We take so many things for granted in our kitchen; if we want to make a quick ‘chole’ we can easily grab a tin of chickpeas from the store cupboard, pop it open, pour it into a pan with some fried onion, garlic, spices etc. turn up the heat and a few minutes later it’s ready to eat.
Fresh green chickpeas (or green garbanzo beans) on the other hand are only available in season and require a little more patience to prepare. Sometimes it’s good to slow down and savour something special though. And these certainly are special – the sweet, creamy flavour is quite unlike the dried chickpeas that end up tinned or packed in bags and the green colour is so much more inviting. Having said that, the recipe I am sharing below is easily adaptable to regular chickpeas.
Yesterday I took myself down memory lane to my mother’s ancestral village where my grandmother Chandrabhaga, the only woman I lovingly called ‘Aai’, would rustle up this heritage ‘harbharyachi amti’ (हरभऱ्याची आमटी) with just a handful of ingredients. It was cooked as an antidote to the chilling winter in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, where my ancestral roots lie. My grandmother would make this soupy ‘amti’ with pearl millet and seasonal green chickpeas called ‘harbhara’ both of which were grown on their farm. She’d prepare a green ‘vatan’ (masala) along with a dry hand-pounded powder of roasted pearl millet. It was spicy yet packed with flavours of coriander, garlic and dried coconut.
So I decided to re-create my grandmother’s dish with my own tweaks. I added coriander seeds and decided to roast the spices to enhance their flavour. I just loved the way it turned out looking lush green with subtle textures of ground millet. I enjoyed it with broken basmati rice with a generous drizzle of ghee served with deep-fried nuggets of fermented millet called ‘kharodya’. My five-year-old daughter and English husband lapped it up with a wedge of crusty bread.
As well as the green chickpeas, you will also need some millet. As this dish is typically consumed in winter in the region of Maharashtra where my parents grew up, the millet of choice is invariably pearl millet or ‘bajra’. The warming properties of pearl millet along with the nutritious chickpeas, make this ‘amti’ (as we call it in my mother tongue (Marathi)) or soup, a very healthy and nourishing succour in the bitter cold of winter.
What’s an ‘amti’?
Typically an ‘amti’ in Maharashtra is a soupy lentil-based curry with aromatic flavours of ground spices which inevitably make the amti a tad spicy and sometimes, depending on one’s palate, subtly tangy. So although its basic constituents are just a few lentils with plenty of water, it’s not classed as a dal. Some texture of lentils is usually retained in a dal. That texture is very much missing in an amti. Its mouthfeel is smooth and runny, so it plays the part of a nutritious soup too.
This green chickpea ‘amti’ soup is
- Vegan although comes recommended with a drizzle of ghee on top
- Gluten-free which makes it very easy to digest
- Uses the rich goodness of green-chickpeas and millet, pearl millet in this case (about time the West started eating millet rather than reserving it for their budgies)
- Is healthy and nourishing in winter
- Is sustainable and dependable
- Tastes delicious
- Extremely adaptable
How is this amti cooked?
The amti is made up of three ground masalas or ‘vatan’ as they are called in Marathi:
- A dark green paste of coriander, dried grated coconut, ginger and garlic.
- A light green paste of fried onions, green chillies and green chickpeas
- A dark brown coarsely ground powder of fried coriander seeds and pearl millet.
Simply make each masala and fry them with a bit of turmeric. Add water and you’re done.
How to store this amti?
Harbaryachi amti is best eaten immediately once cooked but can be kept in the fridge for up to a week because the spices are well fried and there are no tomatoes. However, I appreciate that modern lifestyles dictate that we cook up a large batch of food and freeze it. Luckily, this soupy amti doesn’t have the kind of vegetable textures ruined by freezing and thawing so it can easily be frozen for up to 3 months. Just pop it into a reusable freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Once thawed, heat thoroughly and eat immediately. Do not re-freeze or refrigerate again.
How adaptable and accessible is this amti?
I am lucky to be able to procure fresh green chickpeas and pearl millet from my local Asian grocer when they’re in season. I believe many Asian stores sell these seasonal produce in winter in the UK. However, I understand they may not be available to all, especially outside India. So here are my suggested adaptations if you want to try this nourishing amti at home:
- If you can’t find green chickpeas or green garbanzo beans or green gram, swap it with regular tinned chickpeas in brine. Tinned chickpeas are not my personal preference but I understand they are a part of the fast paced lifestyle that many can’t escape from. The colour of the amti won’t be such a lush green, however it will taste pretty similar.
- I know many in the West have yet to develop a palate for millet. Also, pearl millet may not be easily available. You can try this dish with any local or seasonal millet of your choice.
- You can easily find the remaining ingredients for this soup – fresh coriander, coriander seeds, dry grated coconut, ginger and onions. Most of these are readily available in supermarkets. If you can’t find whole dried coconut, try with desiccated coconut.
Can I give this soupy amti to my toddler, with toned down spices?
The way this amti is prepared makes it easily digestible and adaptable for children including toddlers. When I cook this amti for my 5-year-old girl, I don’t make separate pastes or masala for her. The only masala that has any chilli in it is the light green paste mentioned above (no.2). When grinding first just add the onion and green chickpeas. Remove a tiny bit of this paste for your child and then add the green chilli and grind again for yourself. The last masala mixing step is just the same for children though you’ll be cooking in a separate pan.
Olya Harbharyachi Amti / Saar / Green Chickpea Soup / ओल्या हरभऱ्याची आमटीCourse: Main, StarterCuisine: Maharashtrian, IndianDifficulty: Easy
- For the dark green paste/ vatan:
2 tbsp dried whole coconut (grated)
4 garlic cloves
½ inch ginger
½ a bunch of fresh coriander
- For the light green paste / vatan
85g (½ cup) green chickpeas or green gram or garbanzo beans (shelled)
2 medium-sized shallots (roughly chopped)
5-6 green chillies
2 tbsp vegetable oil for shallow frying
- For the brown powder:
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp whole pearl millet or ‘bajra’
1 tsp vegetable oil for roasting
- To cook the amti:
3 tbsp vegetable oil for frying masalas
½ tsp turmeric powder
700ml hot water or as needed
10g jaggery (optional)
Salt to taste
- Grind all the ingredients for the dark green paste
- For making the light green paste, in a pan over a low to medium flame, shallow fry the green chickpeas first in the oil, followed by shallots and green chillies one at a time. Allow to cool. Then grind to a paste.
- In the same pan over a low to medium flame, shallow fry the coriander seeds followed by the pearl millet. Allow to cool then grind to a fine powder. Your brown powder is ready.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan over a low to medium flame, heat the oil for cooking amti. Tip in the dark green paste first and shallow fry for 30-45 sec. Don’t let it go brown.
- Then tip in the light green paste. Stir and mix for 30-45 seconds.
- Follow by tipping in the brown powder (from step 3) and mixing it all well for 30 seconds.
- Stir in the turmeric powder followed by the hot water. Add the jaggery (optional) and salt to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then simmer covered for a couple more minutes. Adjust the consistency, season to your liking and cook for a further minute.
- Serve hot on steamed rice drizzled with ghee or have it as soup drizzled with ghee and a hunk of crusty bread.
- Swap green chickpeas with regular chickpeas and pearl millet with local and seasonal millet of your choice respectively, if you can’t source either of them. You can also use frozen ready shelled green chickpeas if you can find them locally.
- Use desiccated coconut if you can’t find the whole dried coconut.
- Adjust the amount of water depending on how thick or runny you like your amti. The quantity of water given in the recipe is just a guideline.
- Adjust seasoning to your taste.
- I have added 5-6 green chillies but if you want you can make it truly ‘zanzaneet’ by upping the quantity.