The Little Bubble that Burst
(Indian Savouries and Mulligatawny Soup)
Delhi, January 1974
This is my second visit to India: this time I’m on my way back to New Zealand after a year in France; last year I was on my way there. We’ve seen quite a few interesting things, done a bit of sight-seeing, and sampled numerous delicious treats (see the earlier blog entries “The Taj and the Raj: Not Much Chop?” and “The Silver-Leaf Pullao”).
Today we’re gonna try something a bit different! Not out of town, no: we’ve had our train trip to the foothills of the Himalayas (“Bread and Butter and Sapodillas: The Dehradun Train”)
It isn’t far! Raju’s sure he knows where the best one is…
… Later the same day
Somewhere in a sufficiently obscure but quite respectable-looking part of New Delhi.
I’m silently thanking whatever gods there be that, remembering that previous trip in a very draughty tonga when I was wearing a flimsy dress, I’m in my warm black jersey-knit slacks.—The latest. Straight legs, not flares! A very good price from Les galleries Lafayette in Paris.—Raju’s looking round eagerly. This is it!
We approach a little wheeled cart, of the sort that you see street vendors using all over Delhi. Most selling paan or ice creams.
No. This is different, see?
Cripes! I do see. The man’s very pleased to have customers. He’s got a big container of, um, something, and a bowl of … potato salad?? And a pile of little, airy, brownish-yellowy bubbles! About the size of golf balls.
Raju demonstrates, what time the seller looks on smugly. This ignorant feringhi tries not to goggle too much.
You take a little bubble, make a tiny hole in it with your thumbnail, and insert a small piece of the potato mixture. Then you quickly dip it into the big container, it fills with a translucent light brown liquid, and you pop the result into your mouth—quick!
He fills one for me and I pop it into into my mouth—quick!
If ambrosia was savoury, this would be it!
They’re both beaming at me, whilst looking smug at the same time.
“Wonderful,” I say dazedly.
And so it is. You bite into it, and the crisp little bubble goes crunch! And then your mouth fills with the cool, savoury liquid in combination with mild potato curry and the last crisp crunch as you swallow. It’s only a bare mouthful, it takes longer to describe it than it does to eat it. Although the liquid is cold, it tastes like a delicate curry. I can discern cumin seed, but it’s more complex than that. Onion, I think… The whole thing’s vegetarian, of course, Raju doesn’t eat meat. We each have a couple more…
He does tell me the name for the incredible little savoury bubbles, but my Anglo-Saxon head doesn’t take it in.
I ate and drank some fabulous things in India, not excluding my first tastes of barfis, naan lightly sprinkled with nigella seeds, pakoras, paan, sugarcane juice, pomegranates and of course sapodillas, but those glorious little savoury bubbles were the zenith of the gastronomic delights I experienced. Halfway between a drink and a nibble, and more than halfway to Paradise!
I eventually found the basic recipe for the savoury liquid in one of my Indian cookbooks. The book dates back to the time we were in India but I acquired it some time afterwards, and didn’t realise what the recipe was for years. Here it is:
Cumin Appetiser (Jira Pani)
An appetiser from ancient times which has digestive properties and is often served with meals on festive occasions. It may be served with gol gappas.
2 tablespoons cumin powder; 4 tablespoons tamarind pulp;
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped;
1 teaspoon dried mint or a few fresh leaves;
2 pints (1140 ml) water; 4 tablespoons lemon juice;
1 teaspoon paprika; 1/2 teaspoon garam masala;
1 tablespoon sugar; 3 teaspoons salt
Soak the tamarind in a pint (570 ml) of water overnight. Pound and strain off the juice.
Add a further pint of water. Grind the rest of the [dry] ingredients and add to the tamarind water.
Add lemon juice and ice to chill. Stir well before serving.
(Jack Santa Maria. Indian Vegetarian Cookery. London, Rider, 1973)
The little crisp balls are the “gol gappas”, or “golgappas,” as the Uttar Pradesh version of their name is more commonly transcribed. It is theoretically possible to make them yourself, but in India you generally buy them as a snack, as we did, forty years ago: the making of them is considered a professional task and the skills are handed down within families. There are plenty of videos online by keen home cooks demonstrating the art, but the results are all pretty tragic, not at all professional!
Another example of the Indian savoury liquids, this one served hot, is “pepperwater”:
Pepperwater is a digestive, often served after the meal.
1 teaspoon black peppercorns; 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp;
4 cloves garlic; 1/2 onion, finely chopped;
1 dessertspoon coriander leaves, finely chopped;
1 pint (570 ml) water; 1 teaspoon cumin seeds;
1 teaspoon mustard seeds; 1 tablespoon ghee;
1 teaspoon salt
Soak the tamarind in half a cup of hot water and extract the juice. Grind the peppercorns, cumin and garlic and mix with the tamarind juice. Add water, coriander leaves and salt.
Heat ghee in a pan and fry the mustard seeds and onion till the onion turns golden. Add the pepperwater mixture and simmer for a few minutes. Serve hot.
(Jack Santa Maria. Indian Vegetarian Cookery. London, Rider, 1973)
Tamarind: The Flavour of India
The use of tamarind in these recipes gives them a distinctive flavour which cannot be obtained by substituting any other ingredient. It’s quite easy to use, once you’ve managed to source some, but you have to prepare it the day before you want to use it.
“Of all the fruit trees in the tropics the Tamarind fruit tree is the most widely distributed and appreciated as an ornamental. The sour and fruity taste merges well with the heat of chillies. It gives many South Indian dishes their hot and sour character and their dark colour. In India the tamarind is mostly combined with meat or legumes e.g. lentils, chickpeas or beans. The pulp is sold dry and must be soaked before usage. Only the water is then added to the food. Alternatively tamarind extract may be used with the same effect. The tamarind is a slow growing but long lived tree reaching up to 30 meters. It is highly wind resistant with strong graceful branches with rough fissured bark. The fruits look like beans and are borne in great abundance along the new branches. They range from 5-20cm in length and can be from 2-3cm in diameter.” (Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery) http://www.daleysfruit.com.au/
The usual way to buy tamarind is as a block: the contents of the bean pod have been dried, as Daley’s says, but the result is slightly tacky rather than “dry”. Put it in a measuring jug or basin, pour as much boiling water over it as your recipe suggests you need (it should be well covered, at least to a depth of about 2 cm.), and leave overnight. When ready to use it next day, stir it up well, making sure you detach the pulp from the seeds and amalgamate it with the water, then strain to use.
The Road to Mulligatawny
These thin, savoury liquids which bear some resemblance to a thin soup but which to Western tastebuds seem to fall halfway between a soup and a drink are quite common throughout India. They formed the inspiration for the concoction which the British Raj called “mulligatawny soup” (variously spelled) and which became a staple item on Victorian dinner tables and then on British hotel menus until well into the 20th century.
Soups as we know them in Western cookery are not really native to Indian cuisine; Dharam Jit Singh notes in his chapter on "Stocks, Sauces and Binding Agents, Soups”: “Soups have never played a large part in Indian cuisine. The menu does not seem to need them. ... The few Indian soups are interesting and very good.” He gives four recipes in the subsection “Soups” but only three are for soups, and of them two look as if they were heavily influenced by European cuisine. The fourth in this section is another example of a savoury drink, “Kanji (Carrot and Mustard Seed Punch)”. (Dharam Jit Singh. Classic Cooking from India. London, Arco, 1958. Originally published: Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1956.)
From The Raj: Meaty Mulligatawny, A Story Of Bowdlerisation
I’d worked out the origin of mulligatawny soup for myself years ago. I only recently read Wikipedia’s article on it—well, it is only recent, isn’t it? It’s not bad, but it is a wee bit shaky. It is correct in noting: “Recipes for mulligatawny varied greatly over the years, and there is no single original version. Later versions included British modifications that included meat…” However, that last sentence contradicts itself, continuing: “though the local Madras recipe on which it was based did not.” The reference cited does not actually claim that the English version is based on a Madras recipe.
In fact this whole section is a bit wobbly: the citation given, though it is the right book, has copied a mistake in the title from its online source:
“2. ‘Wyvern’ (Kenney-Herbert, Arthur Robert 1840-1916) (1885). Culinary Jottings. A treatise in thirty chapters on reformed cookery for Anglo-Indian rites [sic], based upon modern English and continental principles with thirty menus (5 ed.). Madras: Higginbotham and Co. pp. 306-307.”
The word “rites” does not make sense in this context, and if we look at the title page closely we see that in fact the word is “Exiles”, the first letter being a capital E in a fancy pseudo-Gothic script and the second being not “r” but something like a crossed r to represent “x”. –Proves computers can’t read, eh?
The author of Culinary Jottings in fact writes: “This preparation, originally peculiar to Southern India, derives its name from two Tamil words—molegoo (pepper), and tunnee (water). In its simple form, as partaken of by the poorer natives of Madras, it is, as its name indicates, a pepper-water, or soupe maigre…” He gives a Madrassi cook’s recipe but does not claim the English version derives from it.
Etymologically the word “mulligatawny,” as it’s generally spelled nowadays, does come from Tamil: my Concise Oxford gives: “From Tamil ‘milagu-tannir’, pepper-water”; the Wikipedia article uses a modern transcription of the Tamil but essentially the same derivation.
If we can’t identify a direct ancestor of any mulligatawny soup recipe, nevertheless it's clear that the soup is a descendant of these Indian savoury liquids.
The English version of the soup, with meat or a meat stock, has been in existence at least since the early 19th century:
1817-1827: Meaty With A Chance of Cream & Curry Powder
Curry, or Mullaga-Tawny* Soup
Cut 4 lbs of a Breast of Veal into pieces, about two inches by one; put the trimmings into a stewpan with two quarts of water, with twelve corns of Black Pepper, and the same of Allspice; when it boils, skim it clean, and let it boil an hour and a half, then strain it off;—while it is boiling, fry of a nice brown in butter the bits of Veal and four Onions; when they are done put the Broth to them, put it on the fire; when it boils, skim it clean,—let it simmer half an hour, then mix two spoonfuls of Curry and the same of Flour, with a little cold water and a tea-spoonful of salt; add these to the soup, and simmer it gently till the Veal is quite tender, and it is ready;—or bone a couple of Fowls or Rabbits, and stew them in the manner directed above for the veal,—and you may put in a bruised Eshallot, and some Mace and Ginger, instead of Black Pepper and Allspice.
*Mullaga-Tawny signifies Pepper Water. The progress of inexperienced peripatetic Palaticians has lately been arrested by this outlandish word being pasted on the windows of our Coffee-Houses; it has, we believe, answered the “Restaurateurs’” purpose, and often excited JOHN BULL to walk in and taste—the more familiar name of Curry Soup—would, perhaps, not have had sufficient of the charms of novelty to seduce him from his much-loved MOCK-TURTLE.
It is a fashionable Soup, and a great favourite with our East Indian friends, and we give the best receipt we could procure for it.
(William Kitchiner (1775?-1827). The Cook’s Oracle: Containing Practical Receipts for Plain Cookery on the Most Economical Plan for Private Families ... New ed. London, Simpkin & Marshall, 1827. (First published 1817, as Apicius Redivivus, or, The Cook's Oracle.))
1861: The Horse’s Mouth: Strictly Non-Vegetarian
Mrs Beeton’s monumental work did a great deal to standardise English cuisine, and was the inspiration for generations of cooks and cookery writers after her. It’s a pity her myriads of plagiarists didn’t follow her instructions for mulligatawny soup more closely.
Instead of flour, she uses an older method of thickening the soup: ground almonds. It’s a very meaty soup, like the 1827 recipe; and even her vegetable version needs a good strong meat stock.
It’s interesting that whereas the earlier version used real spices as well as the curry powder, hers doesn’t. As the century progressed, the recipes of the British Raj bore less and less resemblance to their Indian ancestors.
174. INGREDIENTS.—2 tablespoonfuls of curry powder, 6 onions, 1 clove of garlic, 1 oz. of pounded almonds, a little lemon-pickle, or mango-juice, to taste; 1 fowl or rabbit, 4 slices of lean bacon; 2 quarts of medium stock, or, if wanted very good, best stock.
Mode.—Slice and fry the onions of a nice colour; line the stewpan with the bacon; cut up the rabbit or fowl into small joints, and slightly brown them; put in the fried onions, the garlic, and stock, and simmer gently till the meat is tender; skim very carefully, and when the meat is done, rub the curry powder to a smooth batter; add it to the soup with the almonds, which must be first pounded with a little of the stock. Put in seasoning and lemon-pickle or mango-juice to taste, and serve boiled rice with it.
Time.—2 hours. Average cost, 1s. 6d. per quart, with stock No. 105.
Seasonable in winter. Sufficient for 8 persons.
Note.—This soup can also be made with breast of veal, or calf's head.
Vegetable Mullagatawny is made with veal stock, by boiling and pulping chopped vegetable marrow, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes, and seasoning with curry powder and cayenne. Nice pieces of meat, good curry powder, and strong stock, are necessary to make this soup good.
(Isabella Beeton. The Book of Household Management. [London], S.O. Beeton, 1861.)
1885-1886: Crossing the Atlantic: Hands Across the Sea with Mulligatawny
If you appreciate Indian food your hair will probably stand on end, as mine did, when you read “Wyvern” on how to make a proper “mulligatunny” in Culinary Jottings (op. cit.) He tells the story of a friend who had an argument with an old uncle over it, the friend winning, after inviting the old man to dinner and presenting him with his version. This story is told in 1885, so it’s fair to say that by this time the recipe was thoroughly Victorianised. It’s based on a good veal stock, with fried onions, “Barrie’s Madras mulligatunny paste”, a little Madras chutney, and, like Mrs Beeton’s version, almond milk from pounded almonds, the lot strained and then thickened with butter and flour. The finishing touch is “a coffee-cupful of the best cream I could get.” Ulp.
Leave out the Madras bits and you have a pretty standard English “white soup” of the sort of which Jane Austen wrote!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Mrs Rorer was giving the lady cooks of Philadelphia a simpler version.
I was astounded to discover that this recipe from the British Raj had reached America. True, American cookery of this period was very largely inherited from the British, but curried soup is just so weird! Finding this recipe in fact set me off on the trail of mulligatawny, though I had already collected half a dozen versions of it. If you like your chicken soup flavoured with curry and a little lemon, I’d say it’s probably the least objectionable of the great variety of recipes for Mullaga-Tawny, Mullagatawny, Mulligatunny, Mulligatawney et al.
I found the recipe in a newly-acquired cookbook that’s been giving me a great deal of pleasure: it’s very well researched, beautifully laid out and printed, and has a good index and an excellent and accurate bibliography:
Yvonne Schofer (ed.). A Literary Feast: Recipes and Writings By American Women Authors From History. Madison, Wis., Jones Books, ©2003.
The recipes, mostly 19th-century, and fascinating in themselves, are accompanied by excerpts from women writers’ works—many novels but also other works—which illuminate the everyday lives of the women who both wrote and used these recipes. If you were ever baffled by some of the culinary references in Anne of Green Gables or the works of Louisa May Alcott, this is the book for you!
The recipes all have a list of ingredients in a standardised format provided by the editor and her assistants, plus the original wording of the instructions.
1 chicken; 3 small onions; 1 tablespoon butter;
1 tablespoon curry powder; salt to taste; 4 cloves;
juice of half a lemon; 2 quarts cold water
Cut the chicken up as for a fricassee; cut the onions into slices. Put the butter in a frying pan, add the chicken and onions, and stir until a nice brown; now add the curry powder, salt, cloves and lemon juice; mix well. Put into the soup kettle with the water, bring slowly to a boil, skim and simmer gently for two hours. Serve with boiled rice in a separate dish. Three rabbits may be used instead of the chicken if preferred.
(Sarah Tyson Rorer (1849-1937). Mrs Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book: A Manual of Home Economics. Philadelphia, Arnold, 1886)
1891: Vegetarianism and the Apple Perversion
You will find English “curry” recipes from the later 19th century through to well into the second half of the 20th century perverted—there’s no other word for it—by the addition of apples. WHY? Well, possibly this recipe for a curried onion and carrot soup explains it—or… Maybe because of the habit developed by Anglo-Indian exiles who had returned to the mother country of substituting apples, the tarter the better, for green mangoes in a chutney?
Take four large onions, cut them up and fry them brown, with a little butter, in a frying-pan, with a carrot cut up into small pieces; add to this a quart of stock or water, and boil till the vegetables and onions are tender; then rub the whole through a wire sieve and add a brimming teaspoonful of Captain White’s Curry Paste and a dessertspoonful of curry powder, previously mixed smooth in a little cold water; thicken the soup with a little brown roux. Some persons would consider this soup too hot; if so, less curry powder can be used or more water added. If you have no curry paste, cut up a sour apple and add it to the vegetables in the frying-pan. If you have no sour apples, a few green gooseberries are a very good substitute.
Boiled rice should be served on a separate dish with this soup, and should not be boiled in the soup at starting.
(A.G. (Arthur Gay) Payne (1840-1894). Cassell’s Vegetarian Cookery: A Manual of Cheap and Wholesome Diet. London, Cassell, 1891)
The addition of boiled rice was a bone of contention with Anglophone mulligatawny makers almost from the beginning. Some argued for serving it with, some put it in, and others were against it altogether.
1894: Mrs Wicken: Colonial Tastes, Colonial Pockets
This Australian recipe is very like the American one of 1886: much simpler and less rich than the English or Anglo-Indian versions.
2 quarts Stock; 1 Apple, 1 Onion, 1 Carrot—1d.
1/2 oz. Curry Powder, 1 oz. Flour—1d.; 1 oz. Butter—1d.
Total Cost—3d. Time—One Hour
The liquor in which poultry or a rabbit has been boiled is the best for this soup. Slice up the apple, onion, and carrot, and fry them in the butter; sprinkle over the curry powder and flour and brown that too; pour over the boiling stock and stir until it boils up, simmer gently for one hour, then rub through a sieve and return to the saucepan. Bring to the boil, flavour with salt and lemon juice. Pour into a warm tureen and serve. Send well-boiled rice to the table with this soup.
(Philip E. Muskett and Mrs H. Wicken. The Art of Living in Australia, by Philip E. Muskett; Together With Three Hundred Australian Cookery Recipes and Accessory Kitchen Information by Mrs. H. Wicken. London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, )
There go those apples!
It’s a very cheap recipe; others in this book might cost as much as a shilling or even more. As you can see, Mrs Wicken doesn’t cost the stock: it would have been a leftover. The meat itself would be served as a main course. In both Australia and New Zealand the introduced English rabbits very quickly became pests, and were regularly killed and eaten: it would very likely have been a rabbit or two used for the stock in the poorer households. (See the earlier blog article, “The Rabbit It Was That Died”)
However, at this period chickens were generally boiled, not roasted, by most households, so sometimes chicken stock would have been available even to those who were not well off. This would have been so right up until frozen chicken came in, in the second half of the 20th century, and the meat became readily available. According to an elderly Australian friend who grew up in the 1930s, most people had chooks in their back yards, but these were kept for eggs, not for roasting: when you ate them they’d stopped laying and were so old and tough that they had to be boiled.
As for the dreaded apple: it’s about to become a standard in the curried dishes of the former British colonies.
1917: American Mulligatawny Again: From the Missions to India
The Khaki Kook Book, published in 1917, is a collection of mostly Indian and Anglo-Indian recipes collected by a retired American missionary during the 19th century. It was actually begun around 1896 but had to be shelved for several years.
This recipe is not given as Indian one, but in the section “Savory Dishes from Other Countries”, so presumably the author thought of it—quite correctly!—as English.
As if the soup wasn’t weird and wonderful enough, she thickens it with peanut butter! Nut meal is of course a traditional thickener, dating from the Middle Ages in Europe, and nuts are still used this way in Spain today. Almonds have also long been used in some dishes in India, but the peanut butter is a unique American touch.
Peanut butter was first patented in the 1880s, initially by a Canadian and then by an American. “By … 1916, many methods of preparation of peanut butter had been developed or patented by various pharmacists, doctors and food scientists working in the US and Canada.” (“Peanut butter”, Wikipedia)
This is a very famous soup which has been associated with India since the beginning of the English regime. In India it is usually made with chicken, but beef or mutton do very nicely.
Stew a pound of mutton. Scrappy mutton, such as neck or ribs, does very nicely. When meat is tender remove from soup.
Fry an onion with a teaspoonful of curry powder. When nicely browned stir into it a tablespoonful of peanut butter; also about a half cup of fresh cocoanut. Mix these up together to a smooth paste and add to the mutton broth. Also pick the mutton from the bones and add to the soup. If the peanut butter does not thicken it sufficiently, thicken with a little flour. Serve with rice. Sometimes the rice is boiled with the mutton, but usually it is boiled separately (No. 52). Lemon juice is usually served with this soup.
(Mary Kennedy Core. The Khaki Kook Book: A Collection of a Hundred Cheap and Practical Recipes Mostly from Hindustan. [New York], Abingdon Press, )
Later 20th Century: Posh Nosh or Last Gasps?
By the early 20th century mulligatawny soup had become established as an English classic—Establishment, in fact. Expectably, it turns up in the très posh Répertoire de la cuisine, which is not French, in spite of its title, but English, providing about 7,000 (seven thousand) recipes “with which every skilled cook should be familiar” (p.vi). Given it's a very small book—each recipe runs to only a few lines—you would have to be skilled, indeed, to cook from them. It’s more an aide-mémoire for chefs than a recipe book. Innumerable editions of this work by Louis Saulnier were published in England during the 20th century. The earliest with Saulnier's name on it that I could trace is the one by Thomas Gringoire and Saulnier, 1914.
There is no date on my copy, but I think it dates from the 1960s (the publishers, purveyors of fancy cookware to the trade, seem to have been responsible for it during the early Sixties). Here’s the recipe:
Chopped onions and apples fried in butter with curry flour and tomato puree, moistened with chicken consommé, cream, garnished with dice of chicken and rice. (Indian)
(Louis Saulnier. Le répertoire de la cuisine. Standard ed. London, Leon Jaggi & Sons, [1960?])
Thick and creamy, yes. About as far as you can get from the original Indian “pepper water”. And very posh: the book’s title page reads: “translated from the original French edition by E. Brunet (chef to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe)”. Cor. Apples an’ all, too: stone the crows, guv!
In the far-flung former colonies less classic versions, also by now standardised, were still being published well into the 1950s, though goodness knows if any home cooks were actually using them! This one, from the New Zealand cook’s bible, the Edmonds Cookery Book, was still current in 1958; my edition reprinted it in 1968, by which time I’d take an oath no-one so much as looked at it. For one thing, it tells you to use “2 pints stock”. By this time stock came in little dice-sized, paper-wrapped cubes, not as a liquid simmering on the back of the stove.
1 Onion; 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice;
1 Apple; 1 teaspoon Sugar;
1 1/2 ozs. Butter or Dripping; Salt to taste;
1 dessertspoon Curry Powder; 2 ozs. Rice;
1 dessertspoon Chutney
Chop onion and apple finely; fry in butter or dripping until nicely browned; add curry powder, chutney and flour; mix well together, then add stock gradually, stirring well. Add remainder of ingredients. Stir till it boils. Simmer 20 minutes.
(Edmonds Cookery Book. De luxe ed., [Christchurch, N.Z.], T.J. Edmonds Ltd., 1955 (1968 printing) (First published as The Sure to Rise Cookery Book, 1908))
As you can see, it’s remarkably like Mrs Wicken’s Australian version of 1894. Colonial life was a lot harder than that led by the Duchess of Roxburghe. But, high or low, those blasted English apples just had to be in there!
By the 1970s, when Jane Grigson published her versions in English Food (1974, 1978) and Food With the Famous (1979) the soup was probably at its last gasp. Well, maybe not in the super-posh Pommy restaurants of London—who knows?
Both of these recipes include all of the meat in the soup, clear or not. The English Food recipe is distinctly odd, with its preliminary scorched mixture of what presumably was some sort of cottage cheese, or yoghurt. I don’t know about the cheese, but I can promise you that if you cook yoghurt like this you’ll end up with a collection of tiny cheesy lumps in your soup. Personally I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole or any other kind of pole.
The “clear” soup in Food with the Famous, which Mrs Grigson awards gratuitously to Lord and Lady Shaftesbury, is an adaptation, as she implies, of Kitchiner’s recipe in The Cook’s Oracle—she had access to the 1817 edition, possibly one of the perks of being married to an Oxford graduate whose career, besides being a poet and art critic, included jobs as literary editor of a London daily and BBC producer. (If the expression “jobs for the boys” comes irresistibly to your mind at this point, I have to say you’re not the only one.) I wouldn’t say she’s improved upon Kitchiner’s version. And that “crush them down with a wooden spoon” business with the cloves is really odd. Spicy food, of whatever origin, was not really Jane Grigson’s thing—any more than it was that of English cookery in general.
In short, folks, let’s just bury very English mulligatawny with the British Raj!
Edible Curry Soup? Edible Curry Soup!!
Here’s Jack Santa Maria’s vegetarian version of an Indian Mulligatawny Soup. He writes: “This South Indian soup was originally used as a cure for indigestion and was known as ‘pepperwater’ in Tamil. Like the recipe for Pepperwater (Rasam), it was made from peppercorns boiled in water with tamarind. In the course of time, stock and other ingredients have come to be added and garam masala is frequently used instead of pepper.”
1 cup red lentils (masur dal); 1 tablespoon garam masala;
2 onions, finely sliced; 1 clove garlic, finely chopped;
2 pints vegetable stock; 1/2 cup coconut milk (optional);
bay leaf; 2 tablespoons ghee; 1 teaspoon salt
Wash the lentils and leave to soak for a few hours. Drain and boil in a pint (570 ml) of water with a sliced onion and some bay leaves till soft.
Heat ghee and fry the garlic and rest of the onion till golden. Add the garam masala and fry for a few minutes. Add to the dal with stock and salt. Bring to the boil and add coconut milk [if liked]. Serve hot with lemon and a little boiled rice.
(1) A simple garam masala may be made by grinding 1/2 cup green cardamom seeds, 1 cup cumin seeds, 1/3 cup cloves. Mix together and store in an airtight jar.
(2) Grind together 3 parts cardamom seeds, 3 parts cinnamon, 1 part cloves, 1 part cumin seed
(3) Grind together 4 parts black peppercorns, 4 parts coriander seed, 3 parts cumin seed or fennel seed, 1 part cloves, 1 part cardamom seed, 1 part cinnamon.
(Jack Santa Maria. Indian Vegetarian Cookery. London, Rider, 1973)
Try it. It leaves the efforts of the Raj as dead as those who came up with them.