Rasam is the equivalent of chicken soup for many who live in the south of India. It’s usually sour from tamarind and tomatoes, but also brothy, spiced and herbal. All of these qualities make it restoring and enlivening: I feel as though I can see more clearly after eating it. My rasam has the same essential qualities as the original, but I’ve adapted it to Britain’s colder weather. I’ve given it more substance by using split peas and sweet pumpkin, which means it can be eaten by itself or with rice – as opposed to part of a main meal, which is how it would be eaten in India.
To reduce the cooking time (and energy bills), soak the split peas before you go to bed on the day before cooking. If you forget, you can still make this, but you’ll need to increase the cooking time for the peas to anything up to 90 minutes. If you can’t find delica pumpkin, use another pumpkin or squash instead.
Prep 5 min
Soak 6 hr+
Cook 1 hr 10 min
200g split yellow peas
1 x 900g pumpkin (I used delica, but any will do)
Neutral rapeseed oil
Fine sea salt
1 tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
1 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp (30g) tamarind paste – I use Thai Taste
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1¼ tsp ground coriander
1¼ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
2 green finger chillies, slit
Fresh coriander and basmati rice, to serve
Put the split peas in a large bowl, wash really well in a few changes of water, then drain. Cover with fresh cold water and leave to soak for at least six hours.
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7, and line two medium oven sheets with baking paper (mine’s a reusable one).
Wash the pumpkin, cut it in half, scoop out and compost the seeds, then cut into skin-on wedges that are 2cm at their widest part. Drizzle over a tablespoon and a half of oil, sprinkle on a quarter-teaspoon of salt, then toss with your hands, so all the pumpkin is coated. Put on the trays, bake for 25 minutes, then remove and put to one side.
In a large pot, heat two tablespoons of oil, add the mustard and fenugreek seeds and cook for 30 seconds, until they pop. Add the drained split yellow peas followed by a litre and a quarter of cold water, pop a lid on top, slightly cocked, then slowly bring to a boil on a low to medium heat. Turn down the heat, leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, tamarind, black pepper, coriander, cumin, chilli powder, turmeric and a teaspoon and a quarter of salt. Simmer for another 20 minutes, until the split peas are soft – they should have the consistency of cooked potato when you bite into them.
Stir in two-thirds of the roast pumpkin wedges (reserve the prettiest, which you’ll use for decoration later), simmer for another six to eight minutes – don’t worry if the pumpkin breaks up; it’ll help thicken the rasam – then adjust the seasoning to taste, if need be.
In another small pan, put two tablespoons of oil on a medium heat and, when hot, add the garlic cloves and chillies and fry for two minutes, or until the garlic is bronzed at the edges and the chillies are blistering white.
Pour the garlic and chilli mix into the rasam, then decant on to a platter or into individual bowls, and serve topped with the reserved roast pumpkin wedges and scattered with the coriander leaves, ideally with some steamed basmati rice.
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