Thakkali or Tomato rasam

I don't look a Tamilian - but my rasam gives me away! (Its sunny too:-)).

Rasam is a light and tasty soup made of lentils (Tuvar/arhar dal) and tomato. It is a great appetizer and just right for a light dinner. My husband and children love its look and taste, and I must have already shared the recipe with at least a dozen people by now. Rasam is indicative of everything Indian - It is bright in colour, has a sharp taste and a nice spicy aroma - not strong as curry - but enough to tickle your taste buds and leave you wanting more!!

Rasam is also good to be taken when you have cold (Just add some crushed pepper) or sore throat as it soothes the throat and is light and easy on the stomach. Perfect for recuperating patients!!

Last night it was only me and the kids for dinner, so we had a very simple meal of hot rice, mild rasam, and pappadams. The only difference was that this time I deep fried the pappadams instead of roasting in the microwave since the kids find the fried ones tastier - This is an indulgence I allow myself very rarely!

On to the RASAM: Serves about 6 cups:

Tomatoes - 2 medium
Tamarind - As big as a TT ball
Tuvar dal/Arhar dal - 1/4 cup
Curry leaves - About 5 to 6
Turmeric or haldi powder - 1/4 tsp.
Pepper, Jeera and Rasam powder - 1 tsp. each
Hing (Asfoetida - a little more about this wonderful stuff here - Do read) - 1/8 tsp.
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp.
Fenugreek seeds (methi dana) - 4 to 5 (Updated)
Coriander (Chopped) - For garnishing (About 10 stems)

1. Cook dal. Mash it well adding enough water and strain. Retain the water separately and repeat the process twice. Use only the dal extract. (Retain any dal left over for sambar or squeeze tight and mix with dry vegetables.)

2. Soak the tamarind in warm water and extract the juice.

3. Dice the tomatoes into 8 pieces. Boil it in the tamarind extract along with rasam powder, hing, curry leaves and turmeric till it turns very soft and the liquid is reduced. Just press the tomatoes slightly to release the juice.

4. Add the dal extract to the cooked tomato mixture. Add water if it is thick. The consistency should be that of clear vegetable soup. After water is added the liquid should measure approximately 6 cups. Adjust salt as per your taste.

5. Heat till the rasam starts frothing at the sides. Remove immediately from fire. Rasam should not be allowed to boil or simmer as it loses it flavour.

6. Heat 1tsp. ghee in a 'karandi' - a small tempering wok - and add mustard seeds. When they splutter add the methi dana(fenugreek seeds) and hing. Pour into the rasam and garnish with coriander.

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