Like kedgeree and curry, mulligatawny is part of the culinary legacy of the Raj, a cultural mishmash of traditional British soup and a spice-infused Madrassi broth or rasam known as molo tunny, or pepper water.
The historian Lizzie Collingham suggests that, "Mulligatawny soup was one of the earliest dishes to emerge from the new hybrid cuisine that the British developed in India, combining British concepts of how food should be presented (as soups or stews, etc) and Indian recipes."
The dish was invented to provide a familiar first course at dinner parties, but in her curry bible Madhur Jaffrey notes, "A true mulligatawny soup is really a curry, a meal in itself. Anglo-Indian families often ate it for Sunday lunch, accompanied by rice, relishes and chutneys." Having been adapted from a simple pepper water, it's the kind of recipe that invites experimentation. Add your own flourish or try Meera Sodha's version, made with parsnips, carrots and lentils.
Meera Sodha's parsnip and carrot mulligatawny soup
This hits the spot in a way many soups don't, in that it will fill you up – but, if you're sceptical, you could eat it (as many people used to) with boiled rice spooned in for good measure.
- 3tbs rapeseed oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 green finger chilli, very finely chopped
- 250g carrots, cut into 1cm cubes
- 250g parsnips, cut into 1cm cubes
- 1tsp ground cumin
- 1½tsp ground coriander
- 150g dried red lentils, washed and drained
- 1.25 litres vegetable stock
- Sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Heat the oil in a deep-sided pan over a medium heat, then fry the onion for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and green chilli, stir-fry for a couple of minutes, then add the carrots and parsnips and cook for six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are sticky.
Add a little water if the mixture is too dry, then add the cumin and coriander and stir for a minute. Add the drained lentils, stock and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Stir, bring the mixture to the boil, then turn down the heat to a whisper and simmer for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. (If you're blending the soup, now is the time to blend it, adding more water if you prefer a thinner consistency.) Season to taste and serve.
Illustration by: Louise Sheeran
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