I bumped into a friend today who shares my interest in cooking. He’s an excellent cook, much better than I am, but today he was looking a bit under the weather. We’ll call him “John”.
Are you a bit under the weather, John? I asked him.
Jesus, I am, he croaked. I was out till four in the morning, but I’m much better now.
Glad to hear it, I assured him as the conversation drifted around to other matters.
Do you know what I made last week? he said.
No, John. How would I know what you made last week? I don’t even know what you made yesterday.
Well, he perked up, as it happens, I made bacon and cabbage yesterday for the very first time in my life.
Comfort food, I observed.
Mmm-hmm, agreed the obscure hungover-looking character in the corner.
Not something I’m particularly fond of.
Kedgeree? I was taken aback. How very Raj of you. But as it happens, I’ve found smoked fish to be a wonderful cure for hangovers. There was a time, many years ago when we used to have all-night house-parties, and I always found that the perfect breakfast was a kipper and a bottle of Guinness.
Precisely, agreed “John”. That kedgeree knocked my hangover for six, old chap, and then I bagged an elephant. Kedgeree for tiffin. Can’t beat it, old boy.
You’ve got me thinking, I told him. Here’s a thing I haven’t had in yonks. Mulligatawny. I first had it in an East End restaurant run by a Bangladeshi wallah years and years back, and damn tasty it was too. Maybe I’ll revive the old Bock recipe series and see how it goes.
Splendid! said “John”, brandishing a buffalo gun. Tally-ho!
So here we go.
My ad-hoc Mulligatawny based on whatever I happened to have in the kitchen.
Now, here’s the thing about most recipes: you really can’t go wrong even if you don’t have all the stuff because there’s no such thing as right and wrong ingredients. In my case, the first Mulligatawny I ever had, back in the East End of London, had a strong lemon character to it and that’s what I continued to expect over the years, but another man’s recipe might be completely different and that’s fine too. We make it up as we go along, based on what we have.
For this, you’ll need some spices. Cumin seed, haldi, cracked peppercorns and plain old curry powder. I prefer hot but you might like it milder. That’s fine. It’s up to you. As a matter of fact, I might even toss in a load of hot chilli as well just to liven it up, but that’s me. Live and let live.
The next thing you’ll need is some onions, some carrots and a few garlic cloves.
Now. When you have these all chopped up, you should fry them in clarified butter, although to be honest, unclarified butter is fine too as long as you don’t make it too hot and burn it.
Fry them away gently until they’re soft, and at the same time, put on a pot of rice. I prefer brown, but white is fine. When we’re finished, we’ll mix the rice in with the sauce (or we might not, as I’ll explain in a little while).
When the onions, carrots and garlic are soft, you should toss in your spices and some flour to thicken things up. Stir the whole lot around to get it well mixed.
Now add some chicken stock and cook it all up until it thickens. Let it cook away for a good while.
Now you can chop up your chicken and cook it in some clarified butter.
When you think the sauce is well cooked, throw in some natural yoghurt. Some people use coconut milk, but I haven’t tried that so I don’t know what it would taste like. I must try it next time. Other people throw in a couple of chopped Granny Smith apples, which sounds interesting. Nothing like a bit of variety.
Then add the chicken and the juice of half a lemon. Maybe you’d prefer it to be a bit tangier but you can always add the other half if it’s not to your taste. There are no hard and fast rules in this.
Let this cook away for a while. Go off and shoot an elephant, but don’t forget to drain the rice first.
When you get back, it will all be ready and you can serve it, but here’s where you have to make a decision. Traditionally, Mulligatawny has the rice mixed into the entire dish, but these days not everybody wants to eat rice.
You could serve it mixed like this.
But I think it would be better to offer it in two separate bowls, and let people decide for themselves how much rice they want mixed in with the sauce. It’s only fair, really.
Three other things.
First, you can always add more spice or other flavours later. Play around with the proportions. Nobody will arrest you for getting it wrong.
Second. Before adding the chicken you could, if you wished, blend the whole lot to a smooth consistency, and that’s what I myself intended to do, but I forgot.
Third, you don’t need to add meat. This would make a very tasty vegetarian dish if you substituted sweet potato or butternut squash, for instance.
Anyway. Enjoy your Mulligatawny and let me know how you get on.