This is a series on cooking with vegetables fresh from my parents’ backyard.
When you have access to fresh ingredients, you must make the simplest of dishes to truly savour them. No exotic name to confuse the tongue, just a simple basic dish to play with your palate before it slips down the throat. Any south Indian meal is virtually incomplete without the humble rasam – a thin soup-like gravy. This can be treated as an appetiser or eaten mixed with rice as part of the main course.
For the last month or so tomatoes have invaded our backyard. Not the big sweet variety, but small tart ones that are only slightly bigger than the cherry tomato variety. We just halve them or even use them whole in most dishes. Its unique sour taste lends a wonderfully different flavour than the one we’re used to in our everyday dishes.
See those pretty green ones nestled in the greenery?
Well, we haven’t tried using the raw ones yet, but I really wouldn’t mind making a simple chutney with them. Another tomato dish in the offing…hurray! But for now, a simple tomato rasam.
Light Tomato Rasam
Tomatoes – 5-6 (small) or 2 (big)
Tamarind – size of half a gooseberry or small lemon OR tamarind paste – 1 tsp
Rasam powder* – 1 tsp
Split pigeon peas/toor dal – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Coriander leaves – a few
Ghee/Clarified butter – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Asafoetida – a big pinch
Halve tomatoes if small or dice them into 1” pieces if using the bigger variety
Cook split pigeon peas/dal with turmeric powder in a pressure cooker or in a pot of water till soft and mushy
Soak tamarind in a cup of hot water. Once the water cools down, extract the pulp and keep aside (it must be somewhat thin and watery. If not, add ½ cup water). If using tamarind paste, mix in ½ cup of water
Boil the tamarind extract in a pot till it reduces to half the original quantity and the raw tamarind smell disappears
Add tomatoes, mashed lentil/dal and rasam powder and reduce heat to medium
When the liquid starts to froth at the sides, reduce heat a bit more
Remove the pot from heat when the liquid starts to froth a lot and forms a cap. Add asafoetida and salt and mix well
Heat ghee in a small saucepan and add mustard seeds
Add cumin seeds when mustard stops popping
Remove the saucepan from heat when cumin puffs up
Pour seasoning over rasam and garnish with chopped coriander leaves
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