Chicken Rasam! A spicy chicken soup - perfect food for these difficult times.
I have recently, like so many other people, been spending more time at home. There have been quite a few benefits as in my parents in Mauritius are also staying at home, with my father not working and since I have been working less, there has been more time to talk to them.
The topic has recently come up about food that used to be made in the past at home. I remember that my aunt often used to make a vegan spicy broth, known as Mauritius as Rasson (a derivative of the word “Rasam’ used in India). It was served in a cup and either drunk from the cup or poured over rice.
As a child, I used to ungratefully complain about “having this stuff AGAIN!” I would then be told to drink it as it was “good for you.” I would grumble but do as I was told. The funny thing is that I now really enjoy it and was really happy to see a glass of rasam served at a restaurant as something to have while browsing the menu.
The health benefits of spices is something that has interested me for some time and when I was in India in December/January, I learned a lot more about spices, their health benefits (from Ayurveda and beyond) as well as new recipes.
One recipe that I learned was for a Chicken Rasam and the idea brought me back to my aunt’s kitchen in Mauritius during the early 1980s. It is a chicken broth flavoured with a large variety of health giving spices. This recipe, like many in my own family has been passed down through the generations and they shared with me,
Generally, a bit of chicken is pressure cooked with spices and water but I decided to put my own twist on it. I was able to get some chicken frames from a friend who has a butcher shop and I made a chicken broth, loading it with chicken and vegetables and simmered it for 24 hours to extract the maximum benefit and then chilled it to make it easy to remove the excess fat. I then used that to make the rasam. We all know the benefits of chicken broth when a person is unwell so I’ve added that to the benefits from spices. The photo is for a beef broth that I was making but it still gives you an idea of what goes into the broths that I make.
I felt very spoilt when I made the broth with some of the fresh spices that I got in India, especially the pepper. I also used Alleppey turmeric as it has a higher curcumin content than the regular turmeric. Here are some of the other spices used and the health benefits:
Pepper is high in anti-oxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties and contains minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It is also used as a tonic in Ayurveda to improve digestion and to treat coughs and colds.
Cumin improves digestion, is a source of iron, helps lower cholesterol and very importantly at this time, helps the body handle stress.
Coriander seed offers a lot of help to the gastrointestinal system, helps to reduce diarrhoea and nausea.
Curry leaves are rich in anti-oxidants, help to reduce heart disease and also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties. It has been said to help treat bronchitis, tuberculosis, liver issues, fevers and other conditions. Garlic is also known to be a powerful antibiotic.
I will provide the recipe below but please remember that I have put a twist on the original recipe by making it with chicken bone broth.
Rani’s Chicken Rasam
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 dried red chillies
1 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns (adjust to taste if too much)
1 1/2 tablespoon toor dal (available from Indian shops)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
5 golden shallots, peeled
10 cloves garlic, peeled
To prepare the spice blend, heat a heavy based pot over low heat. Toast the coriander seeds, red chillies, pepper, toor dal and cumin seeds.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then grind in a small blender. Once mixture has been ground to a fine powder, add shallots and garlic. Grind to a paste.
A splash vegetable oil (or chicken fat if you have it)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 golden shallots, peeled and sliced
1 large tomato, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon turmeric powder (use less if using Alleppey turmeric)
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 fresh green chillies
1 1/2 litres chicken bone broth
Salt to taste
Juice of 1/2 limes or to taste
1 chicken thigh, cut into small pieces (if desired, the dish is traditionally served without chicken in it.
Add oil or chicken fat to a heavy based pan. When hot, add cumin seeds and sliced shallots. Stir well and continue to cook until shallot turns translucent. Add tomato, salt turmeric, curry leaves and chillies. Stir and allow to cook for about 5 minutes.
Add chicken broth and chicken meat (if using), bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 20 minutes to extract the most flavour and benefits from the spices.
Add spice mixture, stir well and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Add lime juice and serve.