Meatfree Monday Mulligatawny

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If you’re feeling like I do this morning, you will have woken up to the first Monday back after New Years (which always seems like a far more reasonable day to start any life changing resolutions to me) and decided that today is the day to get everything back On Track. Believe me, two lovely weeks of doing the rounds of our friends and family satisfies anyone’s cravings for big, flamboyant meals so now, for us at least, it’s time for some tasty, satisfying and above all simpler (and perhaps smaller?) home cooked meals.

Although possibly seen as a bit seventies now, Mulligatawny soup really is a perfect choice for this time of year and the mood that goes with it. A real example of Anglo Indian cuisine, the word mulligatawny comes from combining the Tamil words for pepper (milagu) and for water (thanni), which shows you just how prescriptive and exact this recipe is. If you include those two ingredients you’re doing alright. If I think about it, most of my other recipes could be classified as mulligatawny in this way, but I digress. What we’re aiming for here, is a gorgeous warming soup, making the best of whatever seasonal veg you have lying around, thickened with smooth red lentils and a couple of handfuls of rice and coloured by my most favourite of all the hard working spices; turmeric.
We all know by now how great seasonal vegetables are for you but lots of us have yet to cotton on to how we can really improve the nutritional content of a meal by adding lots of different herbs and spices. Take it from me, if you a feeling a little run down, or slightly under the weather this soup will really pick you up. Mostly due to the mix of spices you can put in it. Aside from warming you as you eat them, spices have got some amazing health benefits. As I mentioned, that great all rounder turmeric (nature’s ibuprofen) is full of anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants and has a string of long term health benefits to go with them. It has been shown to ease arthritis, slow the growth of cancer cells (particularly bowel cancer), help detoxify the liver as well as potentially slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease. If that doesn’t persuade you, have a think about the other spices you often use with turmeric. Anti-oxidant rich cumin has been shown to protect your liver, boost immunity and possibly also to increase bone density. Fibre rich cardamom will also give you a healthy dose of iron and manganese as well cancer fighting compounds that will not only slow the growth of new cancer cells but also potentially kill them. But if, even after reading all that, you’re still not running for the spice cupboard to start sprinkling them liberally on everything you come into contact with, then try the recipe and let the flavours themselves persuade you. You won’t regret it.

Mulligatawny Soup Recipe.

Serves 6:

4 onions diced

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

4 cardamom pods (seeds removed and husks discarded)

1 dessert spoon coriander seeds

2 tsps turmeric

400g tomatoes (skinned and diced, don’t worry about the seeds, I stick them all in, or you can use a tin)

1 tsp curry

One medium butternut squash diced but if you don’t have one, use whatever root veg you have lying around

2 litres good quality veg stock

4 handfuls basmati rice

6 good handfuls of red lentils (washed)

Salt and pepper

Start by crushing your garlic and leaving it to one side, then soften your onions in a little oil.
Whilst they are softening throw all your spices, except for the turmeric into a dry frying pan and roast them till they start to slightly change colour and give off lovely spicy smells. Transfer them in a mortar and pestle and grind them up until you’ve got a fine powder, then add that to your onions along with the turmeric and the garlic. Turn up the heat slightly and cook for a minute.
Bung the rest of the ingredients in, except the lentils and rice and bring to the boil.
Allow to simmer for around twenty minutes, or until the butternut squash is almost cooked before you throw in the rice and lentils. (This really is not a labour intensive meal)
Simmer again for around twenty minutes, or until your lentils have lost their shape and the rice its bite, then you’re ready to serve. Check your seasoning and add some sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Dish up, cover with chopped fresh coriander and chives and serve with a naan or two if you fancy. Enjoy!

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