As a child I hated few things imposed by my grandparents during our visit every summer. It was disgusting to find all our clothes reeked of bitter neem oil as they were washed using neem detergents. We also disliked to gobble up extremely bitter balls made of neem leaves paste forcibly given by our grandmother. But now I have been yearning for such eco-friendly chemical-free detergents suitable for my washing machine, and also I feel guilty to give de-worming tablet to my son as I am unable to persuade him to take the home-made herbal substitute available plentiful around us. Nevertheless I feel contented that I can prepare delicious soup using neem flowers that possess almost same properties as that of neem leaves.
Ayurvedic properties of neem flowers: Neem tree’s every part is being used in Ayurveda for medicinal purposes and they all have almost similar properties.
- Taste (Rasa): Bitter (tikta)
- Qualities (Guna): Light to digest (laghu)
- Potency (Veerya): Cold (Sheeta) – perfect for summer.
- Action (Karma): Balances pitta & kapha
- Benefits: Reduces blood sugar (mehanut), improves digestion (agnikrut), relieves intestinal worms (krumihara)
I have prepared delicious and flavorful veppam poo rasam suppressing their bitter taste as much as possible so that even kids would savour this rasam heartily. Veppam poo rasam with rice may be served with suitable accompaniments as shown below.
Now the recipe for veppam poo rasam :
Time taken: 15 min
Yields: 600 ml
Ingredients: (listed in the order of addition)
- Ghee – 1 tsp
- Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
- Red chillies – 2 Nos.
- Curry leaves – 1 sprig
- Dried neem flowers – 1 tbsp
- Rasam powder as shown below
- Tamarind juice – a berry sized tamarind extracted in 500 ml water
- Vegetable stock or lentil stock – 100 ml*
- Tomato – 1 No.
- Powdered jaggery – 1 tbsp
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Coriander leaves – 2 or 3 sprigs
* I used the liquid made while cooking carrots but you may use any other vegetable stock that goes well with neem flowers; you may also use thin lentil stock instead.
For rasam powder:
- Coriander seeds (dhania) – 1 tbsp
- Red gram (thuvaram paruppu or toor dal) – 1 tsp
- Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
- Pepper – ½ tsp
- Mustard seeds – 1/8 tsp
- Green chilli – 1 No.
- Ginger – ½”
- Garlic – 4 pods
- Curry leaves – 1 sprig
- Heat a cooking pot with ghee in medium flame.
- Add mustard seeds, when they begin to crackle reduce the flame to low.
- Add red chillies (broken into 2), curry leaves, dried neem leaves & rasam powder one after another.
- Fry them until the aroma of rasam powder is released.
- Add tamarind juice, vegetable broth, powdered jaggery and salt.
- Bring it to a boil in high flame.
- Add chopped coriander leaves and turn off the flame.
- Close the pot with a lid and set aside for few minutes allowing the spices infused into the rasam.
- I missed to add red chillies along with curry leaves, so I fried them separately in a small pan, boil those chillies in a ladleful of rasam and pour the same into the pot. These red chillies are used mainly for adding flavour.
- Usually dried neem flowers are added at the end to avoid its bitterness permeated into rasam, but I prefer to add them before boiling the rasam to enjoy the health benefits of neem flowers to the fullest. Hence I added chillies & ginger for pungency, tamarind & tomato for tartness and jaggery for sweetness in the right proportion to neutralize neem flowers’ bitterness.
- I suggest you to grind rasam powder as fine as possible, else you would notice mustard seeds floating on the rasam that may not be liked by many.
- You can dry neem flowers under the Sun during summer and store them for a year or more. It is preferred to fry them in ghee before adding into any chutney, curry, or gravy.