Story behind my memorable Chakkarakutti mango sambar | Soapstone sambar | South Indian sambar made by mom.

The sound of seasoning as it splatters on hot food was always music to my ears. “Chissssssss” went the seasoning of mustard and hing on to something delicious definitely I thought, as I turned the pages of my textbook waiting for the call for lunch. The seasoning had settled on the food, and the aroma of all the flavours rose from the kitchen. The hing struck first, followed by fried curry leaf in Gingely oil. Then came the tart but sweet smell of tamarind, and I think it is mango in the background. Oh yes! It is Sambhar. Yes I could identify all that and more while I was supposed to be studying science from my textbook.

“Hema set the table” said Appa from the dining room. It was the sambhar that was calling me, more than my dad’s diction. I threw my books aside and ran towards the kitchen to grab the plates. My mom was just coming out of the kitchen with her Kalchatti ( Vessel made of soapstone) full of sambhar holding it carefully with a cloth on both sides. I waved the curtain aside and rushed in to the kitchen and before I could stop myself I had a head on collision with the Sambhar in mom’s hands. Hot sambhar spilled on her hands, making her loose her grip.

We both saw the kalchatti slip from my mom’s hands and sambhar fill the floor with a cracking noise that followed. My dad closed his newspaper to see the lunch of the day served on the floor. He got up from his green metal chair to see the drama that was unfolding. I stood in shock trying to comprehend what had happened, with a sorry face. My mom watched in dismay with so many un answered questions flooding her in one shot I would presume. Her precious vessel she had been using for more than a decade is no more. What is it for lunch now ? &^%* am I supposed to cook again ? Where do I start to clean up this mess. Overwhelmed with these thoughts I presume she forgot to scold me ;-). I was 11 years old. My love for my mom and sambhar is still the same..
I learned two things from that incident. The first – My nose is always right. Two – I always run in the direction of food.

Soapstone is a naturally occurring, dense yet soft stone that is composed largely of the mineral talc and is very rich in magnesium. The discovery of soapstone is what got us from the stone age to the bronze age as they discovered that the stone could be carved to make moulds, for casting blades and knifes. This also helped mankind realise that the stone can absorb and retain heat for a longer period of time, which led them to make vessels for cooking, cooking slabs and bowls from it. Do you know what else was carved out of a soapstone? The outer layers of the Christ the Redeemer sculpture in Rio de Janeiro.
Soapstone is one of the easiest rocks to be quarried as it is easily exposed to the surface. It is mostly grey, green or brownish in colour. Its name is derived from its “soapy” feel and softness. The soapstone is cut into blocks and the blocks are carved in to the shape we need using a chisel. As the carved rock is soaked in water for a few days, letting the talc inside the rocks to escape making it easier to carve. The second round of carving is done to give it a smooth finish for the vessel. This cook wear is light grey in colour. This needs to be seasoned to decrease its porosity. Scroll down for how to cure a soapstone vessel.

Chakkarakutti mangoes sambar

Sambhar which was accidentally invented when Shivaji’s son Sambaji (Get it ?The name Sambhar) when he was ruling south India. Sambaji used tamarind in his dhal instead ok kokum once, and fell in love with the new variant . The Sambhar changed its form and flavour many times in many households all over south India and this is just one variant.

Rediscover your grandma’s or mom’s kitchen. If she has a well seasoned kalchatti , you are in luck. It is your hand-me-down heirloom to keep, use and pass on to the next generation. As fragile as it might seem, we all know what survived in a Titanic ship wreck – a ceramic China vase fully intact. If your grandma has not got one for you, make one for your grandchildren. Buy it , season and and start using it for cooking. Here is where you can buy it in India online etbykayal.

Soapstone dish – Kalchatti

Soapstone which entered the kitchen 8000 years ago is still valued for its remarkable properties of retaining heat and slow heating. Anything can me made on a soapstone except deep frying. It cooks food evenly slowly by distributing the heat all over. Helps in slow cooking because of its heat retaining capabilities. It can be used for slow fermentation of curd too. I grabbed one of my own kalchatti’s from a vendor who’s family was into it for the past two decades in Palghat, Kerala.

Here is how to cure it before using -Apply a generous amount of castor oil and turmeric all over the vessel in and out and leave it to dry for a day. The oil gets absorbed and the vessel will look dry the next day. Fill the vessel with cold water and set it on the stove on low heat till the water comes to boil. Repeat this process for a few days and discarding the water every time. All this effort is to cover the pores and avoid talc from the stone in mixing with food. In a few days in to seasoning we will see all the talc wear off and the vessel will have a smooth non stick finish, showing the natural marbling of the stone in a deeper dark colour.

Sambhar Boiling on a soapstone dish after it has been switched off.

Where to buy kalchatti Soapstone vessel ?

Most beautiful soapstone cookware I have seen is by vivaterra.

Inghredients

Chakkarakutti mangoes

These mangoes are small, sweet, bright yellow to green, have a huge seed inside and a small layer of pulp. It is very difficult to get the pulp off the seed, hence cooked as a whole.

Hear is my delicious arachuvitta sambhar in my seasoned kalchatti. Smells rustic and divine.

recipe Chakkarakutti mango sambar | Soapstone sambar | South Indian sambar

Chakkarakutti mango sambar – Tamilnadu style sambar – Arachuvitta sambar

South Indian Sambar
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
30 mins
Course Lunch
Cuisine South Indian Cusine, Tamilnadu sambar

Equipment

  • Pressure cooker

Ingredients
  

For the Masala

  • 2 tbsp Coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp Urad dhal
  • 1/4 tbsp Fenugreek seeds
  • 3 Piece Red chilli
  • 1 Piece Green Chilli
  • 1/4 tsp Asafoetida
  • 3 tbsp Grated coconut

For the Sambar

  • 1 Cup Pigeon pea lentils / Thur dal / THoraparuppu
  • 3 Tbsp Thick tamarind pulp
  • 6-8 Piece Sweet full chakkarakutti mangoes pealed
  • 1 tbsp Jaggery
  • 2 tsp Salt or as required

Instructions
 

  • Pressure cook the toor dal (Pigeon Pea ) in a cooker for 20 minutes or until soft with 1.5 cups of water.
  • Mash the dal to a smooth paste. The smooth consistency of the sambhar relies on mashing the dal to a smooth uniform texture.
  • In a frying pan add the small onion (shallots) and fry them as a whole till translucent.
  • Peal the mangoes.
  • Transfer the mangoes to the cooking pot. Add the tamarind pulp. Add two cups of water and the turmeric.
  • If you are using a soapstone dish for making the sambhar do switch on the stove after adding water to the vessel else the vessel might crack if heated in a dry or empty state.
  • Allow the vegetables to cook. Feel free to add some water if the water is running dry while cooking. Cooking the vegetable in a closed vessel will make sure the water does not dry out fast due to heat.
  • While the mangoes cooks, let's make the masala for the sambhar.
  • In the frying pan add a tbsp of oil, add the coriander seeds and roast them on a low heat for two minutes, till they turn golden.
  • Add the Urad dal, Chana dal, fenugreek seeds and red chilli to the pan and dry roast them all till the dals turn golden brown and not black. If you see the dals turning black you have overdone it. Prefer discarding the masala and restarting the frying of all the ingredients, as the roasting is a key step in getting the taste right.
  • Add the grated coconut to the roasted spices and switch off the stove. The heat would roast the coconut slightly giving it a correct colour. Mild brown.
  • Allow it to cool. Grind the cooled roasted mixture with water in a mixer into a smooth paste.
  • Meanwhile the mangoes would have cooked to a pulpy consistency. Check if the brinjal when pressed is easy to mash to confirm the vegetables are cooked.
  • Add salt, the ground masala and the cooked smooth dhal to the cooked vegetable mixture.
  • Add water based on the consistency you prefer for your sambhar.
  • Mix well. Allow it to boil in medium heat for about 10 minutes.Switch off the stove.
  • In a frying fan add a tbsp of oil and a tbsp of ghee in low flame. Add the mustard followed by the asafoetida, red chillies and curry leaves. Adding a green chilly is optional but I love it. When the tempering splutters, add it to the sambhar which has just been taken off the stove.
  • If you have cooked in a soapstone dish you will see the sambhar boiling for another 10 minutes after switching of the stove because of the heat retained by the stove.
  • Serve hot sambhar with rice and a dollop of ghee.

Notes

While using a kalchatti do not keep it on the stove and heat with no content in it as it will crack the stone.
Sambhar is not confined by the Soapstone cook wear. it can be made in a a kadai or a container that can be used on the stove.
Kalchatti is versatile in its usage too. It can be used for cooking any dish which involves slow cooking with liquid content.

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