Twist on a Classic - Tomato and Lentil Rasam with Barley

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Tomato and Lentil Rasam with Barley

This is not exactly your traditional rasam, as rasams are typically brothy, thin and somewhat watery soups that are served along with a dal dish, typically as the second course of a south Indian meal. Tamarind and tomatoes do figure prominently in this somewhat unusual rasam as they ordinarily do, and the spices are ones that I usually include in a rasam. It makes for a delightful "gravy" to spoon over rice too. But this is a thicker version that includes pearl barley in addition to red lentils, serving not only to fill things out — making it a more filling and prominent feature of a meal — but also adding a tantalizing layer of texture. You can adjust the water content to make it thicker or thinner, depending on your preference. It goes especially well with vegetable side dishes and Indian flat breads if desired.

Of course I had to taste some before I served it, because that is what discerning cooks do. The first thing that struck me, apart from the smooth texture, with a hint of nutty flavor from the barley, a pleasant acidity from the tomatoes and the sweet and sour undertone from the tamarind. I also detected a hint of dill, but I did not use dill. So what was it that really added a unique quality to this rasam? It was authentic Greek oregano that I added at the end of the cooking time. What a delight for the palate. So many flavors but they all melded together for a rapturous melody that one will not soon forget.

Twist on a Classic - Tomato and Lentil Rasam with BarleyTwist on a Classic - Tomato and Lentil Rasam with Barley
Recipe by
Adapted from Good Veg: Ebullient Vegetables, Global Flavors — A Modern Vegetarian Cookbook
Cuisine: South Indian
Published on April 16, 2018

Spicy tomato and tamarind rasam cooked with red lentils and barley

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  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp, soaked in 1/2 cup hot water for at least 30 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or other oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • pinch or two of asafetida
  • 2 large shallots, cut into fine strips
  • 1 or 2 fresh red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
  • Rinse the barley and lentils and transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with 3 2/3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the turmeric and simmer for another 10 minutes, adding a bit more water if the mixture becomes to dry. Remove from heat and Whisk the mixture until you have a coarse purée.

  • Meanwhile, soak the tamarind pulp in 1/2 cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Press the tamarind pulp through a fine-mesh strainer, reserving the strained water as much pulp as possible.

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds and fry for 30 to 60 seconds or until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Add the shallots and cook for another 5 minutes or until the shallots begin to soften and brown. Toss in the asafoetida, stir once, and then add the chilies, garlic, ground coriander and mustard. Cook for 1 minute and then stir in two thirds of the chopped tomatoes, sugar and tamarind water. Cook for another few minutes to soften the tomatoes.

  • Pour in 1 2/3 cups water and season with salt. Cook for another few minutes, then stir in the lentil and barley mixture along with the remaining tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes, adding a bit more water to reach your desired consistency.

  • Remove from heat, stir in the black pepper and oregano if using, and serve hot.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Rasam with Tomatoes and Barley

Other Indian-style dal dishes to try:
Tomato Tamarind Soup (Rasam)
Spicy Lentil Rasam (Poritha Rasam)
Tarka Dal With Tomato and Spices
Simple Lemon Dal

This is my contribution to My Legume Love Affair, a monthly event started by lovely Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook, administered by me and this month, kindly hosted by this month by Vidhya’s Vegetarian Kitchen.

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2pots2cook said...

Love it . Thank you somuch !

Srividhya said...

This is such an interesting and yummy twist on the classic rasam. Great way to incorporate Barley. Love it.