South Indian vegan answer to chicken soup: Meera Sodha's recipe for pumpkin rasam

Pumpkin and peas enhance this traditional Indian spiced, herbaceous and sour soup

Rasam is equivalent to chicken soup for many people living in south India. Usually sour from tamarind and tomatoes, but also stock, spiced, and herbal. All these qualities make it recover and live: I feel as if I can see more clearly after eating it. My rasam has the same essential qualities as the original but I adapted it for the colder British weather. I've given it more substance by using peas and sweet squash, meaning it can be eaten alone or with rice - as opposed to a main meal, as it would be eaten in India.

Pumpkin flavor

To cut down on cooking time (and energy bills), soak peas before you go to bed the day before cooking. If you forget, you can still make them, but you'll need to increase the cooking time of the peas to 90 minutes. If you can't find a delica squash, use another pumpkin or squash instead.

  • Preparation 5 min
  • Soak 6 hours+
  • Cook 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Serving 4
  • 200g split yellow peas
  • 1 x 900g pumpkin (I used delica, but anything will do)
  • Neutral rapeseed oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 x 400g canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp (30g) tamarind paste – I use Thai Taste
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1¼ tsp coriander powder
  • 1¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 green cayenne peppers, sliced

Fresh coriander and basmati rice, to serve

Place the peas in a large bowl, wash thoroughly with several water changes, then drain. Cover with fresh cold water and let it soak for at least six hours.

Preheat oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7, and line two medium oven sheets with parchment paper (mine is reusable).

Wash the pumpkin, cut it in half, scoop out and compost the seeds, then cut into 2cm skin slices across the widest part. Drizzle over a tablespoon and a half of oil, sprinkle on a quarter teaspoon of salt, then stir with your hands, so all the squash is coated. Place on a tray, bake for 25 minutes, then remove and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat two tablespoons of oil, add the mustard and fenugreek seeds and cook for 30 seconds, until bubbly. Add the drained yellow peas followed by a quart and a quarter of cold water, cover on top, tilting slightly, then bring to a simmer over low to medium heat. Lower the heat, let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, then add the tomatoes, tamarind, black pepper, coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric and a teaspoon and a quarter of salt. Simmer for another 20 minutes, until the peas are tender -- they should have the consistency of a cooked potato when you take a bite.

Add two-thirds of the roasted pumpkin slices (reserving the prettiest ones, which you will use for decoration later), simmer for another six to eight minutes – don't worry if the pumpkin bursts; this will help thicken the rasam – then adjust the seasoning to taste, if necessary.

In another small skillet, put two tablespoons of oil over medium heat and, when hot, add the garlic cloves and chili and fry for two minutes, or until the garlic is bronze around the edges and the chili is white scalded.

Pour the garlic and chili mixture into the rasam, then pour onto a plate or into individual bowls, and serve topped with the reserved roasted pumpkin slices and sprinkled with coriander leaves, ideally with steamed basmati rice.

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