Tomatoes and paneer are two ingredients which always get an instant reaction from my Papa, who retired as a sous chef after working at a leading five-star hotel for over 35 years.
According to him, tamatar can, at times, be replaced with ingredients like tamarind or kokum or completely avoided. Using a tomato replacement, he feels, will not change the overall taste of the dish one is cooking.
Papa does admit that tomato puree brings in a rich, tangy flavour to most Indian curries and masalas.
Paneer, he says, is an "ingredient that has no identity or taste of its own."
A few weeks ahead of the price hike, I decided to surprise him with Beetroot Rasam.
I discovered the recipe online and had never tried it before. I was keen to find out how this rasam would taste minus the tomatoes. This particular recipe, that I adapted, blends boiled beetroot and uses almost the same ingredients that you would use for rasam. It tastes mildly sweet, a bit spicy and looks vibrant with a hint of red and magenta.
The end result? In Amma's words, it tasted "quite nice," more like a jaggery version of rasam. And it has my Papa's stamp of approval.
Beetroot Rasam may be had like a soup or with steamed rice and any poriyal,upperi or bhaji/sabji.
For the rasam
- 2 medium-sized beetroot, cleaned and peeled
- 1 lemon-sized ball of imli or tamarind, soaked in water
- 5-6 pods garlic
- 2-3 green chillies
- 4-5 curry pattas or leaves
- 1 bedgi chilly, torn open
- 1 tsp rai or mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh green dhania or coriander or cilantro leaves
- Salt to taste, around ¾ to 1 tsp
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp haldi or turmeric powder
For the rasam powder
- 1 tbsp jeera or cumin seeds
- 1 tsp methi or fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp dhania or coriander seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
To make the rasam powder
- In a heavy-bottomed kadhai or saucepan, dry roast the jeera, the coriander seeds, the fenugreek seeds and the peppercorns over low hear.
Transfer into a blender jar and grind to a fine powder.
To make the rasam
- In a pressure cooker, heat 2-3 cups of water, over medium heat.
Roughly chop the beetroot, add to the water, cover and cook for 3-4 whistles.
Take off heat and open pressure cooker after 10 minutes.
Using a hand blender or in a blender/mixer, mash or grind the beetroot to a fine paste.
Do not throw away the excess water from the pressure cooker -- it can be used later for making the rasam.
- Crush the garlic and the green chillies using a mortar and pestle.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.
Add the mustard seeds.
When the seeds splutter, add the torn red chilly and the curry leaves.
Add the crushed garlic-green chilly mixture, beetroot puree, turmeric, the freshly-ground rasam powder, salt.
Give it a stir and add 1½ cups water along with the leftover water from the pressure cooker.
When the rasam comes to a boil, add the strained tamarind water, without the seeds.
Check the consistency and add more water if required.
When frothy bubbles begin to appear, take off heat.
Add the chopped coriander.
Serve with steamed rice and sabji, or as a soup.