Rasam is a Southern Indian classic, and every household has their own special way of making it. My version, served with ghee rice, is true comfort food. The rice and the rasam can be served separately, but I love both of them in a bowl together. It's perfect for a winter lunch or a light summer dinner.
For the rasam: Combine the tomatoes and 2 quarts water in a 3- to 4-quart pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then add the Rasam Podi, tamarind paste, serrano, turmeric and salt to taste. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Use tongs to transfer the tomatoes to a fine sieve set over a bowl and use the tongs to squeeze out all of the liquid from the tomatoes. Add the tomato juice to the pot. Bring to a boil again and boil for about 30 seconds.
In a small cast-iron skillet, combine the ghee, cilantro, curry leaves and mustard seeds and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the mustard seeds start to pop. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice. Add a couple ladles of the broth to the skillet to cool the mixture, and then add all of it to the broth.
For the ghee rice: Put the rice in a strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Place in a medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to the pot to cover the rice by about 1/2 inch. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer, covered, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit, covered, until the water is absorbed and the rice fluffs easily, 5 to 10 minutes.
Fluff the rice and add the ghee, peanuts, cilantro stems and peppercorns. Mix thoroughly and add salt to taste. Serve with the rasam.
Toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and peppercorns each separately in a dry cast-iron skillet over high heat until they're aromatic and begin to pop, 15 to 45 seconds each depending on the spice and the heat of the skillet. Combine the spices in a medium bowl as they are toasted. In the same hot skillet, combine the chiles, curry leaves and the lentils. Cook, stirring, until toasted, about 2 minutes. Pour into the bowl with the spices. Working in batches, grind the mixture in a spice grinder. Mix together carefully. Store in a dry clean jar for 1 to 2 months.
You can use basmati rice as well, but I prefer jasmine as it is slightly more glutinous.
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