I came across a great, humorous post about Meenakshi Ammal’s books, Cook and See, this morning. You must read it if you know and love her books. Written in 1951, they were a treasure trove for new brides entering the kitchens of Sth India for the first time. Today, they are a treasure trove for me as I delve into Sth Indian cooking in my own Australian kitchen.
You can see the post by Gopium here.
A treasure trove indeed, but not before you tread a maze of information with the fine tuned skills of any detective to sort and categorise and place the information in a logical order.
When she wrote her first volume, it was a planet that had not yet felt the need to coin a word like foodie. There was no great demand for cookery books, and no one thought it a great idea for a woman — imagine that! a woman! — to write an entire book of recipes. Meenakshi Ammal had many detractors and only a handful of supporters. One staunch encouraging voice was that of her uncle, father of the Library Movement in Madras State, the late Rao Bahadur Sri S. V. Krishnaswami. And her own indomitable will, of course.
S. Meenakshi Ammal was also an amazing woman. To have collected and published the gems included in her books, the traditional recipes of the time, was an amazing feat. It is especially true when you consider the status of women in India in the 1950’s and how she would have faced puzzlement at least and censure at times.
So today it is to her Rasam chapter in Volume 1 that we go, making a Plain Dal Rasam.
I love rasam, the spicy tanginess of it. If I haven’t had rasam for a while, I get a real longing for it. Untraditionally, I might have 2 or 3 bowls of rasam, and call that dinner.
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Plain Dal Rasam | Easy Rasam
Source : adapted from Meenakshi Ammal’s Cook and See Part 1
Prep time: 5 mins + 30 – 40 mins to cook the dal
Cooking time: 10 mins
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it
0.25 cup toor dal
tamarind – a lime sized piece, or use tamarind paste
1 tspn rasam powder
1.5 tspn salt
a pinch asafoetida
1 stalk curry leaves (10 – 12 leaves)
a few green coriander leaves
2 tspn ghee
1 tspn black mustard seeds
1 – 2 dried red chillies, broken in half
Cook the toor dal in plenty of water. Decant the top water. Amma calls this water Boiled Dal Essence. You will need half a cup.
Make 2 cups of tamarind water and place in a saucepan. To this, add salt, rasam powder, asafoetida and curry leaves. Mix well and add the Boiled Dal Essence. Cover, boil well and cook for a few minutes.
Mash the remaining toor dal with a little water, and add to the rasam. Boil for a minute or two.
Now add enough water to make up to 4 cups. As it comes back to the boil, remove from the heat.
Make a tadka of the mustard seeds and chillies in the ghee and add to the rasam. Garnish with coriander leaves and curry leaves.
Tomato can be added to the tamarind water. If tomatoes are used, the amount of tamarind can be reduced accordingly.
Sambar powder can be used in place of Rasam Powder.