I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to tell you about Mulligatawny. When I first had the idea of writing a blog, I thought it would be my first post. It’s a soup I’ve made dozens of times, but somehow this year, between all the roast squash and immersion blender experimentation (not to mention our warmer than usual fall), it was unfortunately relegated to the back burner. I first learned of Mulligatawny several years back when Norma made it for a book club meeting based on the book Transplanted Man, a somewhat strange tale set in New York’s Little India. While the book was generally viewed as mediocre (though I kind of liked it), this soup was the real stunner.
According to the recipe, which I believe is from an older international cookbook (can you enlighten me, Norma, so I can give credit where credit is due?), Mulligatawny means “pepper water” in Tamil and was actually developed by the British during the colonization of India, using locally available ingredients such as curry and turmeric. There are endless variations, but what I love about this one is that it’s fast, low-calorie and utterly satisfying. It’s a great remedy after a bout of overindulging, especially during the holiday season. And did I mention the smell? Make a pot of this and your house will smell of its soothing spices for days!
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course.
If your spices are old, it would be a good idea to buy them fresh for this recipe. You’ll never use all the whole cloves that come in the little plastic bottles. If you have access to a place like Whole Foods or a food co-op, get them from their self-serve jars and save tons of money. This soup only gets better after you let it sit. I prefer it on the third day. It also freezes really well in a freezer bag. Perfect for a cold Saturday when there’s nothing left for lunch.
1 small onion diced
3 celery hearts, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 red or green pepper, diced
1 small tart apple (such as granny smith), peeled, cored and diced (dice really small to avoid apple flotation)
1 Rotisserie chicken, chicken breast, or leftover chicken, shredded
4 cups (1 box) organic chicken stock (or homemade)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
a small handful chopped parsley
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (an Indian spice, found in the spice aisles these days)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2-3 whole cloves
2-3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
This is so easy, you’ll want to make it as much as I do. It would really impress guests too. Are you ready?
Heat the olive oil is a Dutch oven or a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the spices. Season with coarse salt and black pepper. Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Monitor for burning and lower the heat if necessary. Add the rest of the diced vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Next add the shredded chicken, apple and flour. Mix and cook for another minute or so to avoid a raw flour taste. Add the broth, tomatoes, whole cloves, lemon juice, parsley, sugar (pretty much everything else) and bring to a boil. Immediately turn down flame, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Monitor often to make sure it’s not boiling.
Don’t forget to remove the cloves! And feel free to garnish with a dollop of yogurt and more freshly chopped parsley. I did this time, mainly because I have a huge tub of yogurt leftover from baking banana bread. You don’t have to, and I usually don’t. Obviously, this could easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock and eliminating the chicken. Perhaps a can of white beans or chick peas, in that case, could provide the protein and make it just as satisfying.
Now about that Red and Green Crostini–they’re perfect for holiday celebrations because they are elegantly festive and, more importantly, easy! For the crostini, slice a baguette into 1/4 inch rounds, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and toast in the oven at 350° for 10 minutes. For the green, mix a couple of tablespoons pesto with a 4 oz log of goat cheese, spread on the crostini and garnish with toasted pine nuts. For the red, mix a couple of tablespoons chopped, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (such a ’90s ingredient, I know!) with another 4 oz. log of goat cheese, spread on the crostini and garnish with a bit more of the chopped tomatoes.
These were perfect for Christine’s annual Holiday Party at her charming and cozy house on Island Lake. Her truly gigantesque stone fireplace was unfortunately out of commission this year due to an uncooperative flue, but her freshly-cut Christmas tree and the old-fashioned fairy lights on the deck added enough holiday cheer to keep us happy for hours.
Now I need to go finish off that soup and get this cat off my lap. It hasn’t been easy typing with her rude insistence on sitting between me and my laptop. Not to mention her claws digging into my hips and her tail swatting ever so casually at the keys. I apologize for any and all ensuing typos. She never was one for la politesse.
On an unrelated note, I now have 11 different Eiffel Tower ornaments on my tree. I think I may have a problem.