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Classic Cookbooks: Mulligatawny Soup

Until last week I never met a mulligatawny soup I liked. It wasn't that I hated the ones I was introduced to; it was more that they were watery, wan, and forgettable. Usually they were included as part of some deal at an Indian restaurant. I was torn between feeling sorry for mulligatawny, clinging to its place on the menu for people scared to order anything else, and vaguely disdaining it as an Anglo imposition on the Indian table.

Madhur Jaffrey's recipe intrigued me, though, because it is made with meat and thickened with chickpea flour. Mulligatawny takes so many different forms that it seems almost silly to group all these soups under one name, but most of them do seem to be chicken based and have nothing to do with chickpea flour. I had to try this version, and I'm very glad I did.

This is a thick and satisfying soup with a wonderful flavor. The best way I can think to describe it is intriguing--each spoonful was delightful in itself but also made me eager to take the next bite for another chance to try to sort out everything I was tasting. The spices are very nicely balanced, a shot of lemon juice perks everything up at the end, and cayenne pepper makes it just spicy enough (for me, at least). I did not have the white poppy seeds she calls for, which worried me since a tablespoon sounds like a lot; but she says to skip them instead of making a replacement, and in the end I didn't miss them. My only complaint is that the recipe makes only a scant four cups of soup, which was barely enough for our dinner (two people, soup and salad). I'll definitely double it next time.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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