Sunday, December 02, 2007

Pumpkin Amti

This is my contribution to the Jihva for Ingredients event, originally started by Indira of Mahanandi and being hosted this month by one of my favorite bloggers- Linda of Out of the Garden. With her incredible posts about "chaar yaar" wali khichdi (khichdi and its "four friends"...can you guess who they are?) and her penchant for sambar, it is not too surprising that I think of Linda as simply a fellow Indian. She certainly knows more about (and cares more about) Indian food that many passport-bearing Indians I know. Exhibit A: for the theme, Linda has chosen the "unassuming yet illustrious" Toor Dal.

In many regions of India, including Maharashtra, toor dal is the star of the pantry. If I were to pare my pantry down to the basic minimum items, toor dal would certainly be the one dal left there. It is my to-go dal for three major dishes that are part of default meals- Amti, Varan and Sambar (the first two are classics that I grew up eating everyday; the last is something I use as a vehicle for all kinds of vegetables).

For this event, I turned to a fairly comprehensive reference for Maharashtrian cuisine- the two-volume Ruchira by Kamalabai Ogale. Among some interesting recipes like pancharas amti (with mixed vegetables, cashews and coconut) and karlyache varan (dal with bitter gourd), I found something that looked seasonal and inviting: laal bhoplyachi amti or Pumpkin Amti.

My first thought on reading this recipe was- wow, there is a lot going on here! Different recipes use various tricks for thickening and flavoring dals: some might use buttermilk, some might use ground-up nuts, others might use a chickpea paste, or have a coconut paste mixed in. This recipe has all this and much more!! I was pretty certain that in the end, the flavors of all these individual ingredients would not come through in the dal, and sure enough, they didn't. But I am not complaining about the result either: it was a tasty and creamy dal happily interrupted with chunks of sweet pumpkin.

I don't often buy pumpkins because it is not very easy to cut and peel the pumpkin. This time, for the sake of this recipe, I took the plunge. I bought a small pie pumpkin (more flavorful for cooking, compared to the giant ones sold for carving). Using a chef's knife, I was able to hack it into two, from stem to tip. Then I stuck the halves into the microwave and cooked them for 8-10 minutes, until they were nearly tender. Once cooled, I found that it was relatively easy to peel off the skin and cut them into cubes.

Pumpkin Amti

(adapted from Ruchira by Kamalabai Ogale)
1/2 C toor dal, soaked for 15 minutes, rinsed well, then cooked until tender
2 C pumpkin cubes- raw, par-cooked or cooked (but not mushy)
salt to taste
1/2 C buttermilk (or slightly diluted yogurt)
2 T besan (chickpea flour)
2 T crushed toasted peanuts (coarse powder)
1/4 C grated fresh/frozen coconut
2 fresh/frozen green chillies (or to taste)
1 t cumin seeds
1 T oil
1 t mustard seeds
1/4 t turmeric
1/4 t fenugreek seeds
8-10 fresh curry leaves
1. Make a thick paste of the ingredients listed under "paste" and set it aside.
2. Heat the oil and add all the tempering ingredients, stirring for a few seconds until fragrant.
3. Add the pumpkin cubes, stir them to coat with the spices. If the pumpkin is raw or par-cooked, add 1/4 C water, cover and cook until it is tender.
4. Stir in the paste and the cooked dal, salt to taste, and some water if the dal appears too thick.
5. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve with steamed rice and some pickle or papad on the side.

I wanted a simple vegetable dish to go with the amti-bhaat and took the laziest way out: I made some faux Flower-Batata Bhaaji. My favorite part of simple braised Indian vegetables are the burnt bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. This was a way to roast the vegetables with some spices to make an imitation bhaaji that practically cooked itself.

1. Lightly oil a large baking tray. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. Chop 3 medium potatoes to medium-sized cubes or "fingers" (peel the potatoes only if the skin looks too blemished or thick). Cut about 3-4 cups of bite-sized cauliflower florets.
3. Toss the prepared vegetables with 2 T olive oil, salt, turmeric, red chilli powder, cumin powder and coriander powder (all to taste). I did not add mustard seeds or curry leaves, buy they would have added to the taste too. Or ginger or garlic. Whatever flavor you are craving at the moment would work, basically!
4. Spread the vegetables on the baking sheet in a single layer or so, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the vegetables are tender (test with the tip of a small knife) and browning in parts.
5. Remove from oven, toss with the juice of 1/2 lemon and liberally garnish with minced cilantro.

***** ***** ******

Starting this month, I am trying two new features on this blog-

1. Project of the month: There are so many things that I love eating but that I have never tried to cook at home. In most cases, it is because I have some notion that these are challenging to make at home (which may be true, or not). In some cases, I have just not gotten around to doing it. This is my way of tackling them one at a time. This month's project is to make candy from scratch in my kitchen. I have decided on a recipe from a very respected source, and have a candy thermometer on my shopping list. Watch this blog to see if I am able to make candy successfully this month!

2. Flavor of the month: In the same vein, there are many ingredients/cuisines/cooking techniques that I would love to spend some time exploring. Identifying one a month will give me more a chance to do that. This month's flavor is miso, fermented soybean paste that is widely used in Japanese cuisine. I hope to explore different ways to use this healthful and flavorful ingredient over the course of this month.

If you have suggestions for future "projects" or "flavors", or suggestions about the current ones, your ideas are always welcome. I will be updating these on the right side-bar on the 1st of every month.

Have a wonderful week ahead, everyone!


  1. That pumpkin Amti looks delicious! I love that paste.

    As for cooking pumpkins, you could treat them the same as squashes and stick them (covered in foil) in the oven for about 40-45 minutes too. The baked texture and flavour is really awesome.

    Oh, and send me some of that faux bhaaji :)

  2. Nupur, what a dear person you are, always encouraging and generous in word and deed. Thank you for this lovely write-up and fabulous recipe for JFI. I'm honored that you tackled a pumpkin just for the occasion!!

    You're right -- pumpkin amti certainly has alot happening with all those flavors. And what a spectacular color! With that earthy veggie-roast alongside, I wish I could join you for lunch :)

    Thanks again for this special contribution to JFI Toor Dal. I'm looking forward to your candy-and-miso-month... hmm... miso fudge? Naw, that's crossing the line ;)

    Have a great Sunday!

  3. Isn't Ruchira (both parts) a blessing? It was my mom's reference book too when I was growing up! This amti really tastes good, I too tried it using Ruchira sometime back.
    and bhaji looks great. I liked the name too!
    I loved both of your new features. Looking forward eagerly

  4. Love ur pumpkin Amti Nupur! and the idea of starting candy-based and flavorsome posts is such an innovative idea! I am looking forward for ur experimental posts..:)

    ~ Siri

  5. On auspicious days, grandma always had a dish made of pumpkin. JFI - Toor is now complete :) Looks delicious too with the roasted veggie bhaji.

  6. That sounds delightful Nupur.. so different from our version with tirphal.
    The ingredients are typical of Maharashtrian cuisine - peanuts, cumins seeds, no onion-ginger-garlic.. but buttermilk, besan AND coconut? Very unique.
    I think it might taste similar to a dish my mom prepares for fasts with sabudana khichdi (of course it has about 4 ingredients!).
    And in a perfect segue I tried your mom's microwave khichdi - amazing. I have never had such perfect results. Thanks to you both!

  7. Lal bhoplyachi amti!! Wow!! My mom used to refer to Kamlabai Ogle's bok too!

  8. Like Ashwini, I was also thinking buttermilk, besan and coconute is very unique indeed! Does the book say which part of the state this recipe is from?

  9. Nupur,
    You must be some sort of a mind reader! I bought a pumpkin from the farmers market today, stocked up on dall, came home and checked your site, and voila! My dinner recipe! See, I TOLD you your site is magical!
    Kamini (New York)

  10. LOVE this recipe! The idea of using besan is so unique! I enjoy the daal-pumkin, daal-squash combos a lot :). When you get a chance, do try whole moong cooked with crook-neck squash or bhopla, simply splendid! You too have a great week ahead.

  11. Nupur - your Pumpkin Amti sounds delicious and those roasted veggies look scrumptious! I recently made Julie Sahni's Lau Dal with pumpkin and loved it. It called for yellow split peas, but I'm wondering if they were actually a substitute for toor dal. It was wonderful none the less - the flavoring of basil and star anise was unusual and really good.

    By the way - I made your cauliflower soup today - yum!

  12. How many treasures are hidden in places we wouldn't look! Thanks for bringing this one out from the cold! I love your faux flower-batata bhaji too - 'tis the season!

  13. An interesting way to cook pumpkin. As it happens, we do use a paste of coconut, jeera, green chillies and chana dal (or besan) for making "morkootan" which is a kadhi of sorts.

  14. Once again, I have learned something new about Indian cooking from you. And I'm inspired by your push to learn new things -- candy making? I'd never have the courage to try it!

  15. Always love reading your detailed post Nupur. A nice one as usual. Viji

  16. Kaykat, I have tried oven-roasting squashes and pumpkins, and it works great for purees, like for pumpkin soup, but not so much when I just want cooked chunks. I guess I just need to keep a closer eye on it and cook it for less time!
    Faux bhaaji is in the mail :D

    Linda, your place has been set at the table, Linda. Come on over!
    Miso fudge LOL- you know what, Japanese candies are so unusual that I am sure such a thing exists! But mine is going to be a tad conventional :)

    Meera, oh yes, Ruchira is a pretty special book! Thanks for the encouragement :)

    Siri, thanks! Only this month's project is candy- it will change every month.

    Indosungod, Oh, really? Good to know that pumpkin is considered auspicious :) I should make it more often!

    Ashwini, yes, it is a rather intriguing recipe for sure! Your version with tirphal sounds incredible.
    So glad the MW sabudana khichdi worked :)

    Manasi, yes, it is a nice reference book to have around!

    Manisha, I dearly wish this book gave a couple of lines before each recipe telling us something about it. Sadly, it does not. But I have certainly not eaten this amti growing up or come across it before.

    Kamini, LOL well, I hope you like it if you do try it! Hope all is well with you in freezing NYC!

    Musical, oh really- whole moong with pumpkin?! Sounds very unusual...will give it a try since it carries a recommendation from you :)

    Cathy, Julie Sahni's dal sounds fabulous: basil and star anise are really unusual flavorings for dal! I need to get hold of some of her books. Glad you enjoyed the cauliflower soup :)

    Anita, I know...this book for one has all sorts of unusual finds scattered around it! The faux bhaji was truly delicious, with all the burnt bits of potatoes and cauli.

    Aparna, that is very interesting...maybe morkootan was the inspiration for this amti. Quite possible because Maharashtrian food and South Indian food has potential for reciprocal influences.

    Lydia, I'm told that candy making is not too hard :D we'll see what happens...I'm quite nervous about this!!

    Viji, thank you so much for the sweet words!

  17. Nice post.. you write in-detail so much makes it interesting! both currys look great!

  18. Hi Nupur,

    This is altogether new dish for me.. bookmarked it..

  19. Most times when I see a long list of ingredients, I skip the recipe. And this is exactly what happened to this one from Ruchira.
    Now I'm tempted to try it.

  20. Ruchira is both my ayee's and my reference book! Amti and bhajee is my comfort food. I have a tough time cutting the pumpkin, but thanks to your wonderful tip, I will feature this veggie more in my cooking. Thank you for reminding me of this classic recipe. Btw, I love the burnt veggie at the bottom of the pan too!

  21. Hi,

    I found this picture which seems to be yours. I wasn't sure if this website has your permission.

    - Regular reader

  22. I'm excited, another dal combo for me to try!

    Nupur, you are a woman after my own heart: My favorite part of simple braised Indian vegetables are the burnt bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. I totally agree with you.

  23. Hi Nupur,

    I am a regular visitor of your blog. I have tried many recipes by following exact ingradients and propotions. Thx for providing such a wonderful and delicious info. :)
    Keep it up.
    Ruchira is my fav book too. The only problem with that is the proportion of ingredients is very vegue. Unless you have a some idea of the dish, it is hard to experiment.
    I am looking forward for your projects. :)

  24. Hi Nupur,
    Tried this amti yesterday for dinner. It tasted really nice and creamy and was perfect with rice and papads. Thank you for the recipe.

  25. I made this, Nupur, with a few very small changes: I roasted the besan and the coconut, so their flavors were a bit more pronounced. It was simple, tasty comfort food, perfect for a cold winter's night!
    And good luck with your projects!

  26. Pumpkins are hard to cut. I like the mini ones too, and I think they're even sweeter. Your dish looks scrumptious.

  27. That amti looks delicious. It has to be pretty thick is it, not liquidy like ususal dals ?
    Liked you imitation bhaji, excelent with the litlest oil

  28. Seema, thank you, my dear! :)

    SMN, yes, it is quite tasty. I hope you enjoy it.

    TheCooker, yes, I so agree! I would not have tried it but for wanting something new for JFI toor dal :)

    Namita, try oven-baking the pumpkin too. That would be even tastier than MW cooking. Burnt bhaji rocks :D

    Regular reader, thank you for being so vigilant. This plagiarism needs to be stopped and I appreciate your alertness!

    Cynthia, et tu? :D

    Dhanashri, I completely agree with you! Although I enjoy my copy of Ruchira, I definitely do not think it is easy to cook from. In fact, this version of the recipe you see has been majorly tweaked. Thank you for your encouragement!!

    Nikita, thank you so much for the feedback!

    Kamini, ooh, the roasting is such a good idea! Got to do that next time! Thank you for the feedback :)

    Susan, yes, this one was quite small, but still yielded enough for a batch of dal and a batch of soup. Thank you for stopping by!

    Sandeepa, no, no, it can be as thick or thin as you like it. This photo was taken when the dal has cooled and thickened quite a bit :)

  29. Hi Nupur,

    This recipe is really good. I use 'Ruchira' (by Kamlabai Ogle) as well for my everyday cooking. It is a great book and most of the recipes turn out to be great from it. One of the recipes that I love from the book is 'Sheera'. I hvae tried so many different kinds and this one turns out to be perfect.

    Keep posting!

  30. Dear Nupur,
    these two recipes look great, and easy enough for me to try, even without experience in Indian cooking! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Dear Nupur, I wanted to let you know that I finally tried to make the Pumpkin Amti! It was really good - I have a post about it if you want to see the result. Thanks a lot!

  32. I loved to read lal bhoplyachi aamti!! I also follow and love the book Ruchira, by Mrs. Kamlabai Ogale! Its a gift I recieved from a relative on my wedding, my mother's Ruchira, is in a very poor state, its torn ...proving by itself that it has been used!!! Heheheh...its always nostalgic to read ur posts..being a marathi ( a kobra to be precise! heheh)
    I guess you will love to read my flavours of life, do comment on both my

  33. Hi

    Is there an English translation of Ruchira available? Thanks!


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