Flu Fighter: Scare the Bug Away With Rasam

Flu, particularly the gender-specific variety known as “man-flu” is ghastly: in between reaching for the snot rag and groaning feebly, I remembered the South Indian soup rasam. It’s pretty humble stuff and definitely not hipster fare, really not much more than tamarind water, perhaps with tomato, chili, spices, lentils, and/or vegetables in it. But in these dark times, it’s awesome for clearing sinuses and generally making one feel alive again.

Vary amounts as you like – I personally prefer an intense mix of chili heat, sourness and garlicky. This is sized for 1 generous portion, and is the simplest variation.

Put a golf-ball size lump of tamarind pulp into a teacup of hot water, stir it so the water eventually goes brown, and try to liberate the tamarind husks from the hard shiny seeds. Discard the seeds once the husks have separated from them.

Brown 2-3 red dried chilis in an un-oiled pan. Put the browned chili in a mortar, pound into a paste with 1/8 tsp cumin seeds, 3/4 tbsp coriander seeds, 3 garlic cloves, 5 black peppercorns. Add a tbsp of water to help it along.

Paste of garlic, coriander, chili, cumin
Paste of garlic, coriander, chili, cumin

Heat a little oil in a pot, and chuck in the paste, let it get aromatic over a medium heat. Put in 1-2 large, or 10 cherry (my preference, at least out of season), tomatoes, previously chopped up (if using large, remove the skins by dipping a scored tomato in boiling water). Let cook for a minute, then add the tamarind water and husks.

Add 200ml of water (more or less, depending on how strong a flavour you want). Grate in 1cm of ginger, and add a bunch of coriander leaves. I also put in 1-2 green chilis, cut lengthwise. Bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 7-10 minutes. Add salt if required. Put in a pinch of asafoetida powder (not essential).

Traditionally this is served with rice, but I just drank it on its own to clear my head.