Recently, I failed at making chaaru.
Like I had failed with this staple many times in the past, even with ready-to-cook packets and powders that ensured I didn't have to do anything much.
I don't even attempt the varieties made back home, except for tomato chaaru (rasam), and that's mostly only when the several shrivelling tomatoes inside the fridge loudly call out to be pressure-cooked into rasam. Now, tomato chaaru, that sure gets me drooling - it was what I ate as a nine-year-old recovering from jaundice, mixed with rice and some minced lamb on the side, and if I remember right now, that was my staple diet for the next few days. But more on that later, perhaps.
I am fond of the rasam that has some daal in it - the black-brown, plain rasam of the tamarind alone doesn't enthuse me. So when we recently had guests for two days and I had to churn out some decent and tried-and-tested stuff to eat, I attempted chaaru because I thought they would expect it. To satisfy my own self, I decided to add some daal to it.
I asked the lady who helps me at home to instruct me and first off, she told me that the tamarind extract I had was just too much.
What I needed, she said, was to soak a lime-sized ball of tamarind in about half a cup of water, and dilute that with a litre of water.
Then, she said, coarsely grind some pepper, cumin and a couple of red chillis and add it to the mix.
Add a few curry leaves and some coriander.
Squash a tomato, throw it in.
Add about a ladle of cooked-to-a-mush toor daal (split pigeon peas).
Set to boil and turn off the fire the moment it comes to a rolling boil, she said.
Oh, and some salt and turmeric.
So I did (but not without taking pictures of it for this. I never imagined it would make it to this blog, much less to an event.) Switched it off, and it tasted raw. It's not all right, I said. No, switch it off and cover it, she said, threatening bitterness. I did so, thinking that probably it would cook some more in its own heat and the flavours would meld.
Come lunchtime and I had every single eater reassuring me that the rasam was fine.
All I needed to do was add some more salt.
All I needed to do was boil it a little more.
All I needed to do was add some more daal.
But it's nice, they said.
Come dinnertime, I rescued it by adding two more ladles of daal and some more salt.
It was much improved, good, even.
Much better now, the diners said.
All I had needed to do was add some more salt.
All I had needed to do was boil it a little more.
All I had needed to do was add some more daal.
But it had been nice, they said.
But wasn't a tempering needed? I didn't remember that until now, when I wrote this post, so considering it was so nice, finally, probably it wasn't.
I fail at making quite a few staples - rice cooked to such softness that you can't discern the grains, so good with rasam and pickle and curds; sambar, idlis and chapatis(I do not know how nor will I learn to grind or knead) and rasam (well, hopefully I've got it right now).
What are the ordinary, everyday dishes that defy you?
This post is off to EC who is hosting MLLA for Susan this month.
MLLA Rasam/Chaaru Vegan Tamarind