Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Mulligatawny Soup dates back to the days of the British Raj, when, apparently, the South Indian (Tamil) cooks came up with Pepper Water to satisfy the Brits’ desire for soup with their meals. It was a light, watery soup, flavoured lightly and with pepper.
This pepper water became “Rasam”, a light, but spicy, peppery, tangy soup eaten with rice or roti. And over time, that basic rasam gave rise to the mulligatawny, as returning Brits replicated what they’d been served in India.
But first, let’s look at the name:
In Tamil (south Indian language)
Malligu = Pepper
Thanni = Water
Mulligatawny = Pepper Water
Anglo Indian Recipe
Mulligatawny Soup is a typical Anglo Indian dish, much like kedgeree. It always brings back memories of my grandmother at her kitchen stove in Singapore, frying whole dried red chillies (cough, cough, sputter, sputter!) for this recipe, or when she made Rasam, a south Indian soup.
However, the Mulligatawny of today hardly bears any resemblance to the original, as over the years, it has embraced many, many other ingredients like curry spices, vegetables and meat, even cream, yoghurt and coconut milk. The modern product is a semi-hearty soup that is perfect for our cold and wet months here in the UK.
Mulligatawny Soup Recipe
Our mulligatawny soup recipe here stays pretty close to its predecessor, Rasam, in taste; light, hot and tangy, but with more body, like a stew as opposed to a broth.
I’ve included the three defining ingredients of Rasam as I remember them from my granny’s kitchen: black pepper, tamarind and fresh curry leaves. You can do without the curry leaves and use fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) instead.
I know it looks like a long list of ingredients, but you only need to prepare the aromatics, tamarind and vegetables. The rest are all spices. Once you get everything ready, the cooking process is very easy.
Tamarind in Mulligatawny Soup
Click here to read more and for substitutes.
Tamarind is a tropical fruit that grows as a pod on the tamarind tree. The pod or fruit is shaped like a bean and contains a pulp with lots of seeds.
This pulp is usually mashed with water to create “juice” that is extensively used in many cuisines around the world for its souring properties; it is also used for medicinal properties and believe or not, as a polishing agent!
How to Make this Mulligatawny Soup Your Own
This soup is very versatile in its “filling”, in that you can make it vegetarian, or use chicken, or any other meat.
The amount of chilli and pepper here will result in a fairly hot mulligatawny soup but not too hot that you’re not able to talk! Perhaps halve the black pepper and chilli powder and check the seasoning at the end. The type of chilli powder and green chillies you use will also determine the end heat, so go easy if you’re not sure!
I put the onion, garlic, ginger and fresh chilli in a chopper and mince them all up together, just like my granny used to. In fact, this is a method I learned from her that I still employ widely for many recipes.
Here, I’m using ground coriander, cumin and turmeric but, for simplicity, 1 tablespoon of curry powder or a general shop bought curry paste will work too, but not too much as curry is not the overriding flavour.
How to serve The Mulligatawny
How do you eat it? Any which way you like! I love to have it with rice, it’s how I grew up eating it, just like a curry. You can have it with bread, roti or even mash, my husband’s favourite.
Stock for Mulligatawny Soup
Just make sure to use good quality, shop bought stock. These days, that shouldn’t be hard to do at all. You can even find fresh stock in the fridge aisles of supermarkets, next to the raw meat.
We tend to have frozen homemade stock at home, but there are always some stockpots handy for when we run out, and because they are also very convenient. These are the ones I use.
One stockpot or stock cube is usually for 500ml (2 cups) of water. So for 1 litre (4 cups), you need 4 cubes or stockpots. However, since our mulligatawny soup calls for half strength stock, you will only need 2 stockpots or stock cubes for the whole litre asked for in this recipe.
Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup
For a vegetarian mulligatawny soup, replace the beef with more stew friendly vegetables like courgettes, leeks and aubergines and adjust cooking time accordingly (see step 5).
For this recipe here, besides the celery, carrots and capsicum, add 1 courgette, 1 leek and 1 eggplant. Chop them up to a similar size.
That’s all there is to it.
Shall we get our aprons on?
More Soups on LinsFood
Head on over to the Soups and Stews page for more ideas from around the world, like the following:
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And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood
Mulligatawny Soup, a very Anglo Indian Dish of the British Raj
Dry Ingredients 1
- ¼ tsp black mustard seeds
- 2.5 cm cinnamon stick
- 2 cardamom pods
- 2 cloves
- 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves leave out if unavailable
- 2 dried red chillies
Dry Ingredients 2
- 1 Tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp coarse ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp chilli powder (or halve this)
- 1 medium onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 5 cm fresh ginger
- 2 fresh green chillies
- 1 celery stick
- 1 carrot
- ½ red capsicum (bell pepper)
- ½ green capsicum (bell pepper)
- 2 medium tomatoes quartered
The rest of the Ingredients
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 200 g lean beef strips or mince
- 1 litre half strength beef or chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp tamarind pulp
- 4 Tbsp hot water for the tamarind
- 2 Tbsp tomato purée (concentrate, not passata)
- ¼ tsp mustard
- 4 Tbsp red split lentils rinsed
- 1 handful fresh coriander leaves
- freshly ground black pepper
Prepare the tamarind first
- Soak the pulp in the water for 10-20 minutes. The hotter the water, the less time you need.
- After the soaking time, give it all good mix, squeezing the pulp with your fingers, then strain through a medium or large mesh sieve. Discard the seeds and pulp. Set aside until needed.
Let's prep the vegetables and aromatics
- Chop the onion, garlic and ginger fairly finely.
- Chop the celery, carrot and capsicums up into similar cube sizes, about 2.5cm/1".
- Quarter the tomatoes.
Let's get Cooking
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy based saucepan on a medium heat and add Dry Ingredients 1.
- When the seeds splutter, add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli mix and sauté for a minute.
- Add the meat and brown for about a minute, stirring and coating the meat.
- Add Dry Ingredients 2 and stir thoroughly, frying for about 30 seconds.
- Add the vegetables, mix and then add all the other ingredients, mixing thoroughly again.
- Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to its lowest setting and simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, the beef will be done and the soup will have thickened. For the vegetarian version, cook until the potatoes are done.
- Serve as suggested above, with a sprinkling of fresh coriander leaves, freshly ground black pepper and even some fresh green chilli slices.