I love the savoury, rich flavours of Indian cuisine. Admittedly, however, the repertoire of Indian cuisine that I can handle is limited by the fact that I am simply no good with spice. When I was growing up, I thought black pepper was spicy. And it turns out, at least in my case, that if you don’t get used to spicy food as a kid, you cannot really fix that as an adult. (Trust me, I’ve tried – but both my Korean mother-in-law and I have seen me suffer through enough of her spicy cooking to accept that this particular change is not going to happen.)
So, no vindaloo for me. True connoisseurs of Indian cuisine will no doubt say that I am missing the essence of the culture by not eating the hot stuff. They may well be right. But no matter. There are plenty of non-spicy Indian specialties that my palate can handle, and that I enjoy immensely. One of my most favourite among them is mulligatawny soup.
If you look up recipes for this soup on the internet, you will quickly see that there are many versions of it, and that the list of ingredients can vary widely. I tried many variations of this soup before hitting on the one below, which originated as a recipe from my aunt (thanks Else!), to which I made a few modifications to include ingredients like lentils and lemon and coconut milk to give it that rich savouriness that I love. And (bonus!) it takes only about half an hour to prepare. Thus, a treat of more than one kind.
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- ¼ cup butter / olive oil or combination of both
- 1 teaspoon curry powder (or more if you can handle it)
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1½ tsp garam masala (you can buy this in the spice aisle at your grocery store)
- 1½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups dried red lentils
- salt to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- Saute onions, celery, carrot, garlic and butter/oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until vegetables are softened. Add all spices and cook 2 more minutes.
- Add lentils, stirring to coat. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer about 20 minutes (until lentils are soft).
- Add coconut milk and lemon juice. Cook just long enough to heat through.
- Serve and enjoy!