January is the month when I generally find my glass half empty instead of half full: It's the time of year when I find it easier to look at the dark side. But Mulligatawny soup is a perfect antidote for January. Serve it with those big round pilot crackers, warmed, or else thin, crisp dark bread. Dessert could be a hot applesauce cake served unfrosted with a bowl of applesauce. If this meal doesn't make you feel renewed, then only spring can help.
Mulligatawny soup from India found its way into American cookery long before the Civil War. A recipe for it appeared in the original "Fannie Farmer Cook Book" of 1896. The name comes from two Tamil words meaning "pepper water"; the soup is an Anglo-Indian concoction made with beef or chicken broth, aromatic vegetables, apples, curry and a lively amount of pepper. In India it is garnished with crisp onion rings fried a deep brown, but I like sliced, toasted almonds better. It is quite delicious made without any meat or poultry.
The soup is best served with steamed or fluffy white rice and a side-dish of ice cold bananas. (The idea that you shouldn't put bananas in the refrigerator is actually untrue. Although the skin darkens when bananas are refrigerated, the fruit itself is unaffected. And chilled and sliced bananas provide a good balance to spicy foods.)
The hot applesauce cake is also tailored for winter days. It is dark, moist, rich and lively with spices. Use the wonderful Muscat raisins which are very large and chewy. The cake is made in loaf pans, instead of cake layers; slice and serve it warm with butter and a side dish of applesauce.
6 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery with leaves, diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups diced raw chicken or beef, optional
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 cups chicken or beef broth
2 whole cloves, crushed
1 cup tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or generous amount black pepper)
1 cup almonds, toasted, sliced
3 or 4 cups steamed white rice
4 bananas, ice-cold, sliced
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in soup pot. Add onion, carrot, celery, green pepper and apple. Add chicken if desired. Cook slowly about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Mix flour, curry powder and nutmeg. Add to vegetable mixture. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in chicken broth, cloves, tomatoes and cayenne. Season to taste with salt. Stir to blend, partially cover and simmer 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve in bowls and garnish with almonds on top. Serve rice and ice-cold bananas on side. Makes about 8 cups.
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
2 cups raisins
2 cups walnuts, chopped
Cream shortening until light. Slowly add sugar, beating mixture until smooth. Add eggs and mix well. Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and mace. Add to creamed mixture along with 2 cups hot applesauce, raisins and walnuts. Beat until well blended.
Spread evenly in two greased and floured 8x4-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees 45 to 60 minutes, or until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans. Turn out onto rack. Serve warm with extra applesauce. Makes 2 loaves.