegeyum!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wonderful post. I wish i knew more about Indian food to understand all that is involved in this dish. I visited Chennai once but was not too passionate about food yet to learn. thanks so much for participating in the Think Spice event.