January 17, 2011

Jeera Pepper Rasam/ Cumin Pepper Soup

My mom made this soup every day when Great-grandma (paternal grandmother’s mom) was alive. She lived a long and healthy life. We were fortunate to have her around long into our teens. My sisters and I grew up under her nose. She rocked us to sleep with her stories during the summers. She read a lot of books, most of them about Hindu mythology. She faced many hardships throughout her life. She lost her mother when she was born. Later, she was raised by her step mother. Her father married her off early. God blessed her with 2 little girls, and took her husband away soon after. She came back home and helped her father till he passed away. She married her daughters off, but her sons-in-law were not very courteous and kind. Her teenage grandson came and lived with her. She spent her last 25 years nurturing us.

She loved us unconditionally. There was not a day she ever spoke rudely to us, she always taught us to be humane and forgiving, to stand up on our feet and face the world, no matter what, to sacrifice our pleasures for our loved ones. During her last days, she suffered from a paralytic stroke, and went through a lot of pain. I remember, I had just finished my Bachelors degree, and she got bed ridden. She started talking to her family who has crossed over, and I knew her time had come. She had a deep bond with the lord, her spirituality and way of life will always be my family’s guiding light. If I am standing up with my head held high today, it is from the lessons I learnt, from her life. 

What I used: Serves 4
¼ cup thogri bele / toor dhal
1 large tomato
2 tsp garlic crushed
2 tsp onion crushed
3-4 whole red chilies
3-4 curry leaves
¼ tsp each of cumin and mustard seeds
1 tsp ghee/oil
2 tsp of freshly chopped cilantro
1 tsp of cumin and ½ tsp of pepper pounded together to a coarse powder
¼ tsp turmeric
1tsp of tamarind, or ½ tsp tamarind paste
 A pinch of hing/asafoetida
¼ tsp sugar
Salt to taste

Soak the dhal in water for 15 minutes. Cook the dhal and tomato until soft/Pressure cook the dhal and tomato with 1 cup of water. Smash tomato and dhal into a paste. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, add a tsp of ghee. When it shimmers, add the mustard, cumin, curry leaves and red chilies. Cover until the spluttering subsides. Add in the crushed garlic, onion and tamarind. When it turns a golden brown, lower the heat to medium; add the powdered pepper-cumin powder, and turmeric. Immediately add in the tamarind dhal liquid and turn the heat back up to medium-high. Add in the salt, hing and sugar. Let it cook until constant foam creams the top of the soup. Do not boil it. Turn off the heat and add in the chopped cilantro. It can be consumed as a soup, or mixed with soft cooked rice to make rice porridge and eaten after a hearty lunch or dinner. Enjoy!