Coming back to Goa, with a little more South-Indianness
This one is perfect for us South Indians, living away from home. Especially on days when you want something simple, uncomplicated, comforting and reminiscent of homes. Much like I did today, having just returned from my first trip down south, in nine long months. And while I was there, I gorged on idlis, dosas, sambar, chutney, pickle, rasam and filter coffee. I also raided the Shri Krishna Sweets store at the airport. Bringing back enough Mysore Pak to give me a coronary, and then some more to share and spread the love, some murukku and special Bombay mixture. Joy.
Im convinced that the Kannadiga in me is craving a break from Goan cuisine. And the only way to satisfy my soul with good old comforting home food, is to cook it myself. I do cook a fair bit of it, but clearly not as much as I should. So here’s to filling my home with more homely spices and fragrances an filling my heart without he joy of South Indian specials.
This one is called Saaru back home. I like to think of it as rasam with a little body. Because with it is, is essentially the flavors of rasam, which is otherwise watery and usually chugged along with a meal, with some cooked dal to give it a little thickness in consistency. It is a typically Kannadiga preparation and making it transports me home in an instant.
Here’s what I used (for 2 people):
1 cup Toor dal
1 large tomato
1 slit green chilli
1 sprig curry leaves (with the stalk)
1/2 handful coriander leaves
2 pods of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons rasam powder
Salt to taste
A pinch of asafoetida
1.5 teaspoons tamarind paste
For the vaghaar (tempering)
A spoonful of ghee
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon methi seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
Add a cup and a half of water, a pinch of asafoetida, salt and rasam powder. My cook back home and my mom together ensure that I have an unending supply of fresh homemade rasam powder, but I think regular store-bought powder works just as well. Set to simmer for a good twenty minutes, till the tomato is nicely cooked.
Then add in the cooked dal and simmer for a few minutes.
Next add the tamarind paste and simmer a while longer. Over the months, I’ve overcome the hassle of freshly squeezing tamarind paste every time I need it, by just making it in bulk and freezing it. Purists might argue that this isn’t the best and freshest way to go, but given the paucity of time in my life I don’t mind it at all. I pull the bottle out of the freezer when I start cooking and when its time to add in the paste, its melted and thawed enough. Works well, every time!
For the vaghaar, heat up some ghee. You could use oil just as well, but trust me on this the flavour of ghee is just something else in Saaru. So don’t compromise!
When the ghee has heated, add in the mustard seeds and wait for them to sputter. Then throw in the methi seeds. Traditionally, the Saaru made at my home doesn’t feature methi seeds, but a friend of mine who made an Andhra version of Saaru at home some time ago, used this interesting addition and I felt it enhanced the flavours considerably.
When the seeds begin to sputter violently, throw in the curry leaves and quickly add the asafoeida. Then pour it over the Saaru and mix well.All done!
Saaru is best enjoyed with hot rice and dollops of ghee, preferably eaten with a side of palya and pappad/some crispies.