Chickpeas add depth to this spicy Indian-style soup
Happy World Cabbage Day!
OK, it’s not the best-known holiday. But we’ll take any chance to celebrate. So let’s get cruciferous.
Cabbage isn’t particularly traditional in mulligatawny soup. But we’d like to change that, because cabbage and Indian spices taste like they were made for each other. Our version of M-soup is also vegan and gluten free, so it will suit almost any diet. And it’s versatile: This soup makes a spicy starter, but is hearty enough to serve as a main.
Best of all, the flavor is wonderful. Once you taste this soup, you’ll be circling World Cabbage Day on the calendar. In red.
Recipe: Vegan Mulligatawny Soup with Cabbage
Mulligatawny soup probably originated as a sauce during the era when Britain ruled India. But because the typical formal English dinner at the time started with soup (and soups are not common in Indian cuisine), the sauce was thinned out with broth and served as a starter course.
There’s no definitive recipe for mulligatawny soup. Usually it contains meat (often chicken) and lentils. But not always. Sometimes it’s enhanced with rice. But again, not always. There are thousands of recipes for this dish, all of them somewhat different.
The only rule seems to be that the soup should be spicy. The word “mulligatawny” derives from the South Indian Tamil language, and means “pepper water.” Today, most mulligatawny soups are flavored with curry.
Prep time for this soup is about 10 to 15 minutes. Cooking time adds another 30 minutes.
This recipe yields about 8 servings if served as a starter (or about 4 if served as a main course). Leftovers freeze well.
- 1 medium onion
- 1½-inch piece of ginger root
- 4 garlic cloves (or to taste)
- 2 teaspoons dried ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons dried ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (half that if using regular table salt; see Notes)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
- ~1 pound cabbage (about half a head)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (may substitute neutral vegetable oil)
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomato
- 6 cups water
- freshly ground black pepper
- additional salt to taste (if necessary)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to finish the dish (optional, and to taste; see Notes)
- parsley for garnish (optional)
- First, prepare an onion/spice paste (it’s easiest if you use a food processor--see Notes if using a blender): Peel the onion, ginger root, and garlic. Chop all of them coarsely, then add them to the food processor. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pulse the food processor until the mixture turns to a fine paste. Set aside.
- Wash the cabbage and remove any discolored outer leaves. Core the cabbage, then chop it roughly into pieces of about an inch. Set aside.
- Heat a 4-quart stock pot or saucepan on medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the oil. When the oil is heated (it’ll shimmer; about 15 seconds), add the onion/spice paste. Sauté the paste, stirring from time to time, for 3 or 4 minutes.
- While the onion/spice paste is cooking, open the cans of chickpeas and pour them into a colander or a fine mesh sieve. Rinse the chickpeas, then let them drain.
- Once the onion/spice mixture has cooked (Step 3), add the chopped cabbage, stir, and cook for a minute.
- Add the chickpeas, diced tomato, and water. Stir, then bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes (until the cabbage is tender).
- Taste the soup, then add freshly ground black pepper and additional salt if necessary. At this point, we like to squeeze lemon juice into the soup to sharpen the flavor (may substitute vinegar). Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a garnish of chopped parsley, if desired.
- If you’re using a blender to make the onion/spice paste (Step 1), you may want to add a bit of water to the blender jar to help form the paste. A tablespoon or two should do it.
- Adding a bit of acid (like lemon juice) can brighten flavor. If a dish seems to be lacking “snap”—but has enough salt—this will often help.
- You can add rice to mulligatawny soup for extra flavor and heartiness. We like to serve this as a brothy soup, but if you want more body, feel free to add a cup or so of cooked rice (we’d do it at the beginning of Step 6).
- Speaking of broth, we use water in this recipe because we’re making it vegan. Substituting chicken stock will add a bit of flavor.
- For even more flavor, you could stir in a cup or two of cooked, diced chicken. But then you’re going in a different direction with this dish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
- The spicing in this dish is fairly mild (particularly if you use only ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper). If you want a hotter taste, just increase the quantity of spices.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. Kosher salt has bigger flakes than table salt, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly.” Hence, it’s less salty by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, use only about half as much as we suggest (Step 1). You can add more later if necessary.
“Delish!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Never thought of using cabbage in mulligatawny soup. Nice variation.”
“Well, variety is the spice of life,” I said.
“Speaking of which,” said Mrs K R, “you’ve spiced this up perfectly. Subtle flavors, but tangy.”
“Yup,” I said. “Guess you can say I souped it up.”
Mrs K R shot me a look. “Those puns won’t curry favor with me, kitchen boy.”
Better stop now. She’s brothing at the mouth.
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