Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for lentil rasam with roast red cabbage

Brothy and buzzing: Meera Sodha’s lentil rasam with roast red cabbage. Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian. Food styling: Katy Gilhooly. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay

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There are dals to comfort and dals to revive. Rasam is a reviver, the kind of thing I want to eat when I’m feeling sluggish. It’s thinner than your average dal, brothy and buzzing with spices, with a defined, sour edge. Here, I serve it with my current addiction, roast red cabbage, whose leaves sweeten, soften and char in the heat of the oven. It’s perfect on its own for a light meal, or with rice for something more substantial.

Roast red cabbage and tamarind rasam.
Rasam is a hot and sour south Indian soup, sometimes with lentils added. Tamarind and cabbage make good partners.

Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 4

1 red cabbage, quartered
Rapeseed oil
Salt
6 tsp tamarind paste
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
10 curry leaves
1 ½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
½ tsp ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
250g split red lentils

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Put the quartered cabbage on a lined roasting tray, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt, and roast for 35 minutes.

While the cabbage is cooking, make a tamarind dressing. In a small bowl, mix two teaspoons each of tamarind paste and water with a teaspoon of rapeseed oil.

When the cabbage is tender to the core and starting to crisp and burn at the edges, remove and brush the cut sides generously with the dressing. Return to the oven for 10 minutes, then set aside.

To make the rasam, coarsely grind the cumin and coriander seeds in a mortar. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the curry leaves, let them crackle for 10 seconds, then add the mustard seeds and let them do the same. Add the ground spices, toast in the hot oil for 30 seconds, then add the garlic and stir-fry until it’s sticky and golden – around three minutes.

Now add the tinned tomatoes and all their juices, breaking up any lumps with the back of a spoon. Bring to a simmer, then add the lentils and 1.3 litres water, bring up to a boil and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Once cooked, add a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and the remaining four teaspoons of tamarind paste, and simmer for a minute more. The texture of the rasam should be somewhere between a soup and a dal.
Cut each cabbage quarter into two or three slices. Ladle the rasam into shallow bowls, place a couple of slices of cabbage on top and serve with rice or bread, if you like.

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