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Sultry Mulligatawny Recipe: Spicy Lentil Soup

Updated on April 19, 2015
vespawoolf profile image

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" & "Taste of Home" magazines. She belongs to "Cook's Recipe Testers" for Cooks Illustrated.

A Quick & Easy Soup

When temperatures plunge so low the thermometer bursts and the air becomes so frigid it cuts me to the bone--I crave soup. And not just any soup. I crave soup that's warm and soothing, soup that transports me to an exotic destination where an endless, balmy day fades into a sunset that lights my soul ablaze.

A meal in itself, this hearty soup packs a bouquet of spices that renews the senses, making my chapped hide feel like it's snuggled into a cashmere blanket. Straightforward, simple to assembly and even easier to eat, it will scent your home with cumin, cardamom and coriander, the fragrance of the East.

Mulligatawny, which literally means "pepper water", is an example of Anglo-Indian fusion cooking. It was probably created by Tamil servants during the British Raj period to suit the tastes of picky British soldiers. Versatile, it can also be prepared with vegetable broth to satisfy vegetarians.

Let this recipe be your guide. Put on some tunes by Sukhwinder Singh and get ready to be transported.

green cardamom pods
green cardamom pods

How to make Garam Masala

Onion, garlic and ginger, the "holy trinity" of Indian cuisine, are the foundation of this soup. But spices create the flavors and fragrances unique to Indian cooking. Garam masala literally means mixture of hot spices and, although pungent, is not spicy in the same way as a chile peppers. There are as many recipes for garam masala as there are for chili powder, and they vary according to region. Cardamom, like perfume to the tongue, is one of the world's most expensive spices and figures prominently in garam masala.

An easy option is to buy a commercial powder. Be sure to choose a high quality blend, which I recommend in the Amazon links. I prefer Shan, whose spices are sealed in foil packets to retain freshness. But since spices quickly lose flavor after being ground, whole spices are the best choice. Toast them gently before grinding. I keep a dedicated coffee grinder for that purpose. You can also opt to make your own garam masala, which will keep several months if stored in an airtight container in a dark, dry place.


Garam Masala Powder

  • 4 Tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black cumin seeds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dry ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black cardamom (4 large pods)
  • ¾ teaspoon cloves
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon crumbled bay leaves

Toast spices in a heavy skillet on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently and being careful not to burn them. Allow to cool, remove cardamom from pods and grind with other spices.

Now that you've chosen your spices, you're ready to make the soup!

Cook Time

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 45 min
Yields: Serves 6

Sultry Mulligatawny

5 stars from 3 ratings of Sultry Mulligatawny

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsley chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 8-1 inch chunks fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 medium tomatoes, coarsley chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
  • 14 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cilantro leaves, chopped
  • plain yogurt, for garnish
Saute spices, onion and garlic
Saute spices, onion and garlic

Instructions

  1. Simmer lentils in 4 cups of chicken broth for about 30 minutes, until soft.
  2. Pour 6 cups of broth into a blender container. Add carrots, celery, tomatoes and ginger. Blend and set aside.
  3. Melt butter over medium heat, add olive oil. Sauté spices, onion and garlic, stirring frequently so as not to burn, for about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, cook about 1 minute. Add coconut and tomato paste, stir. Add reserved broth/vegetable mixture and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover and simmer til tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Puree soup in a blender or with a stick blender, until smooth. Return to pot along with lentils and broth. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with cilantro and dollops of yogurt. Or, as in photo, thin yogurt with milk until pourable. Drizzle in patterns over individual bowls of soup.

6. Serve with naan bread. Look for it in the frozen section of your grocery store, or use my recipe for easy whole grain naan.

Enjoy!


Click here for Whole Grain Naan Bread recipe

Comments

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  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    3 years ago from Peru, South America

    GetitScene, you´ll definitely have to look up Sukhwinder Singh. The background music definitely sets the mood for this exotic soup!

  • GetitScene profile image

    Dale Anderson 

    3 years ago from The High Seas

    Weird! When I was just starting to read this I actually WAS putting on some tunes by Sukhwinder Singh.....OK i have actually never heard of that person but the soup sounds excellent!

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    4 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thanks DDE!

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    A great idea for a soup and your recipes are delightful.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    5 years ago from Peru, South America

    RobinGrosswirth, thanks for the kind words. You have an artist's eye for detail! : )

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

    Robin Grosswirth 

    5 years ago from New York

    My favorite cuisine! Awesome recipe, written beautifully, love the chef hat detail.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    sen.sush23, how nice to meet a fellow Mulligatawny lover! Yes, it's a wonderful soup you don't hear about often. Enjoy and thank you for stopping by.

  • sen.sush23 profile image

    Sushmita 

    6 years ago from Kolkata, India

    A lentil soup is something my family always likes. Mulligatawny was the star of the list of soups in my childhood, but nowadays we rarely hear of it. I never came by a short and easy recipe, but this seems without much hassle. Voted up.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    Great! I'm glad that will make things easier. I'll clarify the instructions in my recipe as well. Thanks so much!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    6 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Thanks! This will make it much easier to make. I have everything in the house except a few ingredients. Can't wait to make this! We love homemade soups and enjoy them all times of the year. Appreciate your answer.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    Peggy W, mulligatawny is such a warming and satisfying soup. I use dried, unsweetened coconut. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    6 years ago from Houston, Texas

    I make homemade lentil soup but have never made Mulligatawny soup. It sounds delicious with all of those spices and flavorings. The flaked coconut...I assume you are using fresh coconut? Is that correct? Or do you use dried and flaked? Wish I had one of your bowls of soup right now! Voted up and sharing. Thanks!

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    BethDW, enjoy the recipes! Thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it.

  • profile image

    BethDW 

    6 years ago

    Looks delicious! I've been looking for a good soup recipe with lentils...Thanks for sharing!

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    Hello ElizaDoole. Thanks for the live updates! How exciting! I'm glad you enjoyed the soup and hope it was a hit at your dinner party. I enjoyed hearing from you. : )

  • ElizaDoole profile image

    Lisa McKnight 

    6 years ago from London

    Hi from Mulligatawney live! I've got a hot bowl in front of me that looks just like the picture, and it is very delicious. I have enough to feed about 15 I reckon. Great recipe thanks Vespa for sharing this one.

  • ElizaDoole profile image

    Lisa McKnight 

    6 years ago from London

    Hey Vespa, Mulligatawny update ... it is bubbling on my hob right now. I am just about to mix the soup and lentil bit together and final blend. I should be eating in half an hour! Smells divine!

  • ElizaDoole profile image

    Lisa McKnight 

    6 years ago from London

    I've printed off the recipe I am ready to cook tomorrow.!

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thanks for your feedback and please come back and tell me what you think of the mulligatawny!

  • ElizaDoole profile image

    Lisa McKnight 

    6 years ago from London

    Hi vespa, I am going to make this soup tommorrow I have all the ingredients apart from the yoghurt and fresh cilantro/coriander. We must have been on the same page this week I wrote one on winter curry and chilli soups as well. I swear I had not see this recipe. I'll come back when I've made it. Thanks for the great ideas, voted up and thanks.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    Please let me know what you think of the soup! Using a blender cuts prep time.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Hazelton 

    6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I have been looking for a good recipe for this soup for ages. Years ago a chef worked for the same hotel I did and he left before I could get the recipe from him. I am definitely trying it. Bookmarked, up, useful, and awesome.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    It's a funny name for a tasty soup.

  • alocsin profile image

    alocsin 

    6 years ago from Orange County, CA

    So that's what mulligatawny soup is. Voting this Up and Interesting.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you for dropping by!

  • AudreyHowitt profile image

    Audrey Howitt 

    6 years ago from California

    This sounds heavenly!

  • IzzyM profile image

    IzzyM 

    6 years ago from UK

    I love mulligatawny soup, and will definitely try this recipe - it looks delicious, thanks :)

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    Thank you for your nicely worded feedback!

  • profile image

    stessily 

    6 years ago

    As a lover of soups, I definitely esteem mulligatawny, which features prominently in my repertoire of treasured soups. What is not to love about it? Its name is magical, exotic, promising. (In childhood I mispronounced it as Mulligawatny.) Each ingredient contributes to the whole while retaining its individuality. I especially love the interaction between the spices, coconut, and lentils. This soup superbly blends flavors.

    The brief culinary background which you provide is informative and interesting.

    It's so true that recipes for garam masala abound, differ from region to region, and in fact from household to household in India.

    Thank you for sharing your recipe with clear instructions and photos.

  • vespawoolf profile imageAUTHOR

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    As with any dish, mulligatawny is even better when made at home. Enjoy!

  • Peter Hoggan profile image

    Peter Hoggan 

    6 years ago from Scotland

    Sounds brilliant, I have only ever had Mulligatawny soup while eating out, never tried to make it myself. Will definitely be giving this a try very soon.

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