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  • 2–4
  • Easy
  • Meat-free Vegan recipe collection
  • 10 minutes
  • 30 minutes

My grandmother Sanna (whose full name is Sakunthala) said I had to include russum in my digital cookbook  Least Effort Most Reward. My other grandmother Kay (or Kamalam) used to always serve this to us when winter hit Durban. We drank russum and inhaled sambrani (a frankincense-type of incense) to clear out our lungs. It’s one of the practises that connects me to my ancestors so this recipe is dedicated to my grandmothers and everyone who has come before me. There’s a combination of spices and healing ingredients that makes russum good for colds, flu, and general health – garlic, onion, tamarind, turmeric, curry leaves, celery seeds, red chillies, black pepper, cumin and mustard seeds, which together form a powerful tonic. This is an ancient, nutritious and delicious South Indian broth.


  • 1 t black peppercorns
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 1 t mustard seeds
  • 1 t celery seeds (ajmo)
  • 2 T tamarind concentrate or 1 T solid tamarind diluted in water
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced into half rings
  • 4 dried red chillies
  • 8 curry leaves
  • 1 t turmeric powder
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 litre water
  • salt, to taste
  • coriander, chopped for serving

Cooking Instructions

1. Grind the peppercorns, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, celery seeds and set aside.

2. If using fresh or solid tamarind, place the tamarind in warm water.

3. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion, chillies, curry leaves, turmeric and ground spices. Cook for a few minutes, then add the whole garlic cloves (you can gently smash each garlic clove and leave the skin on). Add the tamarind water or tamarind concentrate, water and stir. Cook over a low heat until the garlic is soft.

4. Remove from the heat and serve in cups. Allow to cool and drink like tea. Each cup needs at least two whole garlic cloves, which you eat with a spoon.

Cook's note: If you like whole garlic, like I do, add two heads to the russum. You can drink this on its own or eat it with plain, basmati rice. You can also add a tablespoon of urid dahl and temper it with the spices. Fenugreek (methi) is also a great addition.

Find more vegan recipes here.

Extracted with permission from the digital cookbook Least Effort Most Reward, written and illustrated by Parusha Naidoo. To find out more about the book, visit Parusha’s blog at Click here to go to the blog. 

Extracted with permission from the ebook Least Effort Most Reward, written and illustrated by Parusha Naidoo.

Parusha Naidoo Recipe by: Parusha Naidoo
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Born and raised in South Africa, Parusha was working as a graphic designer at an advertising agency in Berlin when she started a pop-up vegan restaurant at a friend’s bar. Since returning to SA, she has made a name for herself as a vegan chef, artist and food writer. In 2021, she published an Afro-Asian plant-based digital cookbook, 'Least Effort Most Reward', containing 21 simple vegan recipes, featuring her own illustrations.

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