May 06, 2020
The British Empire wreaked colossal havoc during its nearly 300 years of occupation in India, but a few silver linings emerged. It commissioned the planting of tea leaves in the mountains of Assam and Darjeeling, where the trendy masala chai was born. The British also embraced the cuisine with such enthusiasm that there’s now an Indian restaurant on almost every block in England.
Legend has it that one time an Englishman asked his South Indian cook to prepare a soup as a starter — and soups being unfamiliar to his Indian cuisine, the ingenious cook created the Mulligatawny (“molo tunny” in Tamil means “pepper water”) by combining rasam, a traditional peppery lentil broth with vegetables. It went on to become a popular dish among the British Raj in India, and today there are many versions of this soup, from a simple boiled chicken stock with rice and carrots to a velvety vibrant soup with vegetables, including this one.
1/2 cup toor lentils
1/2 bunch of asparagus
2 chicken legs with bone, skin removed
1 large or 2 to 3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-inch piece of ginger, cut into small chunks
1 serrano pepper whole, stalk removed (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
4 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
15 to 20 kari leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
Serves 4 to 6
Rinse the toor lentils 2 to 3 times and soak for an hour. Drain.
Cut the asparagus stalks into small pieces, reserving tips.
In a large stockpot, combine the chicken legs, drained toor lentils, half the carrot chunks, chopped ginger, serrano, asparagus stalks, turmeric, black pepper, and salt with 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, put a cover on the stockpot and let the mixture simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. The carrots should be tender and the lentils cooked through. Remove the chicken legs and let the mixture rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Purée the entire mixture and put it back into the stockpot. If the soup is too thick, add half a cup of water.
Remove the meat from the chicken and set aside. Add the remaining carrot chunks and simmer the soup, covered for another 10 to 15 minutes on low heat.
Add the chicken meat, asparagus tips, and garam masala and turn the heat off.
Heat the ghee and pop the mustard seeds and kari leaves. This takes only 2 to 3 seconds; immediately pour the hot oil into the puréed soup.
Add lemon juice and chopped cilantro and serve.
This soup can be made with many different vegetables_ potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, celery, green beans. Always purée half and add the other half of the chopped vegetables at the end.
Toor lentil, a flat yellow lentil, is particularly good with this soup and lends a remarkably velvety texture; however, other lentils also will work.
Garam masala is a blend of aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, clove and more. If not available, replace it with teaspoon of any other aromatic ground spice such as cinnamon or cardamom.
To make a meat-free version, leave the chicken out — the flavors will still be wonderful.
December 02, 2022