“He’s not a Nazi. He just happens to be a little eccentric. Most geniuses are.”
– Kramer, in “The Soup Nazi”
One of my favorite childhood books was the story of Stone Soup. In the story a group of hungry travelers arrive in a town with nothing but an empty pot. They ask some locals if they can spare any food but are denied. So one of the travelers goes to the river and fills the pot with water and drops a large stone inside. A curious villager walks up and asks what’s cooking? We’re making stone soup, says the traveler, it’s delicious, buts needs a few garnishes to make it even better…the local runs and gets some carrots. Another person walks by and adds more ingredients, and so on and so on, until the soup is complete and the whole town enjoys the soup. It’s a basic lesson in sharing, community and eating well. Whenever someone asks what is my favorite thing to cook, without a doubt my answer is soup. For me making soup is a break from the crazy everyday world. From roasting bones for a hearty stock (when I have time) to getting lost in thought while chopping vegetables, keeping a steady simmer careful not to boil, to skimming the skum that rises to the top of the pot, soup is therapy. Soup is delicious.
Last week in class our focus was hearty fall soups. Of the six we prepared all of them were delicious. Keeping in mind that recipes are guidelines, and not set in stone, it’s the little things that can make an average recipe great. Things like being consistent in your knife cuts, the right amounts of seasoning, always tasting your food, and so on, are the things that can instantly make you a better cook. Of the six recipes one of them in my mind stood out the most; the Mulligatawny!
Mulligatawny is an Indian influenced stew, usually with a curried flavor base, and a lot of times made with chicken, and usually lentils. The following recipe is from an East coast staple called Daily Soup. They have numerous locations in New Jersey and New York, so if you’re ever on that side of the country I highly recommend stopping by. This version happens to be vegetarian, with several types of curry for a deep levels of flavor, smoothed out with a touch of coconut milk and lemon, on a chilly fall day, it can’t be beat.
Mulligatawny with Lentils
1 TB ginger, fresh, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TB vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup whole mustard seeds
1 TB Garam Masala curry powder
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes
6 cups of stock, vegetable or chicken
1 lb brown lentils
1cup coconut milk
1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed, chopped
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB sugar
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh, chopped
1. Purée the ginger and garlic together in a blender or food processor.
2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger purse and sweat for four minutes until tender and golden.
3. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop.
4. Add in the garam masala, curry powder, salt, cardamom, and cayenne and stir to coat the vegetables.
5. Add the tomatoes and simmer for five minutes.
6. Add the stock and lentils and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for thirty minutes until the lentils are tender but not mushy.
7. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for two minutes.
8. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach, lemon juice, and sugar.
9. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with chopped cilantro.
Makes 12 cups. Courtesy of Daily Soup