The tradition of soup as a pre-dinner appetiser is a hand-me-down from the British, one that my family adopted with zeal. Come 7 pm every evening, a cuppa soup was ready to be served with or without a spoonful of rice – the family swore that it would keep the doctors away. To this day, a visit to the family home or the homes of the extended family means a cuppa soup at 7 pm.
While Madras’ own contribution to soups is the popular Mulligatawny soup, a butler concoction adopted from our very own rasam, my family was partial to the Thanni soup, literally translating to watery soup - a subtly flavoured thin soup made of whatever flavoursome vegetables are in season simmered in a lentil stock.
½ cup murungakkai (Drumsticks), cut into 1-inch pieces 1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 green chillies, slit (increase if you want it spicier) ¼ cup split moong dal (udaicha paasi payaru), washed ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seeds (sombu /saunf) 3 cups water
Salt to taste (~2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1-inch cinnamon, broken into thin strips ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seeds (sombu /saunf) 1 sprig curry leaves
1. Put all the soup ingredients in the pressure cooker and pressure cook for about 5 whistles.
2. While the soup is cooking, in a small pan, heat up the oil and add the cinnamon, peppercorns and fennel seeds. Once the peppercorns stop popping, remove from heat and set aside.
3. Once the pressure is released from the pressure cooker (about 20 minutes from the last whistle), open the cooker and add the tempering to the soup. Turn the stove back on and bring the soup to a boil.
4. Taste and add salt / additional green chilli if required.
Cook’s note: If you find it too spicy, turn off the flame and once slightly cool, add some milk (no more than 2-3 tablespoons) and simmer – do not boil as the milk will curdle because of the tomatoes in the soup.
5. Serving the soup - the way to serve the soup is quite important. Let the ingredients in the soup settle down to the bottom. Then give it a gentle stir and use a ladle to scoop out the soup theliva (the clear liquid) – only the liquid without any of the vegetables or sediments and pour into a cup or tumbler. Alternatively, you can also strain the soup and serve it.
6. Serve garnished with coriander leaves.
Serves: 4 cups
Apprentice rating: Easy
Additional Cook’s notes:
· You can substitute the murungakkai with sundakkai (pea eggplant/turkey berry) or the woody stems of asparagus · You can also use vegetables like cauliflower and vendakkai (lady’s finger). However, if you are using these vegetables, you are better of making the soup in a pan instead of the pressure cooker. Boil the dal separately with a pinch of turmeric and water. Then temper using tempering ingredients, add the vegetables, dal and water and simmer until cooked but not mushy.