Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #3: Mullagatawny Soup!

For the third Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge the topic was "Soups and Stews".  Obviously this led to a plethora of options, from every country and every time period since a human figured out how to put meat, veggies and water into a vessel and put that vessel by the fire and cook everything in it.  Or probably many humans over a vast amount of trial and error.

So what led me to choose Mulligatawny soup?  (I know it's spelled differently in the title but that's how they spelled it in the cookbook, unlike the common way I just spelled it.)  Well, quite simply, because I had no idea what it was and it sounded interesting.  That, and for my local library cookbook club, we are reading an Indian cookbook and found the author had made her version of the soup.  And, remembering seeing the name in several other Victorian age cookbooks I've read, I decided to investigate further.  This led me down a very interesting side path of the history of curry powder and the influence of Indian cuisine in English culture for centuries with it spreading into American culture through the desire to emulate the leader of not only the entire British Empire but also everything fashionable for her time period, Queen Victoria.  Which is why, within the "White House Cookbook" pages, I found a wonderfully detailed variant of the anglicized version of an Indian pepper soup, Mulligatawny.

"Mulligatawny Soup" Song Sheet
J W Rowley & James Francis 1880

(This picture above has nothing to do with particular recipe except for the fact that I found it in my search for a bit of background history about this soup and thought it was quite amusing!  I'll have to see if I can find the words to the song!)

Mullagatawny Soup
(As Made in India)

"Cut four onions, one carrot, two turnips, and one head of celery into 3 quarts of liquor, 
in which one or two fowls have been boiled; keep it over a brisk fire till it boils, and then place it on a corner of the fire, and let it simmer twenty minutes; add one tablespoonful of currie powder, and one tablespoonful of flour; mix the whole well together, and let it boil three minutes;  mix the whole well together, and let it boil three minutes; pass it through a colander; serve with pieces of roast chicken in it; add boiled rice in a separate dish.  It must be of a good yellow color, and not too thick.  If you find it too thick, add a little boiling water and a teaspoonful of sugar.  Half veal and half chicken answers as well.

A dish of rice, to be served separately with this soup, must be thus prepared: 
put 3 pints of water in a saucepan and one tablespoonful of salt; let this boil.  Wash well in three waters, half a pound of rice; strain it, and put it into the boiling water in saucepan.  After it has come to the boil- which it will do in about two minutes- let it boil twenty minutes; strain it through a colander, and pour over it 2 quarts of cold water.  This will separate the grains of rice.  Put it back in the saucepan, and place it near the fire until hot enough to send to the table.  This is also the proper way to boil rice for curries.  If these directions are strictly carried out every grain of rice will separate, and be thoroughly cooked." 

White House Cookbook,  1894

The wonderful thing about this soup was that I had all of the ingredients already in my house.  And I was excited because it had the makings to be a very tasty chicken soup, something that I will never turn my nose up at.

So I dived right in and started to chop the turnips, onions, carrot and celery.  I realize, in looking at these veggies all together, personally I would have put more carrots and less turnip (especially since I think these turnips are much larger and tougher than turnips I've had earlier in the fall).  

I peeled and chopped the veggies rather large because I knew they would be strained out later.

While I was chopping I put in three quarts of my homemade chicken stock into a dutch oven to boil.

I also, in a separate bowl, added a table spoon of flour to a table spoon of curry powder.  In this situation I interpreted the measurements as written and used an actual table spoon.  Fingers crossed this would work out.

As the stock came to a boil I started to prep the rice.

Now the soup itself had been quite a mystery till recently, with my couple days of intense and interesting research.  But I was even more perplexed by the way this recipe describes how to cook rice.  I've always been a "Add double the liquid to rice, bring to a boil, cover and simmer till liquid is absorbed"girl.  What I didn't know was that this process would change the way I look at cooking rice forever!  

So I took the 1/2 pint (1 cup) of rice and rinsed it off in a colander for about five minutes.  Something I had never had thought to do before.  There's probably a ton of people who are professional rice cookers that are face-palming as I write this.  Once the rice was rinse and and draining I brought the 2 pints (6 cups) of water to a boil with a table spoon (again an actual table spoon) of salt.  Once it was boiling I dumped the rinsed rice in and brought it to a boil again.

At this point the broth was boiling as well so I added the veggies into it and brought it back to a boil.  Then, once the rice was poured in, I started the timer for 20 minutes.  I'm not always someone who uses a timer, even when its suggested in the recipe, but not wanting to mess up the rice I made sure I did exactly what it said.

While the rice and veggies boiled I prepped the next phase of rice cooking and got the two cup measure full of cold water and washed the colander for its second use.  Since the rice was to be rinsed in 2 quarts (which is 8 cups) of cold water I was to refill the measuring cup three more times.  Again, just trying to be as precise as possible.

Now, because the whole process of draining and rinsing the rice took two hands and all my attention, I was not able to get photos of the process.  But here is the end result, put back in the pan to warm up before serving. 

And, I have to say, that it certainly worked well.  I, personally, would have used a tad bit less salt and would have probably cooked it a few minutes less (maybe more like 18 minutes rather than 20), but the rice grains were separate and cooked through!  And certainly weren't dry but also not complete mush either.  It makes me realize I have ALOT to learn about making rice.

After the rice was rinsed and put back in the pan I then proceeded to drain the broth of the veggies and then return it to the pot.  Then, looking at the recipe, I realized I was supposed to do this AFTER I put in the curry/flour mixture and boiled for 3 minutes.  *Face Palm*  But I decided to go ahead with it and added the curry/flour mixture to the broth, whisking vigorously so that there would be no lumps of either the flour or the curry powder.

A special note to anyone who needs to whisk a liquid vigorously that is burning hot... don't whisk too vigorously or else you will get splashed by the hot liquid and have to put your hand under cold water, which totally counters the point of making sure that there are no lumps in your soup.  As you can guess I learned this the hard way.

I did rally myself and continued to stir for about a minute and found that the broth did go from a somewhat yellow to a bright golden yellow and the kitchen smelled warm and spicy.  It totally changed the warmth and coziness in the room.  At this point I was getting really excited to try it!

I let the broth boil a few more minutes (maybe more like 5 than 3) and while that was happening I pulled out some leftover rotisserie chicken that I got from the store.  When I usually get a rotisserie chicken from the store I like to get it hot and then break it down once I get home.  I find it is easier to pull the meat off when its warm.  

So I took several pieces of meat and laid them in each bowl to warm up in the microwave.  (I know, they didn't have microwaves, but I do!)

At this point my husband and son come home from his t-ball "game".  I put game in quotes because it's a bunch of toddlers running after a baseball, if they are paying attention to the game at all.  My son is excited about having hit the ball and running after it.  My husband, who had asked earlier if he should order a pizza since this would be our dinner and we had no idea how it would turn out, seemed a bit relieved that the soup smelled delicious and that all the components (broth, chicken, rice) were recognizable.  

Once the chicken was heated I turned off the burner and put the soup to one side.  I took a ladle and put two ladles full of soup broth over the chicken, going about half way up the bowl.  I figured I'd leave room for the rice to go in the soup.

I added the rice to another bowl and stopped to take a picture of my new masterpiece.  I then scooped up some mac and cheese I made for my son along with a piece of the chicken with some broth for him to try, which he proceeded to taste and then make a "Yucky!" face at it.  I shook my head.  I hoped that our reaction would be more congenial.

The Taste Test:

Once my husband and I prepped our bowls (him with a little rice and me with ALOT of rice so that it looked more like a stew than soup)  we sat down took our first taste.  

There was silence for about the first 5 minutes of eating.  

It was GOOD!!!  

Beyond good, it was warming and rich.  And it had a slight spice to it, not overpowering but enough to coat the tongue and leave it warm for minutes afterwards.  I could tell how this would appeal to an English palate.  Wanting the heat but not wanting to be knocked over by it.  

But what did my husband think?

I think the picture speaks for itself!  

I will certainly be making this again!  Probably cutting up the chicken in smaller pieces and maybe dicing up the veggies and leaving them in for more texture.  So maybe I'll be making a chicken soup with curry in it.  

Either way, I know it will be delicious!


Popular Posts