Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Great Mulligatawny at Last

I wrote in my recent blog of October 23 about my first attempt at making a "Mulligatawny" soup. Mulligatawny is the Anglicized version of the Indian dish called "Milagu-thanni", or Pepper Water. 

Table Set for Indian Dinner
Table Set for Indian Dinner
In my first attempt, I was using a recipe in a cookbook I own, and I believe one of the ingredient amounts HAD to be a typo: it called for nearly 1/2 pound (200 grams) of besan, or chickpea flour. I actually used 50 grams less than that, and when I added it to the stock, it seized into nearly a solid mass. I added water and added water and it took forever to cook through, and stirring was an absolute necessity, as it would stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Mulligatawny Leftovers
Mulligatawny Leftovers
All this did not prevent that first try being delicious. We had our friend Rich visiting when I made it that time, and we all agreed it was downright tasty! Still, some changes were absolutely needed, both in the sequence of events in preparation and in the amounts of the individual ingredients. I added more of some, less of others, introduced a few other things and voila! this second attempt was a true "keeper" as my husband calls them. This second try was really a magnificent mix of flavors. It was still quite thick, though I reduced the besan flour by orders of magnitude (only 38 grams). Some of the recipes with photos online showed a runny soup, some showed a slightly thickened soup. Since my husband prefers thick soups anyway, this one suited him perfectly. And let me say that all of our guests on November 3rd were highly complimentary of the flavors of this soup. 
Viognier with Mulligatawny and Pinot with Biryani
Viognier with Mulligatawny and Pinot with Biryani

I am well pleased. My husband went so far as to say he "wouldn't mind" having this soup on any cool evening. This is translated as "please make it more often." No problem from me! Once I got the kinks worked out of the recipe's order of events, it is really easy - though there are quite a few steps.

My husband and I hosted an Indian dinner with two other couples this past Thursday evening, and we all had a great time. The guests brought the wines for the meal, and we found that a really lovely Viognier went splendidly with the Mulligatawny soup! The Pinot Noir shown here went exceptionally well with the rest of the meal, going so far as to seemingly "cool and soothe" the heat of the hot chutney accompaniments.

Somehow I managed to get multiple photos of all the other dishes, but only one of the Mulligatawny soup that evening! I took one more semi-decent shot of the leftover soup I ate last evening.

My Menu for our Indian Feast
My Menu for our Indian Feast
Some of the things I chose to do differently in the making of this soup were the order of cooking the chicken, the red lentils and the besan/chickpea flour. The original recipe called for cooking them all together. This resulted in losing a lot of the soup when removing the chicken wing pieces for bone removal, as much of this thick soup stuck to the wings when taking them out to cool. Another big difference was the use of chicken wings instead of pristine chicken breast to be sliced prettily for serving. I chose instead to use chicken wings firstly because anything cooked with bones will result in more flavor. Secondly, once cooked, the little bits of chicken removed from the bones were of a perfect size to not interfere with eating the soup. 

The original recipe called for removing any skin from the chicken breast to be used. This also removes most any possibility of fat floating on the soup. You might say that skinning chicken wings would be an onerous task, but truly, it took just a very few minutes to accomplish. Cut the wing segments apart and discard wingtips. Set a wing segment with the thickest skin side down. There is always a piece of the thicker skin that protrudes; hold onto this bit, and position a very sharp knife towards the wing and slide the knife away from you. The wing will roll along, leaving most of the skin behind. Easy-peasy.

Skinning Chicken Wings
Skinning Chicken Wings
I chose to cook the initial broth with the chicken wings, then remove them. Next I added the red lentils to cook through and finally the besan/chickpea flour to cook through. The whole soup (minus the chicken) is pureed smooth.  One of the ingredients in this soup is tamarind. I keep tamarind concentrate in my fridge, as I do use it now and again. I served Imli (Tamarind) Chutney with the meal also, so tamarind was used for that. If using fresh tamarind pods, or even one of those blocks of shelled tamarind all clumped together, the amounts will have to be adjusted (they will need to be soaked and sieved to remove fibers and seeds). I used 2 teaspoons of the tamarind concentrate, and it was perfect in this soup. 

How hot to make the soup is also a choice. Since I know my husband does not tolerate more than a very mildly hot spice level, and I didn't know about some of the guests' tolerance levels, I chose to make the main dishes mildly spiced, and then also provide various chutneys and "pickles" in varying heat levels from completely mild to screaming hot, so the guests could spice things to their preferences. I happened to grow cayenne chilies this past summer, and had quite a few green chilies that I'd picked before the temps started dipping too low. I added one whole cayenne chili that I only poked holes in with a knife tip. This provided a nice, mild spice to the soup; not overwhelming for anyone. If your spice tolerance is high, add in chopped whole chilies and dry powdered chili to your taste. Taste-testing this soup along the way is absolutely no hardship!

Milagu-Thanni or Mulligatawny Soup

Serves 8 to 10
Mulligatawny Soup
Mulligatawny Soup

1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken wings, skinned
2 - 3 tablespoons ghee or oil
6 - 8 cloves garlic
1 1/2 inches fresh peeled ginger
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds (may use regular cumin; taste will be different)
1 tej patta leaf
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup chickpea flour (38 g besan)
2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon fenugreek powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 1/2 to 3 teaspoons salt
1 hot green chili, holed poked in with tip of knife
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
2 teaspoons sugar 
Cilantro leaves for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Set all the skinned wing pieces on the sheet in a single layer and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly browned. 

While chicken is baking, place the ghee into a large soup pot and add the onion with a sprinkling of the total amount of salt. Cook the onion over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until well softened. Add in the ginger and garlic with the coriander and cumin seeds and continue to cook, stirring for 3 to 5 minutes more. Add the baked chicken pieces and the tej patta leaf with 8 cups of water. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove the chicken pieces from the bones. Discard any bones and dark veins or remaining skin. Set chicken aside.

Add the red lentils to the simmering broth and cook for another 25 minutes, until tender. Once the lentils are cooked through, puree the soup and return to the pot (or use a hand blender). Now whisk in the chickpea flour and continue whisking until no lumps remain. Allow the flour to cook through, stirring, for at least 10 minutes. Add in the tamarind, lime juice, turmeric, fenugreek powder, garam masala, remaining salt, whole green chili and the black pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes more. 

MAKE AHEAD: If making ahead (1 or 2 days), chill the soup at this point. 

When ready to proceed, bring the pot back to a boil, reduce heat to a bare simmer and add in the sugar and the coconut milk. Heat gently and serve.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.