Mulligatawny Soup/Stew

In general, I love making big pots of food that have lots of stuff in them, keep well and are tasty! It’s a throwback to the good old grad school days, but even during these days of working it’s useful to have leftovers around, eh?

Usually I make such dishes when friends are around, that adds to the fun in the kitchen. Especially if they bring wine with them and we cook and drink wine at the same time.

My friend Nilima came up from the city a few weeks back and we made Chicken Mulligatawny soup/stew.She asked me for a recipe, and this is an attempt to nail ‘a recipe’ down. This is hard for me since I never remember exactly how I make anything – so try the recipe below at your own peril! Sadly no pics at the moment.

Traditionally, the name and origin is from Tamil Nadu, India. The literal translation is ‘pepper water’ and I am told in early days of the Raj, the Brit cooks needed to throw the kitchen sink into a dish to feed their burgeoning armies and this hearty soup was born. Now, there are tons of variations – both in terms of whether it’s a thin soup, a thick one or even thick enough to be a stew; and even in what the ingredients are. So presented below is pretty much my take on it.

And oh, if you are a Seinfeld fan, you might remember this soup was immortalized in the Soup Nazi episode.

Ok, so here it is:

Ingredients: (should be able to feed 4 folks with a good appetite!)

  • 1 pound of chicken (preferably boneless chicken breast)
  • 2 medium white/yellow onions
  • 1 medium green apple
  • 1 pound of carrots (about 4-5 carrots)
  • 1 pound of celery (4-5 sticks)
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 green squash (if you’re a veggie overdose kinda person, like me)
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • Spices:
  1. 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  2. 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  3. About 1 tablespoon salt (but obviously vary to taste)
  4. 1.5 tablespoon coriander powder
  5. 1.5 dessicated coconut powder
  6. 0.5 tablespoon (Indian) red chilly powder
  7. 0.5 tablespoon black pepper
  8. 1 teaspoon garlic paste (or equal in cloves)
  9. 1 teaspoon ginger paste

Putting it together:

  1. Ingredient preparation step: Chop the chicken, carrots (washed, peeled), celery (washed), bell peppers, green squash into bite sized pieces. Chop the onions and the green apple thin/small
  2. The saute step: Saute onions till they soften/brown/become transluscent. As they are doing so, make a little space in the middle to add the garlic and ginger and saute that with some more oil. Make another space for cumin seeds to saute those too – till they start crackling and brown. Don’t let anything burn. If they do, mix garlic, ginger, onions, cumin seeds all up, let them saute together.
  3. Prepare the veggies and meat: Sometimes microwaving the carrots with some water for 3-4 minutes will make them soft enough to cook through better. Saute the celery, bell peppers, green squash in another pot. Saute the chicken in the first one (with the onions et al). Once the veggies are sauteed enough, throw them into the first pot.
  4. Spice it up: Add the spices. Cook it all together for a bit, mixing it all well together. Stir. No water yet.
  5. Add the rice and green apple, mix it too, stir.
  6. Add slowly a couple of cups of water, mix, bring to boil.
  7. Let it boil for 4-5 minutes.
  8. Lower heat, cover and let the whole thing simmer for a while. Keep returning once in a while to ensure nothing’s getting burnt.
  9. As water gets absorbed, taste, adjust for salt/spices.

It’s all done by the time the water is absorbed. Make sure the rice is cooked and that the chicken is cooked through.

And oh – to make it entirely veggie, you can replace the chicken with chick peas (in which case add 1 tablespoon of dry mango powder to the spices), or any lentils in general.

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