das sreedharan’s fresh flavours of india contains dozens of recipes for food cooked and served in his group of keralan restaurants, rasa.
i discovered rasa on stoke newington church street in 1998 and have been a fan ever since. that first visit was a revelation in how good indian food can be. the pre-meal snacks and pickles were all freshly made with zingy fresh flavours. poppadoms with personality, what a joy! and the beauty of the flower-like achappams, scooping up fresh lemon or green mango pickle helped get the juices flowing.
curries that i discovered on that first, and subsequent visit were the most imaginative i’d seen. moru kachiathu with green banana and mango; beetroot curry, in a yoghurt sauce and traditionally served at weddings; bagar baingan, a gentle velvety aubergine and yoghurt curry; and a superb garlic curry which no longer seems to be on the menu, were all favourites.
over time rasa opened more branches. the original was vegetarian and it was followed by one specialising in seafood, another in meat and more recently one that serves quick and cheap snacks to satisfy hungry office workers at lunch. luckily the quality has always remained the same.
i was bought the recipe book a few years ago and this weekend plundered it for a sunday lunch extravaganza. the vegetable samosas with lemon pickle were a great way to kick off. the thakali (tomato, pictured below, right) curry was my favourite with rich smokey flavours. other dishes included brinjal (aubergine, pictured, below, left) curry, chana masla (chickpeas in a tomatoey sauce), chicken green masala and potato and cabbage thoran (a dry curry), all served with pilau rice.
it was a lot of work, so next time i think i’ll be letting one of das’ kitchens do the hard work!