Classic Cookbooks: Mulligatawny Soup Recipe

Classic Cookbooks: Mulligatawny Soup Recipe

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.

  • Yield:4 as an appetizer or 2 as a light dinner


  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • A piece of fresh ginger, about 1/2 inch cube, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 pound boneless lamb (from shoulder or leg), with fat removed and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white poppy seeds, roasted and ground (do not substitute black poppy seeds for white; omit poppy seeds if necessary)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt (more if the broth is unsalted)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chickpea flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth (canned or homemade; I used vegetable broth made from bouillon powder)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons cooked rice, or 1-1 1/2 tablespoons uncooked rice (optional; I used uncooked and really liked how creamy soft it turned in the simmering)


  1. 1.

    Pat dry the pieces of lamb. Heat the oil in a 2-3 quart pot over medium flame, and then add the meat. Turn and fry until the pieces are lightly browned on all sides. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Turn the heat off.

  2. 2.

    To the same pot, add the garlic-ginger paste, the roasted and ground poppy seeds, the coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Turn the heat to medium and fry, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Turn the heat to low.

  3. 3.

    Now add the browned meat and any juices that have accumulated under it, the salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Stir and leave on low flame.

  4. 4.

    Combine chickpea flour and ¼ cup water in a bowl, mixing thoroughly until you have a smooth paste. Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring as you do so. Pour this mixture over the meat in the pot. Turn the heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Add uncooked rice if you are using it. Cover, lower heat, and simmer gently for half an hour or until meat is tender. Stir in the lemon juice.

  5. 5.

    If you are using cooked rice, add it to soup 5 minutes before serving.