Tamil Language Lesson:
Malligu = Pepper
Thanni = Water
Mulligatawny = Pepper Water!
A typical Anglo Indian dish, much like kedgeree, Mulligatawny Soup 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 another light, South Indian soup called Rasam. The latter, I will always remember, because as a child, I managed to, erm, sit on a bowl of rasam at a party!
But, let’s swiftly move on to today’s recipe…
The Mulligatawny 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. This pepper water became “Rasam”, a light, but spicy, peppery, tangy soup eaten with rice or roti which over time, gave rise to the mulligatawny, as the Brits replicated what they’d been served in India.
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.
My recipe 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 instead.
This soup is very versatile in its “filling”, in that you can make it vegetarian, or use chicken or beef. I’ve given the recipe for beef, all you have to do is substitute it with the appropriate amount of vegetables like potatoes, leek and peas. I also add a small amount of red lentils (they cook quickly and require no soaking) to give it more body.
How to Make this Mulligatawny Soup Your Own
The amount of chilli and pepper here will result in a fairly hot 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 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.
Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup
Replace the beef with more stew friendly vegetables like courgettes, leeks and aubergines and adjust cooking time accordingly (see step 5).
That’s it folks, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, has it gone chilly yet? It certainly has, here in the UK! Have a superb weekend, and be safe!
Mulligatawny Soup, a very Anglo Indian Dish of the British Raj