Butternut Squash Soup (with cashew cream)


A butternut squash in its wholesome is very intimidating(to me). Had never bought one, always chose the frozen cut squash to make our traditional koottu. If somebody cleans, peels, cuts and puts in a bag, why bother ? 🙂 So imagine my shock surprise, when my neighbor walked in with this “humongous” squash…a fruit of her labor in her garden. I just left it on my kitchen counter , not wanting to deal with it amidst the Halloween/Diwali chaos.

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A week after Diwali, suqash was still there, and I was just pretending not to look at it, if I don’t see it, its not there.. kind of logic 🙂 . But then came the day when my mind went blank at the thought of dinner. Having read some amazing squash soup posts by fellow bloggers, I declared it was squash soup for dinner. Though I didn’t have  many ingredients that I normally add in a soup, I decided to make do with what I have (hence, the cashew cream instead of heavy cream 🙂 ) and it turned out to be a very successful dinner (with kids polishing their bowls 🙂 ).

If this is your first time handling a whole squash, please check out Anjana’s (At the corner of happy and harried) tips on how to cut a squash. I found them very helpful, I strongly recommend it if your are a first timer, because no soup is worth losing a finger 🙂

And here is my squash soup recipe:

  • Cut squash into cubes.

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  •  Cut some carrots and red onions. I also used few mint leaves. You can add celery, tomatoes and definitely more carrots (it was a “fridge almost empty, so make-do” day for me ). However, I did have some vegetable broth which made up for the lack of other vegetables.

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  • Here is my favorite spice blend for the soup.
  1. Cinnamon – 1 stick
  2. Cardamom – 2
  3. Cloves – 5 or 6
  4. Bay leaves – 2
  5. Black pepper – 1.5 tsp
  6. Cumin – 1 tsp
  7. Fennel – 1.5 tsp

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  • Coarsely crush the spices just enough to release flavor.

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  • Tie the crushed spices in a bundle, either using a clean cloth or a bounty paper towel. This is a convenient way of seasoning the soup, just drop the bundle in the soup and remove it once the soup is cooked.

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  • I used my pressure cooker, as I didn’t have a lot of time to slow cook the soup and develop flavors. Pressure cooker delivers the same results in a quicker fashion…(what will I do without them ???? ). Heat a spoon of oil and saute the red onions and when the onions brown, add a tsp of ginger garlic paste and then saute the carrots and mint.

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  • Add the squash cubes and sprinkle some salt to sweat the veggies and saute until the squash softens a little.

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  • Add 5 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken). If you are using a lot of vegetables , just water will suffice. Drop the spice bundle in the broth.

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  • I pressure cooked for 5 whistles. Squash was so tender that it  almost dissolved in the soup. Fish the spice bundle out as its job is done :).

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  • I allowed my soup to completely cool down before pureeing and meanwhile made the cashew cream. You can use dairy cream instead. To make cashew cream, grind 2 tbsp of cashew nuts with water or milk to make a smooth cream.

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  • I reserved 1 tbsp of cream for final garnish and mixed the rest in the soup.

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  • Puree the cooled down soup in a blender and add the cashew cream to it. Add salt and pepper as you need, and heat the soup (do not bring to boil).

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It is a yummy comfy soup, we had it with some roasted corn quesadillas and it was a finger-licking, bowl-polishing meal 🙂 Hope you try it too !

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Coconut Rice


Its quick, its fresh, its nutty, its light…so why not ? Coconut rice is one of the many quick and easy variety rice recipes. I love the flexibility it offers : got some leftover rice and trying to make a meal out of it without sweating much or make an exotic aromatic party food, coconut rice will be your best friend 🙂 .  Whether you go for simplicity or embellish it to the core, this flavor packed rice will take you to your happy place.

You will need :

  1. Rice – 1 cup
  2. Grated coconut – 3/4 cup
  3. Green chillies – 3
  4. Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
  5. Peanuts – 1/4 cup
  6. Cashew – 1/4 cup
  7. Mixed vegetables – 1 cup
  8. Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  9. Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  10. Channa dal – 1 tsp
  11. Curry leaves – few

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  • Cook rice by your preferred method. You can also use leftover rice. Adding a tsp of oil to the water while boiling rice helps the grains to stay separate.
  • Grind green  chillies and ginger along with a few peanuts to a coarse mix. It doesn’t have to be a paste, just grind enough to blend everything. Else, you can just finely mince the chillies and ginger.

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  • In a wok, add a tbsp of oil (preferably coconut oil or sesame oil) and fry the mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal and the curry leaves.

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  • When the mustard seeds splutter and the dals turn golden add the peanuts and cashewnuts.

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  • When the nuts turn slightly golden add the mixed vegetables. This is optional,I prefer adding a lot of veggies to the rice, so that I can skip making a side 🙂 . Sprinkle some salt and cook for two minutes and then add the ground green chillies+ginger paste.

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  • Once the green chillies and ginger paste coats all the vegetables add the cooked rice to the wok, reduce heat and mix well.

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  • Check for seasoning, add salt if needed. Three green chillies should pack enough punch, but if you need more heat you can add red pepper flakes. Finally add the grated coconut and mix with rice thoroughly, remove from heat after a minute.

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  • You can also toast the coconut before adding to the rice. While it deepens the flavor, I feel that freshness is compromised.  You can try both ways and see which you would prefer.

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While the cold, windy weather and the 5 p.m. dark skies keep warning about the bitter winter, it feels like spring in my kitchen and thats what matters, right ?

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Chicken Stuffed Paratha


Stuffed Parathas are  great all-in-one meals, specially to pack for kids’ lunches. Easy for us to make, easy for the kids to eat, its a win-win situation. This recipe uses chicken filling. However, veggie fillings are equally (if not more) delightful. My favorite  is grated cauliflower stuffing. You can check out the cauliflower filling recipe in my Gobi Sliders post.

To make the parathas , you will need :

  • Whole wheat flour /Atta – 3 cups (makes about 12 stuffed parathas)
  • salt – 2 tsp
  • oil – 3 tsp

To make the filling, you will need :

  • Minced Chicken – 1 lb
  • Onions – 1 chopped
  • Green chillies – 1 chopped
  • Cilantro –  handful
  • Ginger Garlic Paste – 2 tsp
  • Fennel – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Red chilli powder – 3 tsp
  • Garam Masala – 1 tsp

Here are the steps:

  • Mix the flour, salt and oil and then add water and knead it to a smooth dough. Cover with wet cloth or wet paper towel and set aside for 2 hours.

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  • To make the filling : In a pot, add 2 tsp of oil, fry the fennel. Then saute the chopped onions, green chillies and cilantro. Also add the ginger garlic paste and saute until the flavors come out.

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  • Add the ground chicken and sprinkle some salt.

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  • When the juices come out, add turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala.

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  • Cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. This won’t take long, may be 7 – 8 minutes. Set the filling aside.

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  • Make even sized balls out of the dough that has been rested.

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  • Roll out 2 balls to about 2 inches in diameter (like puris). Place the filling on one.

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  • Cover the filling with the other puri and twist and press the edges together for sealing.

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  • Now roll out this stuffed puri gently to about 4-5 inches in diameter. Make sure the filling is evenly spread, and not clunked up on one side.

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  • Heat a skillet and cook the parathas.

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  • Cook both sides until brown spots appear. You can rub with little oil or dab with a butter stick.

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The chicken parathas are ready, serve hot with your favorite curry. ( I served it with a simple egg white curry).

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Ribbon Pakoda


Hardly had any time to recover from Halloween and here is Diwali. For us, it comes a day early, Diwali is tomorrow (Saturday).  I wasn’t going to post any Diwali recipes, simply because I had to whip out six treats in a day and taking pictures for posting a recipe kind of seemed impossible. However, I promised a friend that I would post ribbon pakoda recipe, so here it is.

Ribbon Pakodas are deep fried savory snack, usually made during Diwali. Always a huge hit with kids, loved equally by adults too. My aunt makes the best ribbon pakodas I have ever eaten, but also she grinds everything from scratch (soaking rice and all). This is a modification of her recipe, an attempt to reciprocate all the flavors without taking much trouble 🙂

You will need :

  1. Rice flour – 3 cups
  2. Besan / gram flour / Garbanzo flour – 1 cup
  3. Red chilli powder – 3 tsp
  4. Garam masala – 1 tsp
  5. Ginger Garlic paste – 3 tsp
  6. Salt – 4 tsp
  7. Asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
  8. Water (to make dough)
  9. Oil (to fry)
  10. Ghee /Melted butter – 1 tbsp
  • Mix rice flour, besan, salt, red chilli powder and garam masala.

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  • Dilute ginger garlic paste with water and add asafoetida to this water.

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  • Filter this mixture and add just the liquid to the flour mix. Mix the liquid in the flour evenly.

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  • Add 1 tbsp of melted butter or melted ghee to the flour and mix well.

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  • Now add enough water to the flour and knead it to a dough (like chappathi dough). We will be working with the dough only in batches, so cover it with a wet towel or wet paper towel until needed.

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  • This is the “Murukku” press, similar to a cookie press. To make ribbon pakodas, use the disc shown in the picture below.

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  • Heat oil in a pot for frying the pakodas. Take a portion of the dough and pour a tablespoon of hot oil on it and knead well. This helps a lot in making the pakodas crispier.

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  • Load the dough into the press.

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  • Press the dough directly into the hot oil.

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  • Cook until the sizzle calms down. Drain the pakodas on a paper towel.

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  • Repeat the steps until all the dough is used. Remember to knead hot oil into the dough right before loading it in the press every time.

The recipe in itself is very simple. Here are some debugging tips that may be useful, if you are trying this for the first time.

  • If the pakodas come out hard, there is not enough fat in the dough, so add some melted butter or ghee to the dough.
  • If the pakodas suck up lots of oil, there is more water in the dough, so add more flour.
  • If it is too hard to press out the pakodas, the dough is too tight, so add more water.
  • If the pakodas  lose shape in oil, the dough is loose, so add more flour.
  • Constantly adjust heat. If the oil is smoking, reduce the heat. If oil is foaming up on the surface increase the heat.
  • As soon as you make the first batch of pakodas, taste them to check salt and crunchiness and make changes accordingly.

These tips hold good for all types of Murukkus/Chaklis.

Wishing you all a wonderful Diwali !!

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Poondu Kuzhambu (Garlic Curry)


Aaaah…..Diwali is fast approaching. Next week, I would be whipping out traditional diwali sweets and savories , going through pounds of sugar and gallons of oil. I thought I would post one simple, healthy recipe before jumping into the Diwali binge. I know I will make this curry again a few days after diwali, when I am not high on sugar and my stomach craves for a detox 🙂

Poondu (Garlic) Kuzhambu (curry) is a very simple and a very basic recipe. No fancy ingredients, no fancy cooking techniques, takes less but delivers more. The garlic flavor is very subtle in the curry , so no need  worry about ogre breath after eating this :).

  • You will need :
  1. Garlic – 15 -20 cloves
  2. Curry leaves – few
  3. turmeric – 1 tsp
  4. vellam / jaggery/ brown sugar – 1 tbsp
  5. tamarind water – soak 1 tbsp of tamarind in water and extract the juice
  6. salt to taste
  7. Sesame oil – 1 tbsp

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  • To make the masala paste , you will need :
  1. Pearl onions – 10 (use shallots otherwise, but no large onions)
  2. Tomatoes – 1 large or 2 medium
  3. Curry leaves – few
  4. Black pepper – 1.5 tsp
  5. Dry red chillies – 2
  6. cumin – 1.5 tsp

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Grind the above ingredients to a paste. To get a smooth paste, first pulse the dry spices and add the onions and grind for 30 seconds and then add the tomatoes.

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  • In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of sesame oil and fry mustard seeds and then saute the curry leaves and the garlic.

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  • When the garlic cloves turn slightly golden, add the ground masala paste. (If you used large onions , the raw pungent smell of onions would be unpleasant, so only use pearl onions or shallots.)

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  • Dilute with half cup of water and to the curry add turmeric, brown sugar and salt.

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  • Taste the curry and see how much acid you will need and according to that add the tamarind water. Often while making tamarind based curries, we tend to go overboard with tamarind and then to compensate it we add more heat and more salt and unintentionally end up with an intense curry. It is wise to add the tamarind after adding all your seasonings, so that you will be better able to judge how much tamarind is needed.

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  • Allow the curry to boil and reduce. Cook until the garlic cloves are tender. Traditionally, 3 or 4 tbsp. of oil is used and the curry is cooked until all the oil separates and floats on top. But I always make this curry light and simple, and less oil does not lessen the taste in any ways.

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The approximate cooking time will be 15 – 20 mins.  You can put rice to boil, start making this curry and while it is cooking, make a simple vegetable stir fry on the side. So a complete meal in thirty minutes…. most days , that is all the time we get to prepare a meal, right ? 🙂

The garlic cloves that are cooked and soaked in the curry will melt in your mouth….

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Spicy Potatoes (Potato Poriyal)


This is pure indulgence. I just posted an oil free rasam recipe few days back and here I am posting this potato side recipe that takes a little more oil than normal vegetable sides. I  L.O.V.E. this traditional, simple potato poriyal so much so, while growing up.. we had it two or three times a week. Now I always pair this poriyal with rasam or yogurt rice , so that the fat content of the entire meal is at bay. This may not be how you want to make the poriyal always, but once in a while it is okay to dive into the indulgence :).

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  • Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into big pieces. Sometimes when I am in a hurry I microwave the potatoes (Heat a medium size potato for 3-4 mins without water in the microwave) also.

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  • You will need :
  1. One small red onion or half of a medium onion
  2. curry leaves – few
  3. Garlic – 2 cloves crushed with peel (optional)
  4. Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  5. Sambar powder – 3 -4 tsp
  6. Salt to taste.

Also you will need mustard seeds or cumin for initial seasoning which is also optional.

[Sambar Powder is readily available in all Indian grocery stores. Most of the available brands are good. If you do not have sambar powder you can replace it with cayenne or red chilli powder.]

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  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok, and fry mustard seeds or any of your preferred seasoning like cumin or fennel or cloves and cinnamon… I used mustard seeds and urad dal . Then saute the onions and curry leaves.

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  • Once the onions turn slightly brown, add the turmeric, sambar powder and salt directly to the oil. This will cook the masalas in a flash. Reduce the heat and make sure not to burn the sambar powder.

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  • After 30 seconds, add the potatoes to the wok and mix well. This method of adding the masalas to the oil directly, ensures that the potatoes get evenly coated with the spices.

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  • Cook for a minute and then add the crushed garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

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  • The dish as of now is ready. But you can leave the potatoes in the wok for another few minutes to crisp.

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Once you have the boiled potatoes ready, this will be done in five minutes. As I mentioned earlier, this is usually served as a side for rice, but it can also be used as filling for wraps or sandwiches. These potatoes are crispy, spicy , garlicky……and you will like everything about them 🙂

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Rasam (Clear Lentil Soup)


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Whether we had been eating out for three days in a row or had been feasting on festival foods or had been down with cold and stuffy nose, the next morning I wake up with only one thought “Make Rasam”.  Rasam (pronounced russ-um) is a clear soup and is commonly present in a south Indian lunch menu. Usually eaten with rice, rasam is also served as soup or used as a base for other recipes like “rasa vadai”.  If you didn’t already know, you may be surprised to  that rasam is the original “muligtwany soup“. “Muligtwany” comes from two tamil words “Molagu (black pepper) Thanni (water)”.  🙂

There are many versions of rasam. This recipe is of “Paruppu Rasam”, rasam made with ‘paruppu’ or ‘dhal’ or lentils. Having been a meat eater once has its advantage, I can pin point what is missing in the vegetarian version of a recipe. Soups are definitely not the same when you replace chicken stock with vegetable stock. But you can get the warm taste in vegetable soups by adding dhal water. I guess its the protein :).

Though rasam is a very common food, a well made rasam is not that common 🙂  Even experienced cooks make very simple mistakes, I still remember my bad rasam days. But over time, I have found my fool proof rasam recipe that is also quite easy to make. And here it is for you.

  • I use Thur Dal for rasam. (Thur dal is the dried and split pigeon peas). Take about 1/4 cup of Thur dal.

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  • You’ll also need :
  1. Plum tomatoes – 3
  2. Curry leaves – handful
  3. Cilantro – a good bunch
  4. Lime – 1/4 (You will need more or less according to the acidity in tomatoes)
  5. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  6. Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp (Common mistake 1 : heavy hand with asafoetida, results in a bitter rasam. A pinch is plenty.)
  7. Vellam / brown sugar – 2 tsp
  8. salt to taste

(Usually tamarind water is used in rasam. But I am replacing it with tomatoes and lime)

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  • For the spice blend :
  1. Black pepper – 2 tsp
  2. Cumin – 2 tsp
  3. coriander seeds – 1 tsp
  4. Garlic cloves – 2 (crushed with the peel)

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  • Crush black pepper, cumin, coriander seeds and garlic coarsely. Crush them enough to break to release flavor. Do not make it into a fine paste /powder.

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Common mistake 2 : Using store bought rasam powder. I am not against pre-made powders. I have devoted a section of my pantry for pre-made masala powders. But for rasam, strictly no pre-made stuff. And it is so easy to make the spice blend instantly.

  • Wash thur dhal, add a cup of water, add turmeric and asafoetida to the water and also add the tomatoes. Cook until dal is soft. I use a pressure cooker as it cooks dal fast and retains nutrients.

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  • Once the dal is soft , mash the tomatoes and dal with the back of a spoon or ladle. If your dal doesn’t mash easily, you need to cook a little longer.

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  • Add 4 – 5 cups of water to the mashed dal and tomatoes. Add salt to taste. Also add half of the curry leaves and cilantro.

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  •  Add 2 tsp of vellam/brown sugar and bring to one good boil. (If you choose to add tamarind water instead of lemon, you should add it now.If you added tamarind water, boil enough until the raw smell of the tamarind goes away).

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  • After one good boil, reduce heat and stir in the spice blend.

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  • After you’ve added the spices, the rasam should not be brought to a boil at all. Simmer until foams appear on the surface and turn off the heat.  Allow it to rest for 5 minutes and squeeze in the juice of quarter lemon. Adjust the quantity of lime juice according to how sour the tomatoes are. Also add the remaining curry leaves and coriander leaves. Cover with lid and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Common mistake 3: Over boiling the rasam. After adding the spices , when you let rasam boil , the flavors become pungent and gives a bitter after taste.

  • Did you notice zero oil was used in this recipe ? Isn’t that awesome ? However, usually rasam is tempered with mustard seeds and dried red chillies for additional flavor. But it is optional. If you choose to temper, heat 1/2 tsp of ghee in a pan, fry 1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds and 1 dried red chilli (cut in small pieces) and pour in the rasam.

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Comon mistake 4 : Using too much oil to temper rasam. It is so unapetizing to see rasam with oil floating on its surface. It kills the lightness of it.

It is very important to cover the pot with lid and let the rasam sit for at least ten minutes before serving. After ten minutes when you open the lid, you will have your zen moment, thanks to the aroma from curry leaves, cilantro and the spice blend, all married into one aromatic rasam.

Eat with rice or drink it as soup, or eat it as rice soup 🙂 It will never let you down.

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