Rasam (meaning ‘essence’) is the soup of Southwest India where the health-conscious swear by its medicinal properties. Quickly made – despite the list of ingredients – rasam is clean-tasting, warming and easily digestible. Traditionally served in small glasses, it clears the palate and complements richer dishes. For a no-fuss light meal, it’s hard to beat rasam and a bowl of plainly boiled rice.
Tear the tamarind pulp into chunks and put in a bowl with the hot water. Leave to soak for 15 minutes, breaking up the pulp with a fork as it softens.
Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes and roughly chop the flesh. Peel and slice the garlic and ginger. Whizz the three together in a food processor for at least 1 minute or until well blended.
Strain the tamarind pulp through a fine sieve set over a saucepan, using the back of a wooden spoon to press out as much pulp as you can. Discard the fibres and seeds. Simmer the strained liquid over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the lentils and the blended tomato mixture to the pan, along with the coriander, chilli, pepper and turmeric. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat a bit and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring now and again to prevent sticking. Season with salt and carefully fish out the pieces of chilli.
To finish, heat the butter in a small frying pan until foaming. Add the mustard seeds and sizzle for a few seconds. When they start to splutter, add the cumin seeds, dried chilli, asafoetida and curry leaves, if you’re using these. Pour the contents of the pan over the soup, give it a swirl and serve right away.
© 2008 Christine McFadden. All rights reserved.