There is a rumbling in the stomach. You are famished. You want to eat but you are not hungry. The best antidote for such a condition is Jeera rasam. A glass of hot Jeera rasam topped with ¼ tsp of fresh ghee will be enough to make you ravenous in no time. My family loves to have this rasam especially when the first course of the meal is a heavy dish, or when lots of dishes are lined up waiting to be savoured. Vepam Poo or neem flowers added to the seasoning is an added benefit, as these flowers have a healing property. They also act as a deworming agent. Regular use of neem flowers is over all good for a healthy digestive system.
Collecting neem flowers during the season was great fun for us siblings. As soon as the neem tree in our garden started to bloom, Lingamma started to prepare the ground under the tree. She removed the weeds and thorns from under the tree and swept the ground well. We took part enthusiastically in the operation cleaning only up to this stage. The next step was not a very pleasant one for us, where Lingamma plastered the ground with a mixture of cow dung and water. I can still recall the characteristic odour when the hot earth greedily absorbed the cow dung and water mixture. (For those who are not aware – this is a common practice still very prevalent in rustic homes in India! Cow dung has insect repellent properties, acts as a thermal insulator and is available easily and cheaply, and therefore quite popular is rural areas!) The ground dried up very quickly and was all set to receive the shower of the fresh neem flowers. As the breeze swept through the neem tree, the pleasant smelling flowers fell to the ground and we competed in collecting them by sweeping the flowers together with a new broom. This exercise lasted till the flowers lasted. Then the flowers were cleaned and sun dried and stored up for future use. Dried neem flowers (see picture above) are also available in the departmental stores in India.
Tamarind – 1 small lemon size ball
Asafoetida – ¼ tsp
Salt – 1½ tsp
Rasam powder – 1tsp (I use my omni potent sambar powder as usual)
Curry leaves – 1 small cup
Red Gram Dal (tur dal) – 2 tbsps
Cumin seeds (jeera) – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Dried neem flowers – 1 tsp
Ghee – 2 tsps
1. Soak tur dal for a few minutes. Then grind it too a coarse paste along with jeera and curry leaves and set aside.
2. Soak tamarind in warm water and extract the juice.
3. Add rasam powder, salt, asafoetida, and a few curry leaves to the tamarind juice.
4. Boil the mixture till the raw smell disappears.
5. Now add the ground tur dal, jeera and curry leaf paste to the rasam, and immediately add 4 cups of water.
6. Let the rasam stay on low flame till it forms a lot of froth on top (see the picture of froth on the rasam, above)
7. Remove from flame when it is just about to boil. (Note: Do not actually boil the rasam, as this spoils the aroma)
8. Heat ghee and add mustard seeds.
9. When it splutters add the dry neem flowers and fry .
10. Pour the seasoning on the rasam and cover with a lid immediately.
Plain Jeera rasam is very popular as well, and the recipe is the same minus the neem flower seasoning. Relax and relish the rasam sip by sip and get ready to binge on your next meal!