Roz Ka Khana

A blog about everyday food. Mostly Indian. All vegetarian.

Archive for the category “Soups”

Pachai Milagu Kuzhambu (Spicy Green Peppercorn Soup)


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After a bout of crazy baking (yes, crazy is the right word when you are waiting for the bread dough to rise at midnight:), it was good to get Girish in the kitchen for some traditional fare.

You can tell by his previous recipes that he is kind of a “Kuzhambu King”  – Karuveppalai Kuzhambu, Vetha Kuzhambu, Kaara Kuzhambu are all his staple recipes. The names may be a tongue twister to the unorthodox ear but as any lover of Indian cuisine knows, they are distinctly different and unique to different regions of the South.

Pachai Milagu Kuzhambu is similar to the Karuveppalai Kuzhambu (curry leaves tamarind soup), but the green peppercorns give it a different kind of “burn”. That wasn’t meant to sound scary to newbies to Kuzhambu, but if you don’t know our recipes already, Kuzhambus are meant to have that tangy spice, which provide the perfect antidote to white rice and clarified butter (ghee) or the most famous combination of yoghurt rice and Kuzhambu, very lovingly known as “Thachi Mammu” in our home:)

As I have said this earlier, Singapore is a veggie and fruit haven and fresh green peppercorns, though seasonal are available (something I wouldn’t have dreamed of finding easily in the US). A trip to the local vegetable market (Tekka) and a 10 minute hunt to find a speacialty Thai store was all it took to find green peppercorns by the kilos! Of course we picked up about 300 grams which will probably last us a month or two. Green peppercorns have an extra bite to it and taste tangier than their black counterparts, which makes it a perfect accompaniment for Kuzhambu. Amma is already in the process of pickling the remaining peppercorns in brine the recipe of which I will share later.

Recipe for Pachai Milagu Kuzhambu:

Ingredients:

  • Green Peppercorns – 125 grams or about 1 1/2 cups
  • Curry leaves – 1/2 cup
  • Dry red chilies – 4-5
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Tamarind, a lemon sized ball soaked in warm water
  • Salt to taste
  • Asafetida (hing) – a pinch
  • Gingelly oil – 2 tbsp

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Method:

1. Take a kadai or heavy bottom vessel and add half the green peppercorns, add red chilies and cumin seeds and dry roast for about 3-4 minutes. The peppercorns will begin to pop. Turn off the heat.

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2. Now take this mixture and put it in the blender container. Add the remaining peppercorns (minus about 2 tbsp), tamarind and curry leaves to the blender container. Blend these to a smooth paste adding some water little by little so the consistency is that of a thick sauce.
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3. Now heat another heavy bottom vessel (or kachitti, a stoneware vessel), add about 2 tbsp of gingelly oil. Add asfetida to the oil. Heat for about 2-3 minutes till oil begins to smoke a bit.

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4. Now add the paste and stir to mix.

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Add about 1/2 cup water (to 1 cup, depending on consistency needed) and stir again. Now add the remaining 2 tbsp of fresh green peppercorns to this mixture.

5. Bring this mixture to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes till you get an aroma of the peppercorn curry leaves mixture.

6. Serve hot with rice and pappadums or with Thachi Mammu:).

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Ode to Ganesha


I marvel at the patience and forbearance our parents have had in many aspects of raising us. No, I’m not continuing on with my introspection here, though it’s incredible that it’s taken so many years for this to finally sink in:) I say this as I try to vaguely recreate what my mom (Amma) would have done on this special day for the special and very endearing elephant headed diety – Ganesha.

Growing up Amma was always big on marking every special traditional festival day with just the perfect altar, the best mouth watering delicacies, the finest clothes and the traditional lunch or dinner. I would, of course, enjoy the delicacies and the fineries, but I never really attempted to learn or emulate anything she was doing. I’m not sure if this was part ignorance, rebellion (in my own subtle ways:) or just nonchalance on my part. And the fact that my parents continue to live with us has probably only spoiled me further in that I continue to depend on Amma for marking such special occasions in her own inimitable ways.

Well, this year has been different. Not only have we moved a gazillion miles from the US to Singapore but my parents are making more frequent trips back home to India which only means that I finally have to survive on my own:). I have never been one to do anything elaborate on festival days and a special festival would mean a special song sung to the particular diety or an occasional visit to the temple, if at all. That is, if Amma or my mother-in-law reminded me gently that it was coming up, the week before or many times, the evening before the festival day:).

This year, that’s been different too. It must be the fact (or the perception) that I am still “settling in” and not working (yet:), and that “I have a lot more time on hand to finally make an attempt” – in Amma’s words:). I could go on and on on why I don’t feel that I need to “celebrate festivals” or “why every day is the same and question “why should we pray more on certain days and not others”, blah, blah. See, it is at these times that I shouldn’t try to be too introspective or philosophical any more. Because the truth of the matter is, when I did go the extra mile as I did this year, when I did try to recreate what little Amma used to do to mark this occasion, when I did try to make some of the mouth watering “prasadam” for Ganesha and when I did say that extra prayer this morning, it felt different – in a nice way. There is a vague sense of fulfillment and what’s that elusive word – as Nikhil puts it – “it feels peaceful in my brain”:). There, I said it.

But it is hard work. I made Kozhakattai or Modak (steamed jaggery and savory dumplings) for the first time successfully (the last time I tried, the kozhakattai crumbled and looked like amoeba). I can only say I only scratched the surface of how Amma would have made this day special, and boy, I am beat:) Which brings me to the point about patience and forbearance that our parents had. Here’s the recipe…(adapted from Festival Samaiyal by Viji Varadarajan)

Ingredients: For the dough/dumpling base

Rice – 2 cups ( I used Basmati)

Water – 4 cups

Milk, lukewarm – 1 cup

Salt – a pinch

Sesame Oil – 2 tbsp

Method:

1. Soak the rice in 2 cups hot water for about 20 minutes.

2. Blend the rice to a fine paste while adding little water.

3. Add the milk, salt and oil to this to make a very thin batter.

4. Heat a heavy bottom pan or vessel, add or spray a little oil, and then add this batter to the pan. While keeping the flame on medium, stir continuously for about 5-7 minutes. The batter will start to get thick and then begin to stick to the ladle and roll around it. Remove from fire and empty into a wide dish.

5. Rub your hands with some oil and knead the dough well to make sure there are no lumps and it is smooth to touch. Keep this dough aside covered with a wet cloth or towel.

Sweet jaggery Filling (Thengai Poornam)

Grated coconut – 2 cups

Jaggery or palm sugar – 1 cup

Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp

Water – 3/4 cup

Method:

1. Melt the jaggery in a heavy saucepan. You may add water in this step to help the melting process but this is optional.

2. Add the grated coconut to the jaggery and begin to stir while keeping the flame at low/medium.

3. Once the water evaporates, lower the heat and add the cardamom powder.

4. Continue stirring until the the mixture becomes sticky and fudge like.

5. Once cooled, make small lime sized balls and keep aside.

Savoury Filling (Uppu Kozhakkattai)

Ingredients:

Urad dal (Black gram) – 3/4 cup

Green chilies – 4

Asafetida – 1/3 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp

Salt – 1/2 tsp

Chopped curry leaves and cilantro (optional) – 1 tsp

Oil – 1 tsp

Method:

1. Soak the urad dal in 2 cups hot water for 20 minutes. Drain the water and blend to a very coarse batter with chilies, asafetida powder and salt.

2. Steam the paste in a dish in the pressure cooker for about 7-10 minutes.

3. Cool and crumble the mixture with your hands or a fork so that it resembles a coarse powder or usuli.

4. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds when hot and when the seeds splutter, add the usuli. and mix. You can also add some finely chopped curry leaves and or cilantro here.

5. Use this filling in the kozhakkattai base for making the savory kozhakkattai.

Assembling the kozhakkattai –

1. Grease your hands with a drop of oil and make lemon sized form balls of the dough. Mould the dough into a boat shape with a little cup in the center. For the savory kozhakkattai you can just make a flat circle with the dough.

2. Add in the sweet filling in the center of the cup and press the edges together until a round cup forms with a little peak.

 

3. For the savory ones, add the usuli in the flat circle dough and then press the edges together to form an oval shaped crescent.

4. Steam the sweet and savory kozhakkattais in a pressure cooker or an idli cooker or steamer for about 7-10 minutes. You should see tiny beads of water around the kozhakkattais. If they are undercooked, they will be sticky to touch.

Soup, Salad and Fresh Fruit Juice!

Singapore’s local farmer’s market located in Pasir Panjang was a treat! Rows of local fresh veggies and fruits and the best part – there was no “wet market” to go with it:) This is the typical meat and seafood market that borders most produce markets in this area. If you are a vegetarian the wet market ambience is usually a turn off. They did have a separate section for dried goods which included dry fish, shrimp and dry fruits but instinctively they seemed to separate these from the veggie and fruit rows. The result – we came home with enough produce to last us two weeks:) Most of this was the excitement at finding a wholesale produce market coupled with the interest to introduce juicing into our daily eating regimen. It also seemed like a fairly inexpensive alternative to the otherwise expensive produce and grocery shopping I was slowly getting used to around here. This may be a “hidden gem” for expats here as there wasn’t much of a crowd and you could negotiate if you bought enough from a single vendor. So overall, a win win:)

And so this was our lunch yesterday – carrot ginger and tofu soup, sprouts-lettuce-orange salad with orange salad dressing and fresh orange and guava juice. Can you tell we bought too many oranges:)

For the juice, we used a juicer which is a neat contraption, though my only peeve is that several pounds of produce yields two to three (if you’re lucky) 8oz cups of juice. Until I figured we could use the fruit mush or the “waste” from the juicer into our smoothies for breakfast the next morning! And if you have the Vita-mix, you can’t tell the skin from the pulp anyway:)


Carrot Ginger Tofu Soup (from the Vita-mix recipe cookbook)

4 medium carrots, peeled and halved

1/4 small onion, peeled

4 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp salt

pinch of white pepper

1 tbsp fresh ginger root or ginger paste

1/3 cup light silken tofu

2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (I used Knorr vegetarian cubes but I would recommend the low sodium broth minus any MSG)

Method:

1. Place carrots, onion and garlic in the Vita-mix container and secure the lid.

2. Select Variable 1, turn the machine on and quickly increase  speed to Variable 4 or 5.

3. Blend for 10 seconds until coarsely chopped.

4. Heat oil in a pan and sauté chopped ingredients until the onion is clear and the carrots are tender. Add a little broth if needed.

5. Place remaining ingredients in the Vita-mix container, add the sautéed ingredients and secure the lid.

7. Select Variable 1, turn the machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to high.

8. Blend for 3-4 minutes or until heavy steam escapes from the lid.

9. Garnish with celery leaves and enjoy!

Sprouts, lettuce and orange salad

1 cup whole green gram (mung) sprouts

1 cup butter or romaine lettuce leaves (spinach leaves are preferred but that was one leafy green I didn’t buy that day:)

1/4 cup cabbage grated or coarsely chopped

1/4 cup boiled green peas

1 carrot, grated

1 firm orange, peeled and cut into bite size chunks

Dressing –

3 tbsp orange sauce

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

salt to taste

Method : Take about 1/2 tsp olive oil, add 1/2 cup orange juice and about 2 tsp of orange rind. Add some agave syrup to taste.

Arrange the lettuce/spinach leaves and orange segments on a platter. Spread the salad mixture over the orange and spinach. Spoon the orange sauce over the salad. Chill for a couple of hours before serving.

“Maharashtrian Dal” (Lentil Soup – Maharashtrian style)

An easy yet healthy (as always) entry from Anusuya’s kitchen. She insisted that I not call it a Maharashtrian Dal as she isn’t really sure if this is authentic Maharashtrian, but given that it tastes better than the the dals I’ve tried and the fact that it required “Goda Masala”, a must spice ingredient in authentic Maharashtrian cuisine – these were reasons enough for me to give it the original name. I’m adding the quotes just for her sanity:). This is an easy recipe as it calls for red gram dal and Rotel..once again, a creative twist to an otherwise common dish, true to Anusuya’s kitchen.

Ingredients:

1 cup red lentils (masoor dal)

4 cups water

1 can Rotel (mild or medium)

1/2 tsp Goda Masala (this was a generous contribution from Anusuya’s kitchen)

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

2-3 green chilies (optional)

1 small red onion

Curry leaves – a few

Oil – 1 tsp

Method:

1. Boil the red lentils in about 3 cups water in a saucepan, till the lentils are cooked.

2. Add a can of Rotel.

3. In a small frying pan, add a tsp of oil. When the oil gets hot, add finely chopped onion, the cumin powder, coriander powder, goda masala, curry leaves. Fry till the onions get transparent. You may also add chopped green chilies for extra spice.

We had it for lunch with some hot quinoa and aloo methi (potato with fenugreek leaves). Finger-licking good!

Asparagus Soup

asparagus soupThe last few weeks have been crazy..a rollercoaster of emotions, ups and downs..(mostly up thankfully!) amidst quite a bit of travelling. Girish and I have been cooking a lot, trying to take our mind off things. Weirdly enough, cooking has been our way to unwind. Many recipes have been tried, some a success, some not worthy to write anything about, but I have, as usual, a stash of recipes, and tons of pictures waiting to be posted. I suppose I’m not a fan of just starting off every post with “ingredients”. There’s almost always a story to every recipe or some other thought that makes this a journal. But the downside..I need to get used to rambling on my laptop as I experiment, and in doing so, be more frequent in posting.

So after over a month’s lapse , I wanted to share this Vegetarian Times recipe from last month’s issue. Asparagus is not a regular vegetable you’d find in my refrigerator, but the magazine did a great job of highlighting its benefits, and of course, our local farmer’s market did the needful in offering a discount of $1/bunch a couple of weeks ago. Perfect timing, I thought, as I put it in my shopping basket, only to forget about it for the next couple of days.  I’d like to know if this happens to everyone, but I often find myself going into a health food store with my head exploding with lunch box recipe ideas, health snacks to stash in my office drawer and the greenest of vegetables to experiment with. The minute I pay for my re-usable grocery bag brimming of healthful bounties, my short term (more like long term!)memory loss sets in. It’s often days and maybe weeks before I discover the rotten likes of romaine, green leaf, or even the fungal culture of what once used to be asparagus in my crisper.

Well, this time I was determined not to let that happen. It was weeks before I tried this asparagus soup recipe but I was “smart” enough to freeze the asparagus stems this time. I decided to try the soup and the Roasted Red Pepper Spread Sandiwch for lunch over the recent long weekend. Notice that I refrained from calling this “Fresh” Asparagus Soup unlike the title in the original source:)

Ingredients (serves 6) : 

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 lb. fresh asparagus (36 to 40 medium-size spears), tips reserved, stalks cut into 1/2-inch pieces, divided
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk or heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add broth, asparagus stalks, and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat , cover pan, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until asparagus is tender.

3. Meanwhile, cook asparagus tips in salted water microwave for 1 minute. (The original recipe called for boiling but I think you get the same results in the microwave) Drain and rinse in cold water.

4. Blend the ingredients in the saucepan – asparagus, thyme, broth etc. in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pan, and stir in milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with asparagus tips.

Verdict: Could have done with a little more lemon zest. The soup is quite bland, so the lemon gives it just the right amount of tang. Will definitely make it again!

Vatral Kuzhambu (Tamarind Stew/Soup with sundried vegetables)

This one is a toughie to translate into plain English. Once again, an authentic Tamil dish, Kuzhambu, which means a kind of stew or soup, and Vatral which refers to sun-dried vegetables, is a comfort food in my home.

But before I write about this recipe, let me back up. I almost forgot , but today marks the 1 year anniversary of Roz ka Khana! I am actually a little embarrassed to say that I almost forgot that it was our birthday. I mean, yes it was February last when I penned the Paruppu Rasam recipe, but I had to go back into the archives to look up the actual date. And maybe I am a little overwhelmed too thanks to my dear friends and readers who reminded me to go look up that date! Sheela, thank you for being such a sweetie and shaking me out of my doldrums with your cheery note.  Thanks for being such an ardent follower among everything else.

And I should also thank Anu of AnEmily’s Vegan Adventures for requesting this recipe. Anu, this was the perfect recipe for RKK’s one year anniversary. I don’t think I’m really a Tamil purist when it comes to recipes, but Tomato Paruppu Rasam (lentil and tomato soup) and Vatral Kuzhambu are the staple, comfort foods in my home, so what better way to pay my tribute to RKK than to post another favorite comfort food? While the Rasam is my staple recipe, this one is Girish’s. As I wrote earlier in the 2 month anniversary of this blog with Girish’s Curry leaves Soup (Karuvepillai Kuzhambu) recipe , he is the inspiration behind this blog. So here’s to Girish again for your love and support, and to all of you family and friends who have been contributing and following this food chatter so far….thank you.

Vatral Kuzhambu recipe (Tamarind Soup)

This is also called Pulusu in Andhra/Telugu lingo. As I mentioned in the Curry Leaves soup recipe, this tastes best in a kachitti or a stone vessel, especially when it’s a day old. If you don’t have this vessel, it can also be made in a regular pot or pan, but make sure to save some for the next day so it has had all the time to let the flavors of the sesame oil, the fenugreek and the vegetables sink in. Also, this recipe is not really true to its name as we did not add the sun-dried vegetables or vatral. The sun-dried vegetables are available as is in Indian stores. We did not add it here since the onions have such a strong flavor that you can make this soup without the vatral. The real reason also was that we didn’t have enough vatral handy:). You can also call this recipe Vengaya Vatral Kuzhambu (Tamarind Soup with baby Onions)

Ingredients:

(I don’t have too many pictures to post for this one. I inadvertently erased some of the colorful ingredient pictures that I took  as I was transferring the pictures to my computer. As soon as I’m done poring through the 2500 photos on my hard drive in a desperate attempt to find them, I will try to update this post with better pictures.)

A large lemon sized ball of tamarind (enough to make about 2 cups of tamarind juice)

1/2 cup pink baby onions or shallots

2 tbsp fenugreek seeds

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 tsp vatral kuzhambu podi (I get this from India, but you can also use Sambar powder that is available in Indian grocery stores – MTR Madras Sambar powder). Alternatively you can find the recipe here.

2 sprigs of curry leaves

6-7 green chilies (the Thai variety)

a pinch asafetida ( we use a brand called SSP that we have only found in India but you can use any brand. SSP is in the granule form instead of powder and we use about 3-4 granules for a good strong aroma )

1. Heat the sesame oil in the kachitti or the stone vessel.

2. When it starts to smoke a little, add the fenugreek seeds, lower the flame and let the seeds get dark brown and oil starts to smoke again.

3. Add the asafetida. Add the kozhambu powder (podi).

4. Add the shallots, curry leaves, green chilies and the sun-dried vegetables (vatral) if available here. Fry till medium brown.

5. Add the tamarind juice and salt.

6. Let the mixture boil on a low flame for 10-15 minutes until the soup starts to thicken a little. You can also add a small amount (half a tsp)of jaggery (crystallized brown sugar) here for an added taste. If the soup is too watery, you can add a little rice flour and water made into a paste to thicken it. But if you let it boil enough, you may not need this step at all.

7. Serve with hot white or brown rice and ghee (clarified butter) with a side of paruppu (boiled and mashed lentils).

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Sweet Corn Soup

Corn soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do realize I haven’t populated the comfort food section in a while. Well, I haven’t blogged in a while , if you could call 12 days ” a while” that is. I suppose it is a long time, for something that warrants “everyday” cooking.

We had our 9 year old nephew visit from India, and while that meant two boisterous boys (including mine),  running around the house, it also meant having to come up with some creative ways to feed them both and fuel all that energy. As with most kids, vegetables were challenging, and I was looking for ways to dot the daily menu with some, while sneaking some in other dishes.

Anusuya’s kitchen had the perfect answer, as always. It’s quite obvious from her previous recipes, that she somehow has that perfect balance between scrumptious and healthy. Whole wheat, low fat, low oil are some key words in her kitchen. Of course, there are always “treats” in store, with her desserts and other signature dishes, and I will try to share them all, as and when she chooses to share them with me.

Here’s a sweet corn soup recipe that’s a favorite of her family, and this is what I “tried” on the kids one evening. May sound cliched, but as with all her recipes so far, it was a hit! The kids downed the corn soup with french bread and actually asked for more. What more could I ask for?

Ingredients:

1 pack frozen corn or 3-4 fresh corn, kernels removed and steamed

2 Jalapenos (I retained the seeds, but if you like it less spicy, de-seed them)

1/2 Vidalia onion (chopped into chunks)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tbsp butter

1/2 tbsp oil

Salt to taste

1. Take a heavy bottomed saucepan and melt the butter and oil.

2. When the oil is hot, add the onions along with the jalapenos. Saute for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the corn kernels. You may want to reserve a few kernels for later to add some chunky texture to the soup, but that’s optional.

4. Add 2 cups of water to this mixture and let it boil. Remove from the stove and cool.

5. Now take the mixture in a blender and puree it to a paste like consistency.

6. Take the puree in another heavy vessel or a dutch oven. Add the reserved corn, milk, soy sauce and salt to taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

7. Serve hot, garnished with scallion leaves (I was out of the leaves, as you can tell from the picture), and with a side of toasted french bread. I added some garlic butter on the bread as well. Or you could just use store bought garlic bread. Enjoy!

Karuvepilai Kozhambu (Curry Leaves Soup)

It’s true that people who have a taste for good food are also great cooks themselves. Or is it vice versa?  If you think I’m trying to toot my own horn.. well..maybe I am in a subtle kind of way;). I like to think that it’s all in the family, so I may be guilty of bragging a bit here.

It’s my husband I’m talking about, who is a big foodie himself. He’s a road warrior so one may think that all the travelling would have killed his taste buds, but I think it’s only helped grow his taste for all things food. He tends to have this sense for “sniffing” down the best eateries wherever he travels. Though I have to add that he is a little partial to Indian food, so a lot of his travel favorites tend to be Indian eateries. He has quite a database of favorites, which gives me an idea to to start a section on this blog of his restaurant reviews , to aid travellers looking for great eats. Coming soon..

Well, the good news is that Girish doesn’t just have a taste for good food, he is a great cook too…(notice the too there…didn’t I say I was bragging just a little bit)! All kidding aside, he has excelled at making some choice dishes which I will try to share here. Of course, that would mean he would need to cook more often so I think these mentions are a great incentive that will mutually benefit us.

I do have to add on a more serious note that he is the true inspiration behind this food journal. His drive and enthusiasm has been the force in getting this site up and running and to get me to do something I enjoy. Girish, this one is for all your love and support! Couldn’t have been better timing to include one of your entries in this blog. Roz ka Khana turned 2 months this week. Small achievement I know compared to some biggies out there, but thank you for coming along this far.

Here’s Girish’s recipe for Karuvepilai Kuzhambu, a Kuzhambu (soup or stew) variety that is a popular dish in Tamil Nadu. I have seen various versions of this recipe online, but here’s Girish’s original recipe that I think is the best;)

I do have to add a comment on the vessel that he used to make this dish. A kachitti as it is called in Tamil is a stone vessel, and is popular in Tamil Nadu to make all kozhambus. Like the eeyya chombu or the amalgamated metal vessel used for making rasam in my previous post, cooking kozhambu in a kachitti adds to the taste. It’s also said that a day old kuzhambu in the kachitti tastes even better. Let’s just say we’ve been there, done that and coudn’t agree more!

 

Ingredients:

15-20 curry leaves

20-30 Peppercorns

3 tsp jeera

Asafoetida (a pinch)

3 tsp sesame oil (Til Oil)

Tamarind pulp (Lemon size tamarind soaked in water and made into a pulp)

Salt to taste

Jaggery – a small piece

1. Take the curry leaves, jeera, peppercorns and some of the tamarind pulp and grind to a smooth paste.

2. Add some water to the remaining tamarind pulp (about 1- 1 1/2 cup water to 1 cup of tamarind pulp). The result should be a soup like consistency, not too watery, not too thick.

3. Take a heavy bottomed vessel or kachitti if you own one. Add the sesame oil to it and heat it on a low flame. After the oil gets hot, add the asafoetida first. Wait till it starts to smoke a little (make sure it doesn’t burn just enough to get an aroma), then add the jeera or cumin seeds.

4. After about 2 minutes, add the tamarind water, then add the jeera-peppercorn paste. Add salt to taste. Turn the flame to low and cook for about 10 minutes. The mixture will start to boil and thicken a little.

5. Add the piece of jaggery and boil for another 5 minutes. The kuzhambu should now resemble a thickened soup.

Enjoy with hot white rice and some dry vegetable and vadam(vadiyalu/ or chips.

Tomato Paruppu Rasam (Tomato and Lentil Soup)

It’s like I pay my obeisance to this dish….as an almost “auspicious” start to this blog about all things food. This was the first dish I experimented on my husband as a newly married novice in the kitchen. He, on the other hand was amazed that I could cook up a concoction at all that looked edible. I have to say that was a great start to my culinary experiments, when there were such low expectations to begin with.

I can only add that it’s been a decade now and he is still “hooked”…also to the rasam, which is a good enough reason to dedicate the beginning of this blog to this dish.

 

I’m sure there are numerous sites and blogs out there that have a rasam recipe, but here’s my version of traditional “paruppu (dal) rasam” made in an eeyya chombu or a vessel made of an alloy of different metals, tin being the main component. The metals are supposed to have various health benefits but I use more for the wonderful taste it imparts. It is also said that a day old rasam in this eeyya chombu tastes even better, and I can confidently attest to that.

The important thing to remember is to maintain a certain level of liquid in this chombu as the alloy can melt if the vessel is placed on a flame without anything in it. Thankfully, I have not had that happen to me personally; though have heard some funny stories of my mother’s adventures with it.

 

Here’s the recipe of our household’s comfort food:

 

Tomato Paruppu Rasam

 

Paruppu or dal is a Tamil word and refers to tuvar dal or pigeon peas. Tomato Paruppu rasam is a tomato dal rasam (soup), also referred to as charu in other Indian languages.

 

Ingredients:

1 medium roma tomato, or 5 cherry tomatoes, crushed

1 cup boiled and mashed tuvar dal

1 lemon size ball of tamarind, made into pulp

½ cup chopped cilantro

2 heaped tsp of rasam powder (I typically use store bought Madras rasam powder, MTR or 777, but you can also make your own.)

Ingredients for tempering:

1 tsp ghee (clarified butter)

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds or jeera

A pinch of asafetida

 

  1. Add about 2 cups of water to the tamarind pulp.
  2. Put the tamarind juice, half of the cilantro, and the crushed tomatoes in a vessel, and place over fire
  3. Add the rasam powder to this tamarind-tomato mix and let it boil, till the smell of the rasam powder goes away.
  4. Now add the dal and about 1-1 ½ cups water. Add salt to taste. Let this boil for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining cilantro. Boil for another 1-2 minutes and turn off the stove.
  5. Heat the ghee in another small pan. Add the mustard seeds, jeera and asafetida. When the mustard seeds start spluttering, add the entire contents of the pan to the hot rasam. Cover the rasam with a lid to contain the aroma.

 

Variation: Occasionally, I also add some dried neem leaves or “vepambu” to the ingredients for tempering. Besides having a great medicinal value, neem leaves add a distinct flavor to the rasam.

 

There are different ways to enjoy this rasam. Since it has dal in it, mixing the rasam while serving gives it a thicker consistency that is typically enjoyed with hot rice and ghee. Many true rasam connoisseurs also like to wait for the dal to settle down at the bottom of the vessel and decant the top liquid while serving, which can also be enjoyed like a soup.

 

As for my husband, he likes it not too thick, not too thin, but just right! One ladle of the top liquid, then one ladle of the mixed dal, to give it the “just right” consistency!

 

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