Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vepampoo aka Neem Flower Rasam

Rasam is an integral dish in a south indian lunch thali. Its a lighter version as compared to 'sambhar' and can be had with rice or drunk as a soup. A skill of a good cook is to constantly innovate. Our earlier generations initiated this practice and per me were experts in this art.

Of the many varieties known, this is 'Vepampoo alias Neem Flower' Rasam. As is common knowledge, neem is known for its medicinal value.There are two main dishes prepared using Neem Flowers : Mango Pachadi with neem flowers and Neem Rasam.

Dish: Neem Rasam : Preparation Time : 10 - 15 mts

  • Neem Flower : 1-2 Tbspn
  • Tamarind        :  small - medium lemon sized
  • Red Chillie      : 2-3
  • Pepper Seeds : 1-2 tspn (as spicy as u need)
  • Cumin Seeds  : 1 tspn
  • Tomato          : 1 (small)
  • Toor dal (Thuvaram) : 1 tbspn
  • Ginger            : 1 small piece (mashed)
  • Garlic             : 2-4 pods (mashed)
  • Salt                : To taste
  • Curry Leaves : Few to season
  • Corriander Leaves: Few cut nicely to season
  • Mustard seeds : 1/2 tspn
  • Aseofotida     : 1 pinch
  • Ghee              : 1-2 tspn
  1. Make a powder of cumin, pepper, toor dal, red chillie (or u can add it as is). 
  2. Mash Garlic & Ginger (these two are optional)
  3. Extract tamarind juice and take it in a cooking vessel. Dilute it by adding 1-2 glass of water. To this mix, add the small tomato and mash it (break it using your hands or add diced pieces).
  4. To the same mix, add the powder (Step 1) and ginger/garlic (Step 2)
  5. Add a few curry leaves, aseofotida, and salt.
  6. Allow the mix to come to a boil (the tomato should be cooked)
  7. Add a bit more water and when it foams remove it from fire.
  8. In a tava, add Ghee. To this add the neem flower and fry till it turns golden brown or black (the aroma is great). Take it aside. 
  9. In the remaining ghee, add some mustard seeds and raw red chillie (if you didn't grind it). As it splutters, remove it from fire and along with the fired neem flower add it to the rasam.
  10. Top it with coriander leaves and curry leaves.
  • Always remember to close the lid when the rasam is removed from fire to retain the aroma.
  • Roasting Neem Flower in ghee gives the authentic taste (1 spoon of ghee daily is good for your health, so don't worry).
  • You can avoid ginger, garlic, and tomato and follow the rest of the procedure as well. 
  • This rasam is typically slightly more tangy than the rest. So you can choose the tamarind level and tomato based on your taste.
  • Its a healthy rasam and can be stored easily for 1-2 days.
  • If you have a neem tree you can collect the flowers, clean it & dry it. Else, should be available in provision stores.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Grandma's Gadgets

A state-of-the-art kitchen is every woman's dream these days. My wish list is a little different. It does include some of the essential gadgets (?! :) but I do equally love the older manual equipments (if I may say so).

So, I chose to add one such to my kitchen : A type of a grinding stone referred to as "Ammi kal". This is the older 'mixie' - used to make dry powders, chutneys etc.

I also have this smaller version of "Kaloral" another type of grinding stone that is the older "Grinder" - used to grind doughs etc.

These also come in varied sizes. Use of these stones not only assures you an authentic taste, retains the flavor of the spices, but also is an exercise to your hands. Do try using one when & if you can - you will agree with me readily :)

Here is the very first use of the 'ammi kal' by me. I couldn't resist and ended up grinding a spicy & tasty onion/tomato chutney with red chillie (a suitable side dish for idly / dosa).

Onion & Tomato Chutney:

  • Small onions       - 10 (if very small else little less)
  • Tomato              - 1 medium ripe (if not very ripe, you can also add a bit of tamarind)
  • Red Chillie         - 4-5 (based on spice you need)
  • Gingelly Oil (nallenai / til oil) - 2 tspn
  • Asafoetida         - 1 pinch
  • Curry Leaves     - 4-5
  • In a pan, add Gingely oil. When warm, first add onion and fry till it turns pinkish. Remove it to a bowl 
  • To the same oil, add tomato pieces and allow it to cook a bit. Remove it to the bowl (Fry both onion & tomato till the raw flavor is lost)
  • Then add the red chillie and fry it till it turns deep red. Remove it to the bowl
  • Allow the fried items to cool for a few seconds
  • Place these on the grinding stone, and slowly grind it to a smooth mix
  • Add salt and asafoetida to the ground mix
  • You can add the curry leaves at the end (Alternatively, you can fry a few leaves lightly and grind it along with the mix)

Next to my antique collection is a 'Man Panai' - A Mud Pot - old age refrigerator for cold water! This is a healthy replacement as it adds to the taste of water and can be had at any time of the year because it doesn't trigger 'Common cold'. Try it! Its easily available in any pottery shop that you might even find on pavements in places like Chennai or if you visit any village.