Mulligatawny Soup (Laurie Colwin)

Also see her recipe for Lentil Soup!

I used to like reading Laurie Colwin’s column in my erstwhile subscription to Gourmet magazine. I loved her juxtaposition of recipes and autobiographical, home-centered stories. More and more, I found myself liking the person who was writing each chapter. It’s telling that I chose a similar format for my recipe blog.

When the next issue of Gourmet came, near the end of 1992, I turned to her column, only to find a large photo of her, with an unexpected preface from the editor. It was the sad news of Laurie Colwin’s unexpected and untimely death, of a heart attack at the age of 48. All my connection to her was through reading her column and her book, so I did not expect the sudden wave of grief that hit me. I had never felt so sad about the death of someone I never met. I looked for a long time at that photograph, to say goodbye, I guess. Her obit in the New York Times said she had a new book coming out, entitled More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. No matter what, I was going to own that book!

Once I had it, I soon cooked a couple of her recipes and liked them enough to put them on cards. They were both from the chapter on lentil soup. There is this one of course, and then there is her basic and endlessly variable lentil soup.

Everyone dies too young. That is the sad truth. But today we are alive. We can enjoy a bowl of hot soup with someone we care about, even if it is only ourselves. I love this tangy chicken soup, with its great mix of spices and herbs.

Life is short. Eat your soup first.

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1" piece ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bay leaf, broken into pieces
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth or water
6 tablespoons lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 tablespoons long grain white rice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt to taste
chopped scallions

In the blender, with 1 tablespoon water, purée the garlic, ginger, onion, cayenne pepper, turmeric, coriander, and bay leaf, scraping down the sides occasionally.

In a large heavy sauce-pan cooked the spice paste in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, for 2 min. Add the chicken cut into big pieces, and cook and stir for 1 min. Stir in chicken broth and lentils, and simmer for 15 min., stirring occasionally. Stir in 3 tablespoons long grain white rice and simmer for about 15 min. more or until the rice is tender.

Remove the chicken pieces; set aside.

In the blender, purée the soup in batches and return to the pan. Stir in chicken, now cut into bite-sized pieces, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add the salt, and serve sprinkled with chopped scallions.


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