I had been making Vada for a snack and wanted a rasam to have with them, so we grabbed Meenakshi Ammal’s books Cook and See to make the next rasam in the Rasam chapter of Vol. 1. The flavouring of this rasam is chilli and pepper (sautéed and ground to powder), with untoasted cumin seeds and fresh curry leaves (also ground to a powder). These spice combinations are combined with a tamarind base.
We are about half way through our project of making all of the classic Rasam recipes from Volume 1 of Meenakshi Ammal’s books Cook and See. We are loving this project, and adore her books. It would be the only book that I have come across that walks you through how the flavour of recipes change with minor adjustments to the ingredients or method. Cooking through a chapter of her books is like receiving personal tuition in the very basics of South Indian (TamBram) food. These books would be my most treasured cookbooks.
This rasam is flavoured with cumin seeds, chilli and pepper. It is made without Rasam Powder, and grinds the spices as you go. But it is easy to make and very very delicious. It is spicy, peppery, hot, tangy, and so very good.
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Pepper – Chilli – Cumin Seed Rasam
Source : adapted from Meenakshi Ammal’s Cook and See Part 1
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it
1 tspn channa dal
0.75 tspn pepper corns
4 Indian dried red chillies
2 tspns coriander seed
1 tspn ghee
0.75 tspn cumin seed
4 curry leaves, to be ground
tamarind – a lime sized piece, or use tamarind paste
1.5 tspn salt
4 curry leaves for the tamarind base
2 tspn ghee
1 tspn black mustard seeds
2 Indian dried red chillies, broken in half, 0r to taste
2 or 3 curry leaves
a few green coriander leaves
Heat a tspn ghee and saute the channa dal, pepper corns, dried red chillies and coriander seeds until they are golden and aromatic. Grind into a paste (use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder). Keep aside.
Grind the cumin seed and 4 curry leaves to a powder, and keep aside.
Make 4 cups of tamarind water and place in a saucepan. To this, add salt and curry leaves. Bring to a simmer and add the paste made from the sauteed ingredients. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Mix the cumin seed powder with a little water to make a paste or slurry, and stir into the rasam. Bring back to the boil, simmer well for 30 seconds, and remove from the heat.
Make a tadka of the mustard seeds, chillies and curry leaves in the ghee and add to the rasam. Garnish with coriander leaves.
To make tamarind water – use a concentrated form of tamarind, just a small amount, less than a full teaspoon, and dissolve in the required water.
If you are using dried tamarind, take a lime sized piece, and soak it in hot water for 15 minutes or more. Then strain, pushing through all of the paste and leaving the seeds and fibres.
Best of all, use fresh tamarind, but outside of India that is harder to achieve. If you have fresh tamarind, for this recipe (as it has cumin seeds) you can combine some new and some old tamarind.