Here in Brooklyn we are in the middle of Summer. Most people are gobbling up salads and fruit like it’s their job. But what am I craving right now? Indian food! I know, I know, kinda crazy, right? My acupuncturist says I’m craving the spices in Indian food, and that it’s a good thing to want to self-medicate with food, so just go for it. So here I am. I dug out an old cookbook, Indian Vegetarian Cooking from an American Kitchen, and found a recipe for Mulligatawny Soup. I had everything I needed already in the kitchen, so that was a plus. I tweaked it a bit (of course, though now I can’t vouch for it’s authenticity) and added some ghee and mustard seed toasted croutons.
The croutons really take the soup to another realm of goodness, but if for some reason you aren’t eating bread, I found that toasted slivered almonds are ok too. However, if you just don’t have any stale bread laying around and still want the crouton experience, just slide some bread slices on a baking sheet and into the oven for a few minutes to dry out. Also, for vegans, I suggest using coconut oil for the ghee in this recipe.
Speaking of ghee, it was not in the original recipe, but I love cooking with it so much that I added it. Ghee, or browned, clarified butter, is used in Indian food quite a bit. I love the subtle yet complex toasty flavor it imparts to everything you add it to. You can find it on the shelf (probably not refrigerated) at the health food store, or you can make your own. There is a great step by step tutorial, with pictures, here.
I’m sure you know that what makes Indian food sing is it’s use of spices. Indian cuisine is based on Ayurveda, an ancient medical system that’s been used in India for thousands of years. According to Ayurveda, each herb, spice and food you eat has a specific effect on your body. Some produce heat and some are cooling. Some are drying and some are moisture-giving. I’m no expert, all’s I know is that this combo of spices tastes darn good.
Mulligatawny Soup with Mustard Seed Croutons
2 T. ghee
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1 T. curry powder (if yours is extra hot, you may want to add a little at a time until it’s hot enough to your liking)
1 onion, diced
1 in knob of ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 1 c. crushed tomates from the can
1 c. yellow split peas
6 c water
Salt to taste (I used about a teaspoon)
1 c. coconut milk
For the croutons:
4-6 slices of stale whole grain bread, cut or torn into cubes
2 T. ghee
1 tsp. mustard seeds
pinch of salt
Melt the ghee over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the spices and toast for a minute, then add the onion and ginger. Cook for a few minutes, until the onion starts to get translucent, then add garlic and carrot and cook a few minutes more.
Stir in the tomatoes, split peas and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 35 minutes, until the carrots and split peas are tender.
While the soup is cooking, make the croutons. Melt the ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and a pinch of salt. Stir in the bread cubes, coating with the ghee. Let them sit, flipping a few times, until brown on a few sides, 7-9 minutes. Set aside.
When the soup is done, turn off the heat and let cool a bit. If you have an immersion blender, stick it in the pot and puree until smooth. If not, transfer to a blender or food processor in batches (remembering to vent and let the steam out) and puree. Return to the pot.
Turn the heat to low and stir in the coconut milk. Add at least a 1/2 tsp. salt, and probably more, and keep tasting and adding salt until the flavors pop.
Serve soup with croutons on top.