In India, food and religion go hand in hand. Most Hindu kitchens have god figurines nestled in among the pots, pans, and spices, and most temples have a lively kitchen attached. Visits to temples usually involve a meal of some kind, and one of the most common dishes served in the south is this rasam, a thin, hot, and sour lentil soup that, when sipped and savored, brightens the day wonderfully.

NOTE: As tamarind paste varies from brand to brand, add it gradually until it tastes good to you.

Serves 4 as part of a main course

1 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1½-inch piece of ginger, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Indian green chile
2 tablespoons canola oil
15 fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1½ teaspoons tamarind paste
1¼ teaspoons salt (or to taste)

Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear, cover with water, and leave to one side.

In the meantime, roughly grind the cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle, tip onto a plate, then grind the ginger, garlic, and green chile to as fine a paste as you can (or whizz in a blender).

Put the oil into a lidded saucepan over medium heat and, when hot, add the curry leaves, mustard seeds, ground cumin seeds, and black pepper. When the leaves crackle and turn translucent, carefully remove a few to decorate the rasam with later. Then add the ginger, garlic, and green chile paste to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Cook for around 4 minutes, until they start to break down and become jammy.

Drain the lentils and add them to the pan with the tamarind paste and 3¼ cups of hot water. Cover with the lid, simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are completely soft, then season with the salt.

The soup should be hot (but not too hot) and sour. Transfer into bowls, top with the crispy curry leaves, and either drink on its own or serve with steamed basmati rice.