Hot rice and piping hot rasam with loads of palya (vegetable) is one simple meal I really enjoy any day. Give some good pickle to go with it and it becomes a gourmet meal for me. Rasam or saaru being a staple in the South Indian meal, I can never get bored of eating it. I like eating on a plantain leaf for the flavor it imparts to food, specially if the food is hot. We tend to eat more of rasam as compared to rice and its difficult to eat on one if you are not used to it, particularly rasam. I normally make it with rasam powder, but hugely relish a change now and then. Hubby is not much of a rasam person, but likes this relatively non-spicy variation.
Nimbe Hannina Saaru or Lemon Rasam, along with a lot of other traditional recipes, bring back memories of my childhood visits to my maternal grand-parents' home. The huge family comprised of lots of Uncles and Aunts, cousins, Tatas and Ajjis( as a kid left me confused as to who was who) and a few people who served the family for generations. The house had 2 huge kitchens with one of them meant for cooking lunch and snacks, the other one for the evening meal and cooking during festivals. The regular rasam was part of lunch and the Lemon Rasam was what was prepared invariably with the rest of the dinner. And how we used to anticipate and love eating it, with home-made ghee and the subtle smell of food cooked on wooden fire stoves.
I can still close my eyes and smell the rasam the way my grand-mother made it, but can never really bring that taste to it she brought. She had scores of small spice boxes on her kitchen shelf from which she would put 'something' into the huge vessels of food and it would taste magical. I do wish she were alive today, the foodie in me would have loved to pull out her culinary secrets...
Here is an attempt to share one of my most favorite dishes, hope you do enjoy it as much as I do..
The spices which go in to this rasam is a mix of roasted coriander seeds, cumin and fenugreek seeds. These are mixed and ground in a certain proportion and the powder goes into a number of dishes. I have tried to use them separately and am glad the rasam turned out to be almost the same as the one made with the spice mix powder. Here comes my version. This makes a liter of rasam which is neither too thick nor thin. The spice levels will be perfect for a liter of rasam. If you would be making more, you would need to adjust the spices accordingly.
Please Note: The flavor of this rasam is majorly from hing and of course the other spices. If you want to cut down on the hing, the rasam may not taste flavorful.
I normally have some fenugreek or methi roasted and powdered. I have roasted coriander powder and jeera powder separately.
Toor Dal - 1/2 cup
Tomatoes - 2 ripe, washed and chopped
Curry leaves - 1 medium stalk, washed
Fresh Coriander Leaves - A few un-chopped sprigs and more for garnish
Hing - a couple of generous pinches depending on how strong it is
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon(divided use)
Green chillies - 3-4, washed and slit lengthwise or chopped fine
Salt to taste
1 tsp roasted coriander powder
3/4 tsp roasted jeera powder
1/8 tsp roasted methi powder
For the tempering
Oil- 1 teaspoon
Ghee - 1 teaspoon (optional)
Mustard seeds- 1 teaspoon
A few curry leaves
Finley chopped fresh coriander leaves
Juice of 1/2 a small lemon or 1 whole small lemon
Procedure: Pressure cook the dal with enough water and turmeric till soft. Whisk the dal with a wire whisk so that it becomes a homogenous mixture. Measure the cooked dal and add enough water to make a total of 5 cups. Keep aside.
In a heavy bottomed vessel, put the chopped tomatoes, green chillies, one whole stalk of curry leaves, a few coriander stalks 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, a generous dash of hing and salt. Cover it with water, just enough to cover the tomato mixture. Simmer on low heat till the tomato is cooked fully. This helps infuse the flavor of all the ingredients into the rasam. Stir occasionally.
Once the tomatoes are fully cooked, add the cooked dal and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat. Add the roasted corainder powder, cumin powder and methi powder. Simmer on low heat for about 10 -12 minutes. Check the salt and adjust if needed. Take off the heat. Discard the whole curry leaves and whole coriander leaves stalks.
Heat the oil and ghee in a small heavy pan or kadhai. Add the mustard seeds, when they sputter, add the hing and the curry leaves. If your rasam doesn't look a nice yellow, now is the time to add a little more turmeric, but not too much. Add the tempering to the hot rasam. What a satisfying sound!!! Squeeze in the lemon juice. Serve hot with hot steamed rice.
Please Note: To get the most of the lemon flavor, add the juice after heating the rasam and just before serving.