Mary Manion

Mulligatawney Soup

Mary Manion
Mulligatawney Soup

Ah, the wonder of a good bowl of soup – warm and nourishing, and chock-full of veggies my family otherwise wouldn’t eat.  While I adore a bit of soup as a starter, the problem I have with most soups as a full dinner is simple.  About an hour after finishing soup-as-an-entree I’m hungry again, and you’ll likely find me rummaging around in the freezer for a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby (unless of course I have consumed half a loaf of crusty sourdough bread slathered with butter on the side).  Either way, it kind of defeats the purpose of the healthy, vegtable-laden endeavor. If soup is to be a full meal, it must be substantial.

Which brings me to today’s offering, mulligatawny. I’ve always been intrigued by this soup, and I must admit it all started with the fact that I’m quite smitten with the word mulligatawny. I’m a fan of good words, and this one's a doozy, don’t you think?  Trust me, this soup has a big personality that lives up to its name.  It’s hearty: meaty and sweet, deeply spiced with curry and red peppers.  Each bite is full of distinctly delicious flavors.


The origins of this soup are fascinating. According to chef (and historian, apparently) Jamie Oliver, mulligatawny was born under the British Raj in India. The British soldiers and merchants stationed there fell in loved with the soup, but, as with all things under the Empire, tweaked the recipe just-so that it would fall in line with their tastes. When the British came back home, the recipe came with them.

A century and a half later there are dozens of versions of the soup out there (many involving chicken). I started with a recipe from Jamie’s Great Britain, a gem of a cookbook brimming with recipes of food we adored while living in London years ago.  Cornish pasties, Victoria sponge cakes, Shepherd’s pies, and Scottish shortbread… all there. And cheeky Jamie just seems to have so much FUN while cooking… it looks like he met – and charmed – half of the population of the UK while shooting the photos for the book.

I’ve been fiddling with this soup for years, and my version has been tweaked significantly from Jamie’s (another good word, tweak). I’ve used ground beef and ground chicken - both work brilliantly. I’ve tried including both butternut squash (yummy) and sweet potatoes (preferable). I’ve included red lentils (delicious, but they fall apart) and puy lentils (better). I’ve fiddled with the spices, and love the heat of Thai red curry paste in a jar. I usually include rice, but if I’m limiting carbs (ahem, post-holiday), I’ve discovered it’s perfectly delicious without.  It’s a very forgiving, yet wonderfully adaptable recipe - I welcome you to tweak it to your own tastes.

Enjoy – and I promise, you won’t be hungry just after you finish it.


A Few things I've been crushing on lately:

I have been cooking my way through Melissa Clark's book Dinner: Changing the Game.  Seriously, I've cooked nearly a dozen dinners from this gem.  Each of recipes feels approachable and familiar, yet with a surprising flavor combination.  Best of all, the recipes are healthy - perfect for those of us trying to regroup from holiday overindulging. 

I've also just picked up a copy of The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart by Emily Nunn and am having a hard time putting this captivating story down.


Mulligatawny Soup


  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped into small dice
  • 5 carrots, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into small dice
  • 1 sweet potato, chopped into 1 centimeter cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup puy lentils
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sherry (or more water, if you prefer)
  • 1 pound ground beef or ground chicken
  • 1 2- inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons A1 steak sauce
  • 1 4 ounce jar red curry paste (I use the Thai kitchen brand)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup cooked basmati rice (optional)
  • greek yogurt, to serve (optional)
  • chopped parsley, to serve (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the chopped vegetables with the olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Spread the veggies evenly  on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and roast in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.  
  3. Meanwhile, place the lentils in a small pot with 1 cup of beef broth, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 cup of sherry (the sherry can be replaced by water if you prefer).  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 35-40 minutes.
  4. If you are planning to include rice in the recipe, prepare 1 cup of basmati rice according to package directions.  
  5. While all the other elements are cooking, brown your ground beef or chicken in a dutch oven until fully cooked and crumbly.  Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for a minute or two.  Then add the steak sauce, curry paste, red pepper flakes, red curry paste, and garam masala.  Stir until the meat is fully covered in the sauces and spices, and cook until the mixture is fragrant, another minute or two.  Add the beef stock and bring the mixture to a low simmer.
  6. Add the vegetables and lentils to the mixture as they are ready, and simmer for a few minutes.  
  7. Add the rice to the mixture just before serving.
  8. Ladle the soup into bowls, and dollop with a bit of yogurt, and sprinkle with a bit of parsley.