I am no fan of winter. There’s not much to like about this season, in my opinion. Sure, the snow can be pretty but in a big city, it tends to go gray. And yes, the absence of humidity does lead to good hair days. But no one can appreciate my hair because it’s plastered to my head underneath a toque. Basically, you spend 3-4 months covered in so many layers of clothing that you’re more or less egg-shaped, which isn’t great for the ol’ self-esteem. So I do nothing more than try and survive this season. And my winter survival plan always includes having something simmering on the stove. Crafting low and slow dishes keeps me focused, cozy, and yes happy. And today’s Chicken Meatball Mulligatawny Soup is one of those dishes that so firmly put a smile on my face.
Like Kedgerdee and Pish-Pash, Mulligatawny soup belongs to Anglo-Indian cuisine, a family of dishes that were largely developed during the British Raj in India. Many of these dishes are British attempts at recreating Indian dishes. Piccalilli, for instance, is an attempt at an Indian pickle. The first dedicated Indian restaurant, the Hindoostanee Coffee House, opened in London in 1809. The dishes served at this establishment, we’re tailored to suit the British palette. These days more traditional Indian dishes are more widely served. But a few Anglo-Indian dishes have endured, like Mulligatawny soup.
The name “Mulligatawny” is the anglicized version of the Tamil words for “pepper water”. Mulligatawny soup is indeed loosely based on a Tamil dish called rasam. Emphasis on the word “loosely”. In fact, mulligatawny soup is barely faithful to itself. When I research a specific dish, I always start by looking for throughlines across multiple recipes. This is how I determine what any given dish has to have in order to earn its name. But with Mulligatawny the throughlines are hazy at best. It seems everyone has a different approach to this dish. But there are a few ingredients that are regulars.
The first ingredient is apple. This makes sense given Mulligatawny’s association with Anglo-British cuisine. Sweetness is a hallmark of all of these dishes. Next, it’s curry powder and it’s generally a Madras curry powder. A good and classic mirepoix and chicken always seem to be in the mix. And finally, some type of cream. Now, accounts differ on whether to use heavy or coconut cream but cream of some kind does appear to be a mainstay.
Now, let’s talk about the differences. All the recipes I came across, do suggest some sort of thickening agent. Some suggest a roux for this, while others employ a vegetable puree or red lentils. Many but not all of the recipes included potatoes, either golden or sweet. And a dollop of yogurt finisher? Well, that seems to be quite optional. So with the boundaries hazy, I simply put together the Mulligatawny I wanted to see in the world. So let’s get to it.
Let’s start by talking about the least traditional component of my Chicken Meatball Mulligatawny Soup – the meatballs. I like to add meatballs to soups and stews because, like soups and stews, meatballs are fantastic vehicles for herbs and spices. I think of them as flavor bombs. So why wouldn’t you want to add delicious orbs of flavor to a sea of flavorful soup? It just seems like a no-brainer. Plus, what’s cozier than a batch of meatballs or a pot of soup? A batch of meatballs swimming in a pot of soup.
Next, let’s talk about putting this soup together. Most delicious soups start with some fat in the pot. This could be oil, butter, or animal fat. Since I had meatballs to brown, they supplied the fat to get the mirepoix going. From there I actually removed the mirepoix and built a roux prior to deglazing the pot. You don’t have to make a roux. I will be adding red lentils to thicken the soup a little later on as well. I opted to use both a roux and lentils because I wanted a thick, stick-to-your-bones dish. But if you prefer a more slurp-able soup, skip the roux and move on to the next step.
From this point on, this Chicken Meatball Mulligatawny Soup is more or less a dump and simmer situation. Add your spices, your stock, veggies, apple, raisins, lentils, and let ‘er rip. Leave the soup to simmer for one hour and then add your meatballs to the pot and a can of coconut milk. Yes, I went with coconut milk, but if you’re more of a cream person, you could add that instead. But if you are using cream, add it after you’ve simmered your meatballs for ten minutes, just prior to serving.
Now, you probably noticed I mentioned raisins. There are golden raisins in this soup, which might not sound appetizing but I urge you to give it a try. I don’t like raisins. I think they are downright offensive in cookies. But I do love raisins in curries, stews, and soups. They plump right up and that chew I don’t particularly like disappears. But the raisins do retain their deep sweetness, which plays so nicely with cumin and other heady, earthy flavors.
So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about this Chicken Meatball Mulligatawny Soup. This is a bowl of comfort and a worthy use of your winter simmering time if there ever was one. Stay warm everyone.
Chicken Meatball Mulligatawny Soup
- 1 heavy bottom pot
- 1 skillet
- ½ tsp whole cumin seeds
- ½ tsp whole fennel seeds
- 454g (1lb) ground chicken
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup cooked brown basmati rice
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
- 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder **
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp neutral oil I used canola
- 1 batch Chicken Meatballs see above
- 3 shallots sliced into half-moons
- 3 medium-sized carrots peeled and chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 6 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1 (540 ml, 19 fl oz) can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1 Granny smith apple peeled and diced
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ½ cup red lentils
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (400ml, 13.5 fl oz) can full-fat coconut milk
- pomegranate arils
- mint leaves
- fresh cilantro
- cucumber slices
For the Meatballs
- Pour the cumin and fennel seeds into a dry skillet and toast over medium heat until fragrant, shaking the pan frequently. Set them aside.½ tsp whole cumin seeds, ½ tsp whole fennel seeds
- In a large bowl place the chicken, the toasted spices, and the remaining ingredients. With clean hands, mix until a cohesive mixture forms. Using a tablespoon as a guide, divide and roll the mixture into meatballs. Cover and chill until ready to cook. ***454g (1lb) ground chicken, 1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp fresh ginger, 1 large egg, 1 cup cooked brown basmati rice, ¼ cup fresh cilantro, 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder **, 1 tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp ground coriander, ½ tsp ground cardamom, ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
For the Mulligatawny Soup
- Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs and brown them on all sides before transferring them to a plate and setting them aside.2 tbsp neutral oil, 1 batch Chicken Meatballs
- Add the shallots, carrots, and celery to the pot along with a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until slightly softened. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about a minute more. Transfer the veg from the pot to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Set it aside.3 shallots, 3 medium-sized carrots, 2 stalks celery, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp fresh ginger
- Melt the butter in the pot and whisk in the flour to form a roux. Add the tomato paste, curry powder, and turmeric, and sauté for 30 seconds more. Slowly whisk in the stock.2 tbsp unsalted butter, 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp curry powder, ½ tsp turmeric, 6 cups low sodium chicken stock
- Return the vegetables to the pot and add the chickpeas, apple, raisin, lentils, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let cook for one hour or until the apple is very soft and the soup has thickened. Taste and season accordingly with salt.1 (540 ml, 19 fl oz) can chickpeas, 1 Granny smith apple, ½ cup golden raisins, ½ cup red lentils, 2 bay leaves
- Add the meatballs and the coconut milk to the soup and simmer for 10 minutes more. Spoon the soup into bowls and top with yogurt, pomegranate arils, cucumber, mint, and cilantro. Serve immediately.1 (400ml, 13.5 fl oz) can full-fat coconut milk, yogurt, pomegranate arils, mint leaves, fresh cilantro, cucumber slices