Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Whole Masoor Amti

Have you ever watched those "Where are they now?" TV specials where they track down the cast of some popular show from a bygone era and catch up on what the actors are doing decades later? I've been playing the "Where are they now?" game with about 40 of my high school friends. A couple of months ago, we had a virtual reunion on a group text messaging app. Before then, I had only been in touch with about 4 of them. So to suddenly hear dozens of old friends chattering away now on a daily basis, after a passage of over two decades, is wonderful and disorienting. With every photo, I gasp and marvel at pictures of smiling, confident women (yes, all women, I went to an all-girls' school), often posing with partners and kids, and remember them vividly all the way from the cute early grades to the gawky teenage years. Now some of us are mothers to teenagers- how is this even possible?! Where does the time go? And are you officially middle aged when you start saying things like where does the time go? 

From our graduating class in a small town, we now find ourselves living very diverse lives across the globe. In this unsettling world we live in, it is truly a blessing to know that old friends are only a text away and I am waiting to see them all in person as we cross paths during our travels. Groups chats are a funny thing- there are the constant streams of good morning messages (with requisite pictures of baskets of flowers and landscape scenes) and birthday and anniversary greetings (with requisite emojis of bouquets, cakes and confetti) plus random inspirational videos, quotations and forwarded jokes that I would rather do without. But we always welcome enticing pictures of food accompanied by recipes. One friend posted a video titled 15 most loved dishes in Kolhapur and it set off mad cravings in the group for some assal (true blue) Kolhapuri food. 7 of them are mutton dishes- that's nearly 50%! But what can I say? That percentage is an accurate reflection of the truth. Vegetarians like me are regarded with pity in Kolhapur.

Right after watching the video, one of my friends (now a Mumbai resident) changed her dinner menu and immediately made #14 on the list in the video- akkha masoor or whole lentil curry. She shared her recipe and several of us in the group made it in the days following- a tasty meme, so to speak.

My classmate's recipe is interesting, in that it is very heavy on onions, indeed, it has very little but onions and masoor. Her lovingly hand-written recipe (see the picture) calls for 7-8 onions which sounds like rather a lot, but these are the smaller, typical shallot-like onions found in India. A classmate in California piped up and said that the onions she buys are 2-3 inches wide, so should she be using that many? Which immediately led other classmates to rib her, "You never even brought a ruler to school, and now you're taking one to the market?" This is what you get with old friends.



Here is the recipe, adapted to my kitchen. There are many ways of making this dish, and this onion-heavy, tomato-less, no-coconut variation is new to me. We enjoyed it very much.

Whole Masoor Amti (Niki's recipe)


Soak 2 cups masoor (whole brown lentils) for a few hours.

Heat 3-4 tbsp. oil in a pressure cooker. Fry 2-3 finely chopped onions in the oil until browned and caramelized. Add the soaked masoor, salt, turmeric, red chili powder, cumin and coriander powder, all to taste. Add 2-3 cups of water and pressure cook until masoor is tender.

Tempering: In a small pan, heat 2 tbsp. oil and 2 tbsp. ghee. Add 1 tbsp. cumin seeds, 2 finely chopped onions and 2 finely chopped green chilies (or to taste). Saute until the onions are browned, then add this mixture to the cooked masoor and simmer for 10 minutes.

Are you in touch with your school friends? 

19 comments:

  1. WhatsApp, right :D Yes very much in touch and its exactly like you said, a deluge of good morning messages with images of cups of tea, deities, flowers, sunrises, breakfast platters and a lot of motivational and spiritual gyaan.
    The interactions or actual conversations, in my experience last only for the first few weeks when the idea of catching up is novel. After that such groups fizz out.
    Hope your group keeps up the chatter! The recipe looks good.

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    1. We'll see if my group keeps up the "real conversations" or not. But the nice thing is that now that we're reconnected, there are separate one on one chats popping up which can be much more personal and engaging, plus I know I will make an effort to meet all these friends in person which is so exciting. Gotta love technology :)

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  2. Mmm the amti sounds awesome! I always thought you needed a special amti masala for amtis, no?
    When our Whats App Hihg school group became live, we had almost a 1000 messages everyday. It was like being back in school with giggles and all. Now it has quietened down a lot, but it nice to get occasional updates.

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    1. Sangeetha- Amti masala is definitely a thing. But the term amti is used more generally for all sorts of curry/gravy type dishes so every amti doesn't use amti masala, if that makes sense :)

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  3. Hi Nupur, Thanks for the recipe. My whole masoor amti looks dark brown (may be my lentils have darker skin?).
    Do you know recipe for Persian/Mediterranean version of masoor daal soup? Thank you :)

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    1. Geetanjali- this is pretty dark brown too, the color in the photo may not look that way because it wasn't taken in good natural light. I don't know any Persian masoor recipes though!

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  4. How fun to catch up with old friends! Facebook has facilitated that for me to some extent, but I tire of the endless politics and extraneous matters. That's why I miss good old blogging -- fewer ads, more content, blah blah blah...

    Now give me some photos of your garden, or vacation to the sea or lake, or what you made for supper, and I am there :)

    I don't think I've ever made whole masoor -- it must be super-healthy with all that fiber and super delicious with all those caramelized onions! Dear G tried to grow onions this year and they are smaller than he hoped. I've made some pickles for him, and told him I want the rest for sambhar. I think they'd fit with this recipe, too!

    All the best!

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    1. Linda- I'm with you on wanting to have heart to heart "real" conversations with friends and hearing about their lives. Growing onions- wow! You must have access to all those lovely green onions then :) Have a wonderful weekend, Linda!

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  5. Thank you Nupur. Have a wonderful day!

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  6. hi Nupur, I know commenting on the blog after a seriously long time, but I keep checking regularly for updates and as always love to read ur posts. Its ganpati time here in Mumbai, so I tried my hand at making modak and made a version of tondli masala bhaat...very flavour full and tasty. I met my few of the old school friends couple of months back and its a sort of strange feeling. I think they started this group but after a while I think the momentum has dropped. Hope to see you in Bombay when you are next. Raakhee

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    1. Hi dear Raakhee!! Modak is a little tricky to make, right? Tondli masala bhath is my favorite! Mmm, haven't made it in ages. Really looking forward to meeting you next time I'm in Bombay. Heard you guys got lots of flooding last week- hope you are dry and safe.

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  7. School was my least favorite part of growing up (till 10th std) and I am very close friends with only one person from school days. I got an invite to join the whatsapp group from school and I declined it. lol
    College and then Grad school on the other hand is a different story. I am a part of those groups and in touch with so many of my friends from those days (includes meetups and hanging out and traveling together)

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    1. Neha- I completely understand not wanting to participate in a virtual group when you never even got along with the people in real life :) I enjoyed college (undergrad) so very much but am not in touch with any friends from those days. How fun that you're close to many college friends!

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  8. How lovely you are back in touch with friends, Nupur! And I look forward to trying the recipe.

    Here's what happened to me after getting in touch with school friends. Through my twenties and my early thirties I barely managed to keep in touch with my school friends. I have noticed that I'm a rolling stone like that, leaving it to others to do the keeping in touch business while go around gathering more friends. Anyway, there was some revival of sorts ten years ago and we emailed each other sporadically.

    Then a couple of years ago someone added me to our batch WhatsApp group and after a flurry of initial activity the group fell into the usual Forwards about 'Sivalinga in Manasarovar - watch this amazing video' and such like. I would do a cursory visit every day and then leave it at that.

    I would share any blog post I had written or any info about planned get togethers. Every now and then someone new would join and there would be a flurry of activity. As it happened a few days ago and I jumped in enthusiastically and welcomed the newly found on board. Some people had some very nice things to say about what I had shared and about me too and I left after thanking them.

    This group, Nupur has been very very kind to me overlooking my past juvenile misdemeanors and embracing me totally. And given that we are currently fundraising for the school, I felt a great buzz from being part of the group. That is until someone came along and rather unsolicitedly sent me a few very rude private messages wondering why I got praised enormously all the time when we were all there on an equal footing and that her thoughts were shared by many others offline. It threw me off quite a bit and I found myself pushed to a spot. I said I had no clue who she was (she revealed herself later) and asked her to pose the question to the group and that I was not responsible for what was said of me. It also bothered me that people were talking behind my back.

    I went back to the group, thanked all and withdrew myself from there. It reminded me yet again why I chose to close my Facebook account. Some times you do end up seeing quite a lot of people, knowing way more about them than you would rather and quite honestly, familiarity is a dangerous thing. It really hurts me as we have known each other since the age of three! I wish we could go back to just meeting every once in a while with promises of keeping in touch. At least we were left wanting more. Now, there is little chance of missing someone and I am not sure it is such a good thing.

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    1. Ammani- What a dismaying experience, indeed. And you do bring up a very valid not-so-rosy side of old friendships and reunions. What happened to you is bullying, plain and simple. Who needs such unkindness and drama in their lives?

      In our group, a couple of us have been very vocal about saying that this is a group that is going to stay positive and loving, and any unwanted comments (eg. commenting on someone's weight in that over-familiar way that you mentioned) are shut down immediately. Let's see how things unfold. But speaking for myself, the real joy is in connecting with old friends one-on-one (I do much better in one on one friendships than in large group settings) and I plan to focus on that and participate in the large group chat if and when I feel like it.

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  9. Technology made it possible to connect with friends two years ago which is almost four decades later of passing from school.

    Some met at school reunion on the occasion of its golden jubilee & from then on the group is growing on text messaging app. We relive our childhood through old photographs & some gupshup. Yes the irritability of recycling old posts, etc is there but okay - take some, leave some attitude isn't hurting anyone.

    Some of us living in the same city met one Sunday evening and a few attended one of our girl's son's marriage in another city.

    In this weeks weather disaster in Mumbai & US, all were checking on each other's welfare.

    Good luck with your 'where are they now' group.

    Among the pulses & legumes, whole red masoor is my first option. I love to eat with kadak pau (famous Mumbai brun pau) & any leafy vegetable, especially the small methi (sea side variety) & potato.

    Praying for you and the family protection from this weeks horrendous weather hazard.

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    1. Hi Viola! Yes, so many are facing horrible flooding both here in the US and in Mumbai and other parts of Asia :(

      Years ago, I ate whole masoor amti in Goa and it was the best I've ever eaten. You reminded me of it because it was served with pav. Now I am inspired to recreate it. It has a coconut based masala.

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  10. I deleted my Facebook account in 2011 and haven't felt like going back even once. I am an introvert and I prefer staying in touch with my closest friends. I am in one whatsapp group of about 5 school friends but, none of them checked on me during the floods in Houston (I live in Houston) while my 3 closest friends constantly kept checking on me. While we may have been close in school, we drifted apart for far too many years to form the same kind of closeness now. We are different people now too. Almost all of them got married early and had kids early and mine are still little. Just as one would Konmari their belongings, I feel like Konmari-ing my whatsapp groups. Only stay in those that spark joy.

    Anyway, happy for you that your group is a happy place for you.

    -Anu

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