Mulligatawny Soup

A relic of British colonial rule in India, mulligatawny soup mixes the best of both cuisines for a modern day taste fusion.

What is mulligatawny?

Blending traditional Indian spices in amounts that appeal to an Anglo palate, mulligatawny is a thick and hearty soup made from meat or chicken stock, onion, celery and various root vegetables such as carrot or parsnips, thickened chickpea flour or masoor dal. There are many variations, some of which are discussed below.

A brief history of mulligatawny

Originally, mulligatawny was an anglicized version of a Tamil soup known as molo tunny, or pepper broth. British families stationed in India during the late 1800s brought the dish back to England where it has morphed in several gastronomical directions at once. Cassell’s Household Guide from 1869 contains a history of the dish, as well as a recipe that is quite heavy on chicken as a main ingredient.

The soup features Indian flavors such as Madras curry powder and coconut milk, but used sparingly in deference to the Anglo palate. Throughout the centuries the dish has always been adaptable for those who prefer vegetables to meat. And ingredients have always been swapped out depending on what is in season or available in the kitchen. Some versions even include leftover rice, or used crushed almonds or other nuts as thickeners.

Whatever is in it, mulligatawny makes for a rib-sticking winter soup and is widely available on menus at Indian restaurants around the world.

Preparing mulligatawny

This recipe adapted from Felicity Cloake of the Guardian newspaper is indubitably British, a reflection of the cross referencing that has existed between British and Indian cuisines since the time of the Raj.

Ingredients

2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
1 onion, finely sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 parsnip, diced1 celery stick, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
2½ tsp Madras curry powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
6 cups good-quality chicken stock (or vegetable if preferred)
1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh (optional)
3/4 cup split orange lentils
4 tbsp flaked almonds
1/2 cup hot milk or water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp mango chutney (optional)
Small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

Instructions

  • Heat fat in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add onion. Cook for about five minutes until golden, then add carrot, parsnip and celery and cook for another five minutes. Scoop out a spoonful to set aside.
  • Add garlic and ginger and cook for a minute, then add curry powder and cayenne and stir for a minute. Pour in the stock, add the chicken and dal, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the almonds in the hot milk or water.
  • Remove chicken from the pan. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth, then reduce the almonds to a puree and whisk them into the soup. Add lemon juice and salt to taste, then stir in the chutney. Pull apart the chicken into strands and stir into the soup along with the reserved vegetables.
  • Serve in bowls with naan or flatbread or rice on the side and garnish with coriander.

Variations

There are as many variations on mulligatawny as there are chefs in kitchens. This healthy low-carb vegetarian version by Atlanta chef Robert Lupo is made with superfood ingredients including apples and red lentils. Mulligatawny is one of those recipes that is ripe for experimentation and elevation depending on the preferences of the chef and the diner.

Spice it up or spice it down, mulligatawny soup is perfect for those who love Indian flavors, but can’t always handle the heat.

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