Thursday 19 June 2008

tamarind & peppercorn broth

Legumes are a vegetarian’s delight. They are any plant (or fruit of a plant) from the family Fabaceae (Leguminosae) and include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, lupins and even peanuts.

Since the No Crouton Required team have requested a soup or salad featuring legumes for there monthly recipe collection, I thought it might be interesting to use some pigeon peas in an unexpected way.

In India, dried, split pigeon peas become known as toor dal, lentils which are often cooked into a side dish or ground to make a flour.

Apart from the usual contributions to stews and soups, dals can act as a thickening agent. For instance, if you dry fry then grind the dal and add it to soups it will help to thicken the broth the same way flour is used in European cooking.

Rasam, a Southern Indian soup, is an excellent example of this cooking technique in practice.

Traditionally rasam is a sour and spicy water (broth) flavoured predominantly by tamarind and pepper or chillies. In most cases it’s served in a clear, liquid format but occasionally cooks add a little dal flour to thicken the broth into something a little more substantial.

This Tamil Nadu version, based on black peppercorns and tart tamarind is a good example of a thicker rasam. Although I compiled the recipe myself, I drew it from numerous sources across the blogosphere to ensure my own personal version was still true to traditional rasam principles.

Puli Milagu Rasam (Tamarind & Peppercorn Broth)

Anna’s adaptation of various blogger’s recipes. Serves 2-4.

2 tablespoons toor dal
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ small dried red chilli
2 tablespoons tamarind purée
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon yellow asafoetida (hing)
15 curry leaves
1 teaspoon oil or ghee
Salt to taste


1. Dry fry the toor dal for a minute then add cumin seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds and chilli. 2. Fry a little longer or until fragrant. Remove from heat and grind to a powder in spice grinder.

3. Mix tamarind purée with 2½ cups of hot water.

4. Heat oil/ghee in a saucepan and fry mustard seeds until they start to pop.

5. Add garlic, asafoetida and curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds.

6. Add spice and dal powder and fry for another 10 seconds.

7. Add tamarind water, half the tomato and salt. Boil for 10 minutes.

8. Strain broth into a clean bowl, press pulp to extract liquid then discard.

9. Rinse saucepan and return broth to saucepan. Add remaining tomato and boil for another 5 minutes.

10. Serve with rice or pappadums or both.

I know this suggestion is going to bring shrieks of horror from Indian readers, but if the rasam is too spicy, you could always add a few spoonfuls of yoghurt. It won’t be the traditional broth anymore, but you’ll still taste the key flavours of tamarind and pepper and it’s very delicious.

The pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan, syn. Cajanus indicus) has been cultivated for 3000 years and most likely came from Asia to Africa and then through the slave trade to the Americas and Caribbean.

It is widely cultivated in more than 25 tropical and semi-tropical countries of the world, with India producing around 82%. It’s not hard to see why toor dal is India’s most popular dal, especially when you know it is very drought resistant and has huge levels of protein and amino acids (methionine, lysine, and tryptophan).

In India, toor dal is known by many names: tuvar dal (Gujarati), arhar dal (Uttar Pradesh, Orissa & Bengal), togari bele (Kannada), kandi pappu (Telugu), tuvara parippu (Malayalam), tuvaram paruppu (Tamil).

Cooking the rasam from Tamil Nadu (Wikipedia map below), accomplished another of my 2008 Food Resolutions and provided me something to contribute to the June challenge for No Crouton Required: a monthly vegetarian soup and salad blogging event.



  1. Rasam looks delicious.
    Rasam and Rice is one of my comfort food.
    If u like u can send it to Sig of Live to eat as AFAM is Tamarind

  2. This is exactly my idea of comfort. Thank you for this perfect submission.

  3. I saw your recipe at the round up. Sound delicious.


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