Food For Thought

"A recipe is only a theme which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation."

-Madame Benoit-

Time for Comfort Foods

We have had such a mild winter (in my part of the country). I'm not a winter weather person. I always thought the stork dropped me too far north.

I still love to cook for the weather though. Winter also brings to mind big pots of stews or soups. I am always looking for new recipes to try. Mulligatawny Soup is one that will surprise you.

Mulligatawny--literally, "Pepper Water"--is a substantial and deliciously complex meal in itself. At the same time it poses its own mystery since soup is not a significant part of traditional Indian cuisine. Rumor has it that the English adapted a traditional spiced pea and lentil Indian peasant dish to suit their own love of soup...and called it Indian.

Mulligatawny Soup

  • 2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 chile pepper, seeded and deveined (your choice: banana, poblano, jalapeno, habanero--whatever you can stand)
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 1/4 c. lentils
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 c. coconut milk* or whipping cream
  • 1 - 2 c. cooked rice (preferably basmati)
  • 1 c. shredded cooked chicken
  • 1/2 c. tart raw apple, chopped fine

Saute the celery, carrots, onion, and pepper in the butter at a low heat until the onion is translucent. Stir in the curry powder to blend and cook for a minute. Pour in the stock, add the lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

When the soup is done, season to taste with the salt and pepper, then puree, solids first, in a blender. Return to pot.

*If you can't find canned coconut milk in a Thai/Indian market or fancy supermarket, you can make it. Just pour some boiling water over fresh grated or packaged UNSWEETENED coconut. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, then blend in a blender or food processor and strain as finely as you can, pressing the solids hard before throwing them out. Add the coconut milk at the last possible minute because its distinctive flavor degrades quickly in high heat.


Though often called a bread or flatbread, the poppadum is more like a cracker, or even a tortilla chip, due to its crisp crunchiness. Also known as a papadum or papad, the crispy creation is typically fried. It can also be prepared roasted, microwaved, or toasted. Circular in shape, it is normally made with a simple mixture of flour, water, and a bit of cooking oil. A slang term for poppadoms is "poppers."

You can find chickpea flour in grocery stores that sell international foods or in Indian grocery stores.


  • 2 c. chickpea flour or all purpose
  • 1 tsp.coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (for dusting)

Mix the chickpea flour, pepper, ground cumin and salt in a large bowl. Add the garlic and mix well. Add most of the water and mix into a dough. The dough should be firm and dry. If the dough is too dry then keep adding a little more water until it gets to the correct consistency.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. Roll the dough into a log 2" thick and 6" long. Cut the dough into 12 equal sized slices.

Brush a small amount of oil onto the end of a slice (this is the top) and roll out into a very thin circle of about 6 - 7 inches. The poppadom should be very thin. If it sticks just ease the poppadom off the rolling pin.

Put a light sprinkling of cayenne pepper on the poppadom. Repeat the above process with each of the dough slices.

Carefully put the poppadoms onto large baking sheets and bake on 300° F. for 15 - 25 minutes. Check them every couple of minutes after 15 minutes.

Remove the baked poppadoms from the oven and leave to cool. If not needed now, store the poppadoms in an airtight container until they are needed.

If you want to deep fry your poppadoms, follow these direction.

Heat oil in a large frying pan, or skillet, until the oil is hot but not smoking. Put a poppadom into the oil and turn it over when it begins to curl at the edges. Remove the poppadom before it turns brown and put it onto kitchen paper to drain. Serve immediately.

For more holiday recipes, click here.

Next week get ready for a Sweet Corn Chowder and rich and a chocolatey dessert./p>

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