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Curried Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Mulligatawny)

Curried Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Mulligatawny)
Mulligatawny means "pepper-water," and this soup, from the Mangalore Christians of Karnataka, is traditionally spicy hot. If desired, half a duck may replace the chicken; the cooking times will be the same.

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken, about 3 lb., cut into 8 to 10
     serving pieces and skinned
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro
  • 2 black or 4 green cardamom pods, lightly
     bruised
  • 2 cassia leaves, broken into bits
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 boiling potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomato
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water,
     if needed
  • 1 cup coconut milk, light cream or milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup usli ghee or unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. ground garam masala or curry powder
     (see related recipes at left) or cumin
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 cups hot cooked long-grain white rice
     (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Place the chicken in a large, heavy pot and scatter the cilantro, cardamom and cassia leaves on top. Add 2 cups of the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, occasionally skimming off any foam that rises to the surface, until the chicken is opaque throughout and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and return the bones to the pot. Shred the meat neatly, cover and set aside.

Add the remaining 4 cups water to the cooking liquid and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and boil gently for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine-mesh sieve and return the stock to the pot. Discard the contents of the sieve.

Add 1 cup of the onion to the pot along with the carrots, potatoes and tomato and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 25 minutes.

Remove from the heat and, working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. Strain the soup, if necessary to remove lumps, and return it to the pot. It should be the consistency of a cream soup. If it is not, stir in as much of the cornstarch mixture as needed to thicken it. Heat the soup until it is piping hot. Add the coconut milk and salt. Simmer gently over very low heat while you make the garnish.

In a fry pan over medium-high heat, melt the usli ghee. Add the remaining 1 cup onion, the garlic and garam masala. Sauté, stirring, until the onion is nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season with salt and pepper. Sauté, tossing the chicken, until lightly seared and well coated with spices, about 3 minutes.

To serve, place about 2 1/2 Tbs. rice in each warmed bowl and ladle in the piping hot soup. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle with the lemon juice and almonds. Serve immediately. Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring India, by Julie Sahni (Time-Life Books, 2001).