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. Serve this one hot--and with a lot of showmanship--to 4-6 people.
2 Tablespoons 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 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup lentils
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup coconut milk* or whipping cream
1-2 cups cooked rice (preferably basmati)
1/2-1 cup shredded cooked chicken (you can cook raw chicken in the stock at the start if you don't have leftover chicken lying around)
1/2 cup tart raw apple, chopped fine
Garnish: spoonsful of extra cream or coconut milk--and minced cilantro or parsley.
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 chicken, if it's raw), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, get the rice cooked (if it isn't already); likewise with the chicken. Then shred the chicken and chopped the apples finely. You don't need to skin the apples.
When the soup is done, season to taste with the salt and pepper, then puree, solids first, in a blender. Return to pot.
When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer and add the coconut milk or cream. Take the pot to the table, as well as individual bowls of warm rice (heated in the microwave, if necessary), shredded chicken, finely chopped apple, coconut milk (or cream), and minced cilantro (or parsley).
To serve, have big individual serving bowls at the ready. Spoon rice into each bowl (flat soup bowls are nice here)--then pile on a big spoonful of chicken and a spoonful of apple. Ladle the soup on top, then drip coconut milk/cream into the center and swirl--and sprinkling with fresh cilantro and parsley.