Mulligatawny soup - Ann Mah | Ann Mah

« | Home | »

Mulligatawny soup

By Ann | January 15, 2014

Mulligatawny soup. Post on

Lately, I’ve been wondering if people can read my mind. Because every time I decide to cook something, I go to the grocery store and find that the recipe’s key ingredient is sold out. Split peas when I wanted to make split pea soup. Barley the day I’d settled on beef barley. And, last Sunday, after I’d spent the morning selecting the perfect mulligatawny soup recipe, I discovered a shortage of masoor dal at the grocery store. The spot where the bags of pretty, coral pink lentils usually reside — between the, ahem, fully stocked sacks of split peas and barley — was empty.

(Side note: if it seems like I’ve been making a lot of soup, well, what can I say? It doesn’t require any fiddly cooking techniques, it wards off the winter chill, it’s a healthy one pot meal full of vegetables, and, best of all, it’s easy to double in quantity, ensuring you have leftovers for the week (more on this particular quality below). Soup, I love you.)

After striking out at another grocery store, I headed to Whole Foods for my second visit of the day (!) where I found a bulk bin of red lentils. By this time, I was in a hurry, and when I fitted a plastic bag to the spout and yanked the handle to release the beans, the bag broke free and tiny lentils cascaded. Everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean flooding onto the floor, the shelves, settling on the tops of boxes, down my coat — down my bra — in my handbag. (In fact, I just checked and found a few lentils still at the bottom of my bag.) The clerk stocking shelves right next to me witnessed the whole escapade. His heart must have sunk at the mess, but he couldn’t have been nicer about it.

Anyway, once you have the red lentils in hand, this recipe from Epicurious is a snap. It involves a lot of chopped onions — more than you might think necessary — a lot of garlic, a lot of spices and the lovely red lentils that you’ve worked so hard to find. Simmer everything until the lentils softly disintegrate, lose their lovely pink color and turn a less appealing shade of brown, and blend into a silky purée with your handy immersion blender. At the very end, stir in some finely diced cooked chicken — you could use the leftovers of your Sunday roast, though I admit I used a surprisingly moist rôtisserie chicken bought at my lentil-free neighborhood D’Agostino. The recipe also calls for a cup of coconut milk, and I was poised to add it! But when I tasted the soup, I found it rich enough, already satisfyingly thick, so in deference to my waistline (it’s January, after all) I left it out. I bet it would add a decadent creaminess, though, so if you make this recipe feel free to use it and then come back and tell me what I’m missing.

Finish the soup with a generous squeeze of lemon juice, which tempers the heady spices, and serve over basmati rice. The rice, I must note, stretches this nutritious one-pot meal even further, which means that if you’ve doubled the recipe — as some of us with a mania for stocking the freezer are wont to do — you’ll have enough for a lot of meals (so far I’ve had three, but it’s only Wednesday). They say the definition of eternity is a ham and two people, but I think it just might be a double batch of this soup. Not that I’m complaining.

Mulligatawny soup. Post on

Mulligatawny soup
Adapted from

With its bouquet of warm spices, mulligatawny soup may fool you into thinking it’s Indian, but the name (and dish) are actually a British invention — much like the word “curry” — a mangling of Tamil that translates to “pepper water.” There are many variations — some include cream, chopped granny smith apples, celery, cooked lamb, turkey, and/or almonds — but this one achieves that rare balance of healthy and satisfying (not to mention frugal!).

Serves a lot of people (eight?). Double at your own risk.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lb onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1  1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1  1/2 teaspoons round coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (optional)
1 lemon

Cooked basmati rice
Lemon wedges

In a heavy large pot, heat the oil over medium flame and sauté the onions until they start to turn color, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to release its fragrance. Add the ground spices and bay leaves and stir for a minute. Add the lentils, stirring them into the spices. Add the chicken broth, bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils fall apart, about 20 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves. With an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. Stir in the chicken and coconut milk (if using). Taste and adjust seasonings. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, taste and add a few more drops if necessary. Serve over the basmati rice, passing more lemon wedges at the table.

P.S. This is the 500th post on my blog!

Topics: New York City, Recettes | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Mulligatawny soup”

  1. Gillian Says:
    January 15th, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    It sounds like you had an Italian-style day! You will probably be finding lentils in odd places for weeks to come, like carnevale confetti. I am shocked to learn that grocery stores in America, NYC no less, run out of things!

    We have been eating a lot of soup too. We are “Stunned by Soup!

  2. Camille Says:
    January 15th, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Sounds not unlike a day of grocery shopping in Paris! Glad you had soup to soothe your soul after a rough day. ;)

  3. jeanne Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Sounds like a perfect comfort meal. I love lentil soup and will have to give this new recipe a try.

  4. Heather in Arles Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 9:48 am

    500th!!! Yowza!! That is wonderful! Congratulations at hitting one very big stonemark. You know how much I love your writing (and think that you are pretty wonderful as well :) so I am ready for 500 more…and that includes as many soup recipes as you want!

    I love Mulligatawny soup and yet have never made it, time to try methinks…

  5. Shut Up and Cook Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 9:55 am

    So glad to know I’m not the only one who can happily spend a Sunday morning deciding what to cook that afternoon. This looks delicious!

  6. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    COngrats on 500 posts and here’s to 500 more! Love your writing and love this soup!

  7. Lynde Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I for one applaud that you are sharing soup recipes and I will make this after I finish the rice and vegetable dish you presented a few days ago (where I substituted bacon with an entire bag of coleslaw and it was fabulous!).

    Now off to the store (or stores) to find the ingredients. I think our Food Coop might have everything I need, including bins that deposit rivers of lentils into bags! I’ll double bag after your experience.

  8. Ann Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Gillian — It was definitely a non-American kind of shopping day. And, I love that Soup Nazi!

    Camille — Living in New York was good shopping training for Paris — and Beijing!

    Jeanne — I just had another bowl last night. Only 50 more to go… ;)

    Heather — Aw thanks, my friend! I think you’ll like this recipe — it’s flexible and versatile!

  9. Ann Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Shut Up and Cook — Searching for recipes is not just limited to Sunday mornings, I have to admit…

    Thank you, dear Mardi! I’m so thankful this blog has introduced me to friends like you!

    Lynde — Your version of the rice dish sounds delicious. Beware of the cascading lentils! :)

  10. Bill Facker Says:
    January 17th, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Ann, I have certainly been enjoying your writings since finding you. Thank you for being one of the special few who continue to “sit at the keys” and share yourself with others. Congratulations on your 500th blog .. certainly a great accomplishment! Aloha from beautiful Kauai

  11. Jill C (MadAboutMacarons) Says:
    January 17th, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    500 Posts? Bravo, Ann, on the blog, your books and cheers with this lovely warming soup – I love lentils and so this is the perfect bowl. Glad to hear you’re staying cosy!

  12. CK Says:
    January 18th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    When I used this Epicurious recipe, I was surprised about how long it asked to cook the onions. In the end I added a few minutes just to make sure they were adequately golden. Positive results. Thanks for this — and great pictures!

  13. Sandy Maberly Says:
    January 20th, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Hmmmm, sounds easy and delicious. Will have to wait for another day as I just made a big pot of beef stew on the cold, rainy Welsh day. Many congrats on your 500th post!

  14. Emma Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    How did I miss this?! I’ve always wanted to try Mulligatawny soup (Seinfeld!). It looks amazing and I’d totally add the coconut milk.

    Must try to make this when it’s winter here.

    Hope things are going well and you’re not too cold.

  15. Yetty Says:
    January 27th, 2014 at 3:55 am

    Dear Ann,

    I made it tonight. Delicious with plenty of leftover for next week when the polar vortex revisits New York City. I chose to leave it half chunky and half creamy for another night as a first course. I did put the reduced fat coconut milk and it does improve the flavor but yes, it is optional as it is already a full flavored soup. By the way, Trader’s Joe always have red lentils, packed in 1 lb. bags (to avoid spilling the loose beans). I used their brand’s reduced fat coconut milk as well.

« | Home | »