It is about to snow where I live…the sky is grey and threatening, the temperature is falling and the wind is stripping my body of all of its heat. I need soup! A thick hearty soup that will rekindle my internal fire which is threatening to be extinguished. As you know I have been playing with ways to make great, thick soups that do not rely on flour and fat to achieve their texture. This is another recipe that does this with some unique, but common ingredients.
When I started in the culinary field the flavors of the Indian subcontinent were still considered exotic. One of the more intriguing soups was Mulligatawny soup. It was always a chicken soup thickened with roux and rice and seasoned with curry powder. One of the interesting things about the soup was that it usually contained tart apples which is unique if nothing else. I have found a recipe for a vegetarian version of Mulligatawny soup in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, page 592, which satisfies all of my mid-Winter’s requirements. It is thick, flavorful, gluten free, and the recipe is fast and easy. You can have it on the table in about an hour. My recipe is based on the one found on page 592 of World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey (This is a must have cookbook!). I love this recipe because of its unique use of thickeners (chickpea flour and red lentils) which also increases the protein and fiber of the finished dish; the use of coconut milk which adds an incredibly creamy quality and good quality fat to the dish. This soup also doubles as a sauce for eggs, or as I did, highly seasoned lamb and rice. If you want you can always add diced tart apples to make it similar to the other version of Mulligatawny Soup.
As far as this recipe is concerned, I have several suggestions.
- First: try toasting your own spices as I have written. It is the traditional way to prepare South West Asian cuisine. You won’t find a jar of curry powder in most pantries in India and there is no one blend of spices that is right for all dishes so good cooks will toast their own as the dish dictates.
The Vegetables for the Stock
Second: This recipe calls for 4 cups of vegetable stock; I prefer to make my own and I have a quick and easy way to do that. I do not use commercially available stock, especially vegetable stock…it tastes like dish water and you would be better off using plain water than that box of vegetable stock. I have taken to juicing some fresh vegetables (carrots, onions, tomato, and celery) in my juicer and diluting it by 2 or 3 times with pure water. The resulting “broth” is flavorful and fresh…nothing could be better and it’s less expensive than the box of dish water too.
- Third: Don’t be afraid to put any vegetables in it you wish…all sorts of things will go well in this soup; try some winter squash in it some time. You will love it!
Toasting the Spices
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
½ tsp whole fennel seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp cayenne (for a less spicy soup use 1/8 tsp or even less if you prefer)
Toast all of the whole spices over medium high heat in a dry skillet. Once they have become fragrant and their color has begun to change remove them from the skillet to a plate to cool. Once cool, add the turmeric and the cayenne pepper and grind them in a coffee grinder until they are a fine powder. Preparing the spices in this manner make a unique and delicious dish, but if you don’t have the time you can use 2 Tbsp good curry powder. I prefer to make my own spices.
1 ½ Tbsp chickpea flour
4 cups vegetable stock
4 Tbsp red lentils
8 ounces potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
8 ounces white turnip, peeled and diced
8 ounces celery root, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8 ounces onion, peeled and diced
12 fresh curry leaves (available at the Indian market)
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 can coconut milk (14 ounces)
1 can diced tomatoes in juice (14 ounces)
Mix a few tablespoons of stock into the chickpea flour so that there are no lumps. Place all of the stock and the chickpea paste in a saucepan with the vegetables, and the spices. Bring this to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer this for about 30 or 40 minutes until everything is tender. Puree the entire thing in a blender until smooth and return to the pot. Add the salt, coconut milk, and the diced tomatoes (the tomatoes can be added earlier and pureed with the rest if you prefer), return this to the heat, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve this with fresh lime wedges to be squeezed onto the soup right before eating.