I'm back after a wonderful and much needed vacation in India. Though I wish it were longer, two weeks was definitely too short of a time to spend with my family and visit Bombay and Goa. Still we managed to get quite a bit of sight seeing done between two weddings and celebrations. It should also go without saying that this vacation involved a lot of eating. There were Christmas sweets and treats my mom had prepared plus all the restaurants we tried out, then the food at all the different celebrations, the list goes on. Though, I've shared some of my photographs on Instagram, I'll be writing more about my trip, tips and experiences on both these lovely cities in the upcoming weeks.
There were three things my body craved for as soon as we got back from India, the first being sleep (the jet lag is intense), the second warm weather (winter in Bombay and Goa is around 80+ degree F) and the third, lighter meals. One of my favorite South Indian soups is rasam (pronounced rus-um), which can best be described as a spiced, fiery peppery broth that is rather light yet wholesome. Rasam is considered by some to having a healing touch when it comes to colds and it is one of my favorite soups to enjoy during the cold days of winter. It is also the perfect soup to eat after a 22 hour-long flight.
Here are some of my kitchen tips while preparing this soup;
- I used split red lentils because they are quick and easy to cook but you can use the traditional split yellow pigeon peas (toor dal) in the same amount.
- 20 peppercorns might seem a lot but it gives this soup its characteristic fiery taste. I've added a Serrano pepper here for heat but if you prefer a hotter green chili, add it. If you like it less hot, remove the seeds and only use the pepper.
- *Mustard greens can be replaced with spinach and the cilantro with parsley.
- If you can't find tamarind paste, you can use 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.
- This soup will get darker as it ages or if it is heated. The chlorophyll pigment in the greens gets dark when exposed to air or heat which is why I add the green paste towards the end after the broth base has cooled down a little. I also serve this soup immediately as soon as it is prepared to keep it as brightly green as possible.
green goddess rasam
20 black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
3/4 cup split red lentils (masoor dal), cleaned and washed
8 cups water, at room temperature
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon tamarind paste (you might need to add a little more)
2 cups packed mustard green leaves (mid rib removed and discarded), fresh*
1 bunch cilantro leaves, fresh*
1/4 cup packed tarragon leaves, fresh
6 scallions, fresh (both white and green parts to be used, trim and discard the root end)
1 large (about 2 tablespoons chopped) serrano chili pepper, chopped (if you prefer less hot, remove the seeds)
2 cloves (about 3 tablespoons) garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
4 tablespoons neutral tasting vegetable oil (you can use olive oil)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
4 dried Kashmiri chilis (about 1 inch in length)
6 curry leaves (fresh or dried)
1. Grind the peppercorns, cumin and coriander seeds to form a coarse powder using mortar and pestle or a spice/coffee bean grinder.
2. Add the ground spices along with the turmeric, lentils and water to a large thick-bottomed stock pot. Heat on a high flame and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the flame to a medium-high and cook for about 10 minutes or until the lentils are soft and translucent. Take about 1/2 cup of the liquid and mix it with the tomato paste and tamarind to form a slurry. Transfer this slurry back into the stockpot and stir to combine. Cook for one minute, remove from stove and keep the broth aside and allow to cool for 10 minutes before adding the green paste (prepared in step 3).
3. Place all the ingredients from the mustard greens to the garlic cloves, along with 1/2 cup of the broth (avoid adding the lentils from the broth) in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until you get a smooth paste. Stir this paste into the warm lentil broth. Add the salt and taste, adjust seasoning if necessary (you might need to add a little more salt or tamarind).
4. Heat the oil in small saucepan or skillet on medium-high. As soon as the oil is hot (after about 45-60 seconds) add the mustard seeds and heat until they begin to sputter. Once the seeds start to sputter, add the chilis and the curry leaves and heat for another 10-12 seconds, they will puff up and darken a little. Immediately remove and pour this hot mixture over the soup. Serve the soup immediately in bowls. You can also serve this with plain rice on the side.