Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mulligatawny Soup

My husband was away last week, so that meant that I "splurged" and made all my fave foods that he doesn't like. Strangely enough, my "splurge" week meant that I was eating generally healthier, cheaper food, with little or no meat, compared to what we normally have. This is because my husband is the type of guy that thinks it's not a meal unless there is meat in it, and while I love bacon as much as the next girl, I definitely feel that there are meals that are not improved by the addition of meat. Usually, when he's gone, I make my Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce. But to continue the exotic spice bender I'm apparently on right now with all of the Indian and Ethiopian food I've been cooking, I decided to make Mulligatawny soup. 

Look at these gorgeous red lentils!
Mulligatawny, much like Chicken Tikka Masala, is a fake-Indian British creation. And perhaps because it doesn't have authentic roots, it can come in a million different forms, as long as it's some sort of spicy, creamy soup. Mine was inspired by the Mulligatawny at India's restaurant in Baton Rouge, which has a base of a red lentils, and is finished with a touch of cream. I love red lentils. They are a milder, gentler lentil with less of that dirty-earthy flavor that brown lentils have. They are an amazingly bright orange color when raw and mellow to a warm orange brown when cooked. It was just the delicious, spicy, meatless "splurge" I was craving.

Mulligatawny Soup
1 T butter
1 large onion, chopped
½ lb carrots, chopped (optional)
7 garlic cloves, chopped 
1 T minced ginger
2-3 jalapenos, diced The last time I made this, I streamlined the recipe by omitting the fresh jalapenos and adding a can of Rotel, which provides spicy jalapenos and delicious acidity
1 can Rotel tomatoes (tomatoes with diced jalapenos)  
2 t ground cumin
2 t ground coriander
1 t turmeric
1 t cayenne pepper (watch out, I like things spicy!)
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t cardamom

1 t salt, or to taste
8 cups water, vegetable, or chicken broth, or some combination thereof
2 bay leaves
1 lb, approx 2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed
pinch of sugar

Greek yogurt

In dutch oven or stockpot, saute onion and carrots, if using, in butter. When softened, add ginger, garlic, and spices, and saute, stirring frequently, for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except garnish, and cook for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender and start to fall apart. Remove from heat. I like to blend half of the soup to thicken it and make it creamy. Experiment with blending more or less to your taste. Stir in yogurt and serve. Serves approximately 6 people.


    1. I recall making Mulligatawny soup some years back and that it was a difficult recipe in part due to the great number of ingredients. I am a fan of India's in Baton Rouge! How did you get them to tell you they use a red lentil base?
      And I never would have thought to put jalapeno peppers in this soup. Is that traditional or an original addition of your own?

    2. I remember going to India's with you! It's one of my favorite Indian restaurants!
      I didn't ask them how to make it. This recipe is really just an interpretation of theirs. I remember it having a lentil base, and based on the bright orange color of the soup, I guessed they were red, since the more common brown lentils look like a dull brown when cooked.
      Re: the jalapenos, Indian cooking involves a lot of chili peppers, and jalapenos are just another type of chili. I've seen mulligatawny recipes that call for them. They spice it up and give it a fresh, acidic bite.