My dad wasn’t very often in the front of the kitchen cooking, but what he did every single day was the backend work of chopping vegetables – and believe me – chopping veggies for a family of three hungry kids with, as often as not, a few guests thrown in for good measure, was no small task! Mum, despite being a doctor and working eight days a week, dad constantly touring on his engineering job, always seemed to find the time to welcome guests; very often guests came to stay for months on end – for medical treatment under Mummy’s eye, for a holiday or generally because someone was out of a job and needed somewhere to park self and family till the next job turned up!
As kids, we loved it when guests came because there were always more kids to play with, fight with, make up with….woke up many mornings to find a few extra heads on the pillow next to me….and the excitement of waiting for these many cousins to wake up so we get down to the serious business of playing…
Today, i wonder how these many mouths got fed by mom and dad with their extremely busy schedules… I remember once an uncle coming with his family of five to stay with us for several months because he had a brain tumour and was being operated on. My mother was very tied up with her work at the hospital and it was one of those times when the cook had decided to take a holiday! Daddy got into the act, hitching up his lungi, tying a make do turban (towel!) around his head and chopping and cooking away with zest!
All that thunder and lightning – literally because my dad would sing loudly and tunelessly through this whole operation while our dog Tommy howled alongside – either in harmony or despair at my dad’s singing! – enough indeed to produce a nawabi feast – was needed to make saaru (rasam) – that his mom- my appamma- was justifiably famous for!
Here’s my appamma’s rasam – my addition is pineapple – to satisfy family’s sweet cravings! The most important ingredient is the rasam powder – which MUST be made like this ONLY – if you want the rasam gods to smile on you, that is!!
Rasam powder (saarin podi):
Chili powder – 2 measures ( my measure is abt 1/2 cup)
Dhania – 2.5 measures
Pepper – 1/2 measures
Jeera – 1/2 measure
Methi seeds – 1/4 measure
Mustard – 1/8 measure
Curry leaves – 1 measure – washed and dried
Asafoetida – 2 lumps the size of tamarind seeds
Home made ghee (i buy butter and make ghee)
Roast each of these ingredients (except chili powder) separately (i never said it was going to be easy!) on a low flame in a few drops of ghee each.
Cool and powder to reasonable fine powder in the mixie, adding the chili powder. This quantity lasts for about a month for a family of 4.
Now to the actual rasam itself – which is simplicity itself.
Two ripe tomatoes – preferably the sourer country variety – chunked and crushed
Tamarind paste – 1 flattened teaspoon (or to translate from Telugu ‘thala kottesi’- head lopped off!)
Cooked toor dal – 2 tablespoons
Turmeric – 1 large pinch.
Jaggery – 1/2 tsp
Rasam powder – 3 tsps
Water – 3 cups
Pineapple pieces – optional
Boil the tomatoes, tamarind paste and water. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 5 minutes more. By now you should be fainting with the heavenliness of the aroma and everyone in the house should be coming around to sniff and ask when lunch is going to be ready 😉
Switch off. Garnish with coriander.
Tadka – 1 tbsp ghee, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, a pinch of hing and a sprig of curry leaves.
Bask as the compliments roll in 😉