Rava Pongal| Khara Pongal With Semolina

Are you looking for something special to make on the occasion of Pongal? Here’s presenting Rava Pongal or Khara Pongal made using semolina.

Pongal Oh Pongal!

The first major festival of the new year is here! It is time for the harvest festival to be celebrated in different parts of India, time to pray for a bountiful harvest this year and to say thanks to the Universe for last year’s. The festival might be known by different names – Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan in Gujarat, Pongal in Karnataka and Tamilnadu, Magh Bihu in Assam or Lohri in Punjab – but the spirit of gratitude, hope and celebration remains the same.

Huge stalks of sugarcane being sold in the markets of Bangalore, for the Pongal celebrations

Pongal is a major festival in Tamilnadu, one that is celebrated for 2-3 days. Sweet and savoury dishes using rice and lentils – also called Pongal – are prepared on the occasion. Sakkarai Pongal (sweet pongal) and Ven Pongal (savoury pongal) are prepared in earthen pots, and allowed to overflow, signifying abundance and prosperity. Chants of Pongal Oh Pongal! rent the air.

Apart from the classic versions, there are quite a few more modern varieties of both the sweet and savoury pongalProso Millet Sakkarai Pongal, Banana Sweet Pongal and Broken Wheat Sweet Pongal With Coconut Milk, for example. This Rava Pongal is one such modern take on the classic savoury pongal recipe.

Ezhu Thaan Kootu, Vadai and Payasam are some other dishes that are commonly prepared to celebrate the Pongal festival.

More about Rava Pongal

Like I was saying earlier, Rava Pongal is a modern twist on the classic savoury pongal or Ven Pongal. The rice in Ven Pongal is substituted with rava, also called sooji or semolina. Taste-wise, both dishes are almost the same. Rava Pongal, therefore, is a good thing to make for the festival when you are considering avoiding rice.

Rava is a refined form of wheat, and hence not gluten-free. I am not sure of the nutritive benefits of rava, if any. Like many Indian festival offerings, this Rava Pongal is a no-onion, no-garlic preparation, which makes it Sattvik or Jain as well.

This Rava Pongal recipe is completely vegetarian. The ghee used in the tempering is of crucial importance, but you could definitely substitute it with vegan butter in case you are thinking of making a vegan version. Personally, though, I would definitely suggest using the ghee.

Rava Pongal recipe

Now, let’s get to the recipe for Rava Pongal, the way it is made in our family. It’s a rather simple thing to make, taking bare minutes to put together.

I share this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. This Monday, the group is sharing #SankrantiSpecials, showcasing harvest festival foods from across India. I chose to share our Rava Pongal recipe for the theme, and hope you like it! Here it goes.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 3/4 cup Bansi rava
  2. 1/4 cup moong dal
  3. 3-1/2 cup + 1 cup of water
  4. 2 tablespoons ghee
  5. 1 teaspoon cumin
  6. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  7. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  8. 2 dry red chillies
  9. 2-3 green chillies
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns

Method:

1. Coarsely crush the black peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or in a small mixer jar. Keep aside.

2. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

3. Wash the moong dal well under running water. Drain out all the excess water. Transfer the washed and drained moong dal to a wide vessel. Measure out the Bansi rava and add to the same vessel.

4. Add 3-1/2 cups water to the vessel. Mix well using your hands, to ensure there are no lumps.

5. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 5 whistles on high flame or till the rava and moong dal are well cooked and mushy. Let the pressure release naturally.

6. When the pressure from the cooker goes down fully, remove the cooked rava and moong dal mixture. Mash it well, using a potato masher. Keep aside.

7. Heat the ghee in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the cumin, curry leaves, asafoetida, dry red chillies and slit green chillies. Let the ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds.

8. Now, turn the flame down to medium. Add the cooked rava and moong dal mixture to the pan, along with salt to taste, about 1 cup of water and the coarsely crushed black peppercorns. Mix well.

9. Cook on medium flame till the mixture starts thickening, 2-3 minutes. Stir intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Break down lumps, if any, using your ladle. Switch off gas when the mixture is still quite runny, as it thickens further upon cooling. Your Rava Pongal is ready – serve it hot with a simple coconut chutney or raita of your choice.

Tips & Tricks

1. For best results, use the coarser Bansi rava and not the very fine Bombay rava.

2. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and black peppercorns you use, as per personal taste preferences.

3. Adjust the amount of water you use, depending upon how thick or runny you want the pongal to be.

4. Do not skimp on the amount of ghee. A generous quantity of ghee gives a fragrant, beautiful pongal.

5. Make sure the rava and moong dal is well cooked, before adding them in to the pan.

6. I did not roast the rava or the moong dal before pressure cooking them, as I wanted a mushy consistency of pongal. However, you may dry roast these ingredients separately, on a medium flame till fragrant. This makes the pongal more fragrant and a bit grainy.

7. Slivers of coconut and finely chopped ginger can be used in the Rava Pongal too. We typically don’t.

What do you think of this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Aval Mixture| Low-Oil Poha Chivda

I hope you are gearing up to celebrate Diwali. I can’t believe it’s already time for the big festival, but it is! We have been busy cooking up various sweet and savoury dishes in preparation for Diwali, which arrives this weekend. Today, I present to you our family recipe for one of these Diwali-special foods – Aval Mixture aka Poha Chivda, a delicious snack made using beaten rice.

A bit of background about Diwali

Before we get to that, though, let me talk a bit about Diwali, for those readers who aren’t acquainted with it. Popularly called the Festival of Lights, Diwali is a Hindu festival that celebrates the return of Lord Rama with his wife Seeta to Ayodha, having won a hard-earned victory over Ravana. It is one of India’s biggest festivals, signifying the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness.

There are small variations in the way Diwali is celebrated in the various states of India, but the over-arching beliefs are more or less the same. Diwali means shopping, new clothes, dressing up to the hilt, lighting lamps, getting together with friends and family, prayers, gifts, bursting crackers, loads of food, spreading love and good cheer all around.

In Tamilnadu, Diwali day (or Deepavali, as it is called) sees families rising as early as 4 a.m. for a rejuvenating oil massage and bath, which is followed by the wearing of new clothes and jewellery. Then, it is time to head out to burst crackers, closely followed by a special lunch. The evening is spent meeting friends and family, serving and eating the sweets and snacks painstakingly prepared in the few days before Diwali. 7-Cup Cake, Rava Kesari, Omapudi, Aval Mixture, Ribbon Pakoda, Murukku, Kasi Halwa and Payasam are some dishes commonly prepared in our family for Diwali.

Aval Mixture or Poha Chivda

Aval Mixture or Poha Chivda is prepared using beaten rice or poha, and we make it with the minimal use of oil. There is no deep-frying involved, which makes this a relatively guilt-free festival snack. The cashewnuts and raisins, groundnuts and jaggery, that are added in make the mixture rich and special.

This Aval Mixture is slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and just the right amount of salty – making it a burst of flavours. It is a completely vegetarian preparation, suitable to those following a vegan or plant-based diet. If you are using gluten-free asafoetida (without any wheat flour added to it), this Aval Mixture recipe is gluten-free as well. In case you aren’t able to get hold of gluten-free asafoetida, you can just skip it altogether too, without any significant change in the taste of the dish.

Our family recipe for Aval Mixture, for #DiwaliDhamaka

Here’s how the Aval Mixture is made in our family. I share this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group, which is showcasing Diwali-special foods this week. Yes, the group theme this week is – #DiwaliDhamaka!

Ingredients (makes 3 cups):

  1. 2 tablespoons oil
  2. 3 cups medium-thick beaten rice (poha or aval)
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 1/2 tablespoon red chilli powder or to taste
  6. 2-3 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste

For the tempering:

  1. 2 tablespoons oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 1 tablespoon raisins
  4. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  5. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
  6. 4-5 dry red chillies
  7. 10-12 cashewnuts, halved
  8. 1-1/2 tablespoons groundnuts

Method:

1. Dry roast the groundnuts on medium flame till crisp. Ensure that they don’t get burnt. Transfer to a plate and keep aside.

2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Turn the flame down to low-medium. Add in the beaten rice.

3. Keep stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes, keeping the flame low-medium, or till the beaten rice gets nice and crisp. Do not overcook the beaten rice, or it will become too hard. Take care to ensure that the beaten rice doesn’t burn.

4. Transfer the fried beaten rice to a large mixing bowl or vessel.

5. Now, we will prepare the tempering. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan. Add in the mustard, and allow them to pop. Turn the flame down to medium. Add in the raisins, curry leaves, asafoetida, dry red chillies, halved cashewnuts and dry-roasted groundnuts. Mix gently. Fry these ingredients on medium flame, till the cashewnuts start browning, the curry leaves get crisp and the raisins puff up. Stir constantly. Take care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Switch off gas.

6. Add salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and jaggery powder to the beaten rice. Mix gently but well, using your hands. Ensure that the seasonings are evenly distributed through the beaten rice.

7. Now, pour the tempering over the beaten rice. Mix it in, using a spatula. Your Poha Chivda is ready to use! Allow it to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container.

Tips and tricks

1. I have used regular refined oil and medium-thick poha (the type we use to make poha upma).

2. Make sure you use a large vessel to fry the poha. The pan should not be overcrowded. The poha should have enough space to move around in the pan. If you have a smaller pan only at hand, you can fry the poha in two or more batches, using a little oil at a time.

3. Some families dry roast the poha, and then proceed to add the seasonings and the tempering. We prefer making it the above way.

4. Slivers of dry coconut, chopped green chillies, fried gram (pottukadalai), chopped almonds are some other things you could add to the tempering. We usually don’t.

5. It is important to make sure that neither the poha nor the tempering gets burnt. Please do ensure this, otherwise the taste of the Poha Chivda might be compromised.

6. Some people deep-fry the poha before proceeding to add the seasonings and the tempering to it. You could do that, too.

7. Let the fried poha cool down slightly before seasoning it. Adding the seasoning and the tempering to very hot poha can cause it to go limp.

8. Powdered sugar can be used in the above Aval Mixture recipe, instead of the jaggery powder. Alternatively, you can omit the sugar or jaggery altogether. I prefer using jaggery powder.

9. Make sure you don’t overcook the poha, which might cause it to become overly hard.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Sangu Pushpam Aval Payasam|Butterfly Pea Kheer With Beaten Rice

Best wishes on the occasion of Maha Navami!

I hope all of you are thoroughly enjoying the festive season, gorging on Navratri and Durga Puja specials, dressing up, meeting friends, and having loads of fun in general. The last few days have been crazy busy for us, with hundreds of festive errands that needed to be run. I’m loving every little bit of it, and so is the bub. 🙂 The bub has especially been enjoying learning the significance of each day of Navratri, not to forget the special foods that we have been cooking almost every day. The special food in question for today is Sangu Pushpam Aval Payasam, kheer made using beaten rice or poha, naturally coloured blue with butterfly pea flowers.

The Foodie Monday Blog Hop group has decided to share Dussehra dishes today, and this Sangu Pushpam Aval Payasam is my humble contribution to the #VijayaDashamiTreats theme. Aval (poha) payasam (kheer) is something we commonly prepare at home each Navratri. The idea of using butterfly pea flowers (‘sangu pushpam‘ in Tamil) to colour the kheer came about when I saw Sangeeta using them to make mini idlis look absolutely gorgeous. It was through Sangeeta’s Insta post that I learnt about butterfly pea flowers being used to worship Maa Durga, of the Goddess’ love for them. What better dish could I prepare for Dussehra, then, if not this payasam?

Out came the precious stash of dried butterfly pea flowers I had picked up on our last holiday in Thailand, and this blue kheer came about. Oh, my! What a beauty! It was so much fun making and shooting this pretty kheer! Taste-wise, it still remains your regular home-made payasam, delicious as always, but the blue colour adds loads of thrill, magic and festivity to it. It did make the bub all agog with awe. 🙂 And, oh, did you know that these flowers possess several health benefits too?

You must definitely try out this Butterfly Pea Kheer too, especially if you have children in the house. I’m sure they would love it! Here’s how I made the kheer.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1/2 litre + 1/2 cup of full-fat milk
  2. 3 tablespoons beaten rice (poha or aval)
  3. 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar
  4. 7-8 dried butterfly pea (sangu pushpam) flowers
  5. 1 tablespoon ghee
  6. Dried rose petals for garnishing, as needed (optional)

Method:

1. Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the poha. Cook on medium flame for about a minute, or till the poha crisp up. Take care to ensure that the poha does not burn.

2. Now, add 1/2 litre of milk to the pan, along with the sugar. Keep cooking on medium flame till the milk thickens a little, 12-15 minutes. Stir intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cream will form on the sides of the pan – scrape them back into the milk.

3. In the meantime, heat the remaining 1/2 cup milk in a small pan. Bring it to a boil, then add the dried butterfly pea flowers to it. Give the milk a quick stir, then switch off the gas. Set this milk aside for 10-12 minutes, or till the butterfly pea flowers leach their blue colour into the milk.

4. Pour the blue milk into the kheer cooking in the other pan, along with the butterfly pea flowers. Let everything cook together on medium flame for about 2 minutes. Switch off gas. Your Sangu Pushpam Aval Payasam is ready! Serve it hot, warm, at room temperature or chilled, as per personal taste preferences. Garnish with dried rose petals before serving.

Notes:

1. Use good-quality full-fat milk only to make the kheer. I have used Nandini full-cream milk, here.

2. Cashewnuts and almonds fried in ghee can also be added to the kheer. I haven’t.

3. I have used dried butterfly pea flowers that I picked up at Big C in Thailand, to make this Sangu Poo Aval Payasam. You can use fresh butterfly pea flowers instead, too, if you can get your hands on them. Butterfly pea flower powder is also readily available online these days – you could use that to make the payasam too.

4. Adjust the sugar as per personal preferences. The above quantity was just right for us.

5. Don’t overcook the beaten rice. Just cook it for about a minute, let it crisp up, then add the milk and sugar to the pan. Overcooking the beaten rice will make it hard to chew.

6. I have used the thin variety of beaten rice (aka poha or aval) – the kind we use to make poha upma – to make this payasam.

7. You can filter out the dried butterfly pea flowers before adding the coloured milk to the pan. I let them stay in, as the flowers are very much edible.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Ven Pongal| Khara Pongal

I wasn’t always a fan of Ven Pongal, the peppery rice-and-lentil confection that is so very popular in South India. Growing up in Ahmedabad, it always meant to me boring food for the sick or the elderly, with nothing – absolutely nothing – to its credit. It was only after I moved to Bangalore that I tasted some really well-made versions of Ven Pongal, and realised just how beautiful it can be. My love for this savoury pongal grew with time, helped along by the fact that the husband appreciates it a whole lot. Trial and error taught me to perfect this dish, and it is soul-satisfying comfort food for me today.

Ven Pongal, also called Khara Pongal, is a thing of great joy when made right. No wonder it is such a popular breakfast dish down South (Psst: We love having it for lunch or dinner too!). You will also often come across Ven Pongal being served as ‘tiffin’ in weddings and religious events, in South India. It makes a frequent appearance as prasadam in temples, and in homes as an offering to the Goddess Durga, for Navratri. This is one of the types of pongal prepared for the Pongal festival in January, alongside the sweet version.

We prefer the Khara Pongal runny, moderately spiced with coarsely crushed pepper, slit green chillies and cumin giving it a flavour boost. I don’t use any milk in it, or cashewnuts – we love it in all its simplicity. More so because it is so very easy to prepare and so light on the tummy!

I share below my way of making Ven Pongal, the way my family likes it. I have also included tips and tricks to get the taste and texture just right. Do try it out this festive season – I would love to hear how you liked it!

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1/4 cup moong dal
  3. 2 tablespoons ghee
  4. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  5. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  6. 2 dry red chillies
  7. 2 green chillies
  8. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  9. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Method:

1. Take the rice and moong dal in a wide vessel. Wash well under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the water.

2. Add 4-1/2 cups of water to the rice and moong dal in the vessel. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Cook on high flame for about 5 whistles, or till the ingredients are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Meanwhile, coarsely pulse the black peppercorns in a small mixer jar. Keep aside.

4. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

5. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, open it and get the cooked rice and moong dal out. Mash them well, using a potato masher. Keep aside.

6. Heat the ghee in a large pan or kadhai. Add the mustard, and allow it to sputter. Now, add the slit green chillies, dry red chillies, asafoetida, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Let the ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds, taking care not to burn them.

7. Now, add the cooked and mashed rice and moong dal to the pan. Also, add in about 1 cup water, salt to taste and the coarsely crushed black peppercorns. Mix well.

8. Turn the flame down to medium. Let everything cook together on medium heat till well integrated and the pongal starts to thicken. If too thick, add some more water. Switch off gas when done – should take 3-4 minutes. Your Ven Pongal or Khara Pongal is ready. Serve hot with a simple coconut chutney, gojju or raita of your choice.

Notes:

1. Sona Masoori or Kollam rice work best in the making of this Ven Pongal. Any non-fragrant variety of rice would work.

2. Don’t skimp on the ghee. A good amount of ghee is a must in Ven Pongal.

3. Some people dry roast the rice and moong dal till fragrant, before proceeding to make the Khara Pongal. We don’t.

4. You may use a little less moong dal if want the Ven Pongal to be a bit less sticky. I prefer the above proportion of rice and moong dal. Some people prefer using 1/2 cup of moong dal for 1 cup of rice.

5. Some people prefer using whole peppercorns in Ven Pongal, while some others prefer using coarsely crushed cumin and peppercorns. I like keeping the cumin whole, but coarsely crush the peppercorns.

6. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Ven Pongal you require. The above recipe yields runny pongal, the way we like it in our family. Please do keep in mind that the Ven Pongal thickens considerably upon cooling – hence, it is best served hot.

7. Age-old Ven Pongal recipes do not suggest the use of green chillies or dry red chillies. They use only black peppercorns for spicing up the pongal – either whole or coarsely crushed. I, however, like adding in green chillies and dry red chillies.

8. Slivers of coconut, broken cashewnuts and finely chopped ginger can be added to the tempering too. I usually avoid these.

9. Make sure the rice and moong dal are well cooked and mashed, before proceeding to make this Khara Pongal.

10. Some households cook the rice and moong dal in a mix of water and (boiled and cooled) milk. We usually use only water.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Nataraja Iyer Rasam| Flavourful Rasam Recipe From A Culinary Legend

In a typical Tamilian household, rasam is comfort food. Piping hot rasam is the antidote for most ills, right from the sniffles to the flu. And why not? Made with ingredients like pepper, ginger and cumin, rasam does have medicinal properties. The tangy flavour that tamarind, tomatoes and/or lemon lend to rasam makes it just the perfect thing to enliven tastebuds that have grown dull. It is very light on the stomach, easy to digest, as well. Rasam is soul food at our place too, with several different versions being prepared from time to time. I bring to you today the recipe for a special kind of rasam, straight from a culinary legend of Tamilnadu – Nataraja Iyer Rasam.

About Nataraja Iyer

Nataraja Iyer is not a new name in the South Indian food industry, particularly in Chennai (erstwhile Madras). He was a stalwart in the field of event catering, a man who started off small but who grew through the ranks. His career had a very humble beginning – he started off serving tables at small eateries in Trichy, when he was but a little boy himself. He came from a family of cooks, and would assist his grandfather, doing odd jobs in the kitchen, while the old man catered for weddings and other occasions.

Soon enough, Nataraja Iyer came into his own, both in terms of cooking and catering. In the 1940s or so, he started catering events on his own, business growing by leaps and bounds as more and more people started talking about the brilliant food he dished up. So great was his draw that people would immediately agree to be guests at a wedding when they would come to know that the food was to be catered by Nataraja Iyer. He catered for several celebrity weddings in Chennai, in the course of which VV Giri (former President of India) bestowed upon him the title of ‘Arusuvai Arasu‘ i.e. king of all the six tastes that constitute good food, namely sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent.

Arusuvai Arasu Caterers – started by Nataraja Iyer, now run by his children after the legend’s passing away in 2018 – remains a well-respected establishment in Tamilnadu till date. However, in spite of his huge achievements in the culinary field, having served at over 75,000 events spanning his career, Nataraja Iyer stayed a humble man till the end. He believed in sharing his knowledge, and started writing a column in the famed Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan with just that end in mind. He shared recipes for some of his signature dishes – rasam, vattalkozhambu, milagu kozhambu, kadappa, rasavangi and paal payasam, for instance – in his column to make sure they reached the masses. There’s much to learn from the life of this great man, indeed!

Nataraja Iyer Rasam

One of the most delicious rasam versions ever, Nataraja Iyer Rasam is a big-time favourite in our household. I remember my grandmother making this rasam – thanks to Ananda Vikatan I suppose – to much adulation. The recipe passed down in our family, and I occasionally prepare it too.

Nataraja Iyer Rasam does not call for any pre-made spice powder. Freshly ground cumin and black peppercorns flavour it, with spiciness also coming from the ginger, dry red chillies and green chillies that are added in. The bit of jaggery used in the rasam gives it a sweet tinge, which beautifully balances out the tang from the tomatoes and tamarind. Quite interestingly, there is a wee amount of fenugreek seeds used in the tempering, probably for inducing slight bitterness, a la ‘Arusuvai Arasu’.

This is a completely vegetarian recipe, suitable to those who follow a vegan or plant-based diet. It can be made entirely gluten-free simply by avoiding the asafoetida used in the tempering.

How to make Nataraja Iyer Rasam

Without further ado, let me now share the recipe for Nataraja Iyer Rasam. Try it out, and I’m sure you will fall in love with it too!

I share this recipe for #RasamRaaga, the theme for the week at Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme was chosen by me so as to celebrate the very versatile rasam, also keeping in mind the chilly weather these days. September 2019 marks the first death anniversary of Nataraja Iyer, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to him than this post.

So, here we go.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1/4 cup toor dal
  2. 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  3. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. 2 green chillies
  6. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  7. 4-5 dry red chillies
  8. About 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder
  9. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  10. 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  11. Salt to taste
  12. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

For the tempering:

  1. 1/2 tablespoon ghee
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  4. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  5. A pinch of fenugreek seeds

For the garnishing:

2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander

Method:

1. Wash the toor dal well under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the water. Add in enough fresh water to cover the toor dal fully. Pressure cook the toor dal for 6-7 whistles on high flame, or till it is cooked thoroughly. Let the pressure release naturally.

2. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water for 10-15 minutes or till it softens. Allow it to cool down enough to handle.

3. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep aside.

4. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

5. Peel the ginger. Chop very finely. Keep aside.

6. In a small mixer jar, grind the cumin and peppercorns together, coarsely. Keep aside.

7. When the pressure from the cooker has fully gone down, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash it well. Keep aside.

8. Adding water little by little, extract all the juice out of the tamarind. You would get about half cup of tamarind water, approximately. Keep aside.

9. Heat a pan and add the chopped tomatoes and finely chopped ginger to it. Add in about 2 tablespoons of water and a little salt. Cook on high flame till the tomatoes turn mushy.

10. Add the tamarind water, salt to taste, dry red chillies (broken), slit green chillies, turmeric powder and curry leaves. Cook on high flame till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away, 2-3 minutes.

11. Now, add the cooked and mashed toor dal to the pan. Also add about 1-1/2 cups water, the jaggery powder and the coarsely crushed cumin and peppercorns. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

12. Cook on high flame till the mixture comes to a boil. Then, reduce flame to medium and simmer for a couple of minutes. Switch off gas.

13. Now, we will prepare the tempering for the rasam. Heat the ghee in a small pan. Add mustard, and allow it to pop. Lower flame to medium. Add the cumin seeds for the tempering, asafoetida and fenugreek seeds. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, taking care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Switch off gas. Add this tempering to the rasam.

14. Add the finely chopped coriander leaves to the rasam. Mix well. Your flavourful Nataraja Iyer Rasam is ready to serve! Serve it hot, with hot steamed rice and a South Indian-style poriyal on the side.

Notes:

1. Adjust the quantity of tamarind and jaggery you use, as per personal taste preferences.

2. A few cloves of garlic, crushed, can be added in to the rasam while it is simmering. This adds a beautiful taste to it.

3. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the rasam you desire.

4. Do not use too much of fenugreek in the tempering, as this will make the rasam overly bitter.

5. Country (nati) tomatoes are best for making this rasam, rather than ‘farm’ ones.

6. Oil can be used in the tempering, instead of ghee.

7. I used a mix of the spicy Salem Gundu and the not-so-fiery Bydagi dry red chillies to make the rasam.

8. Make sure the toor dal is well cooked and mashed, before using it in the rasam.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!