When it comes to Indian cuisine, I have standards.
I earned my bachelor’s degree at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas (yes, it’s not technically located in Dallas) and that particular corner of the DFW metroplex happens to be swarming with Indian eateries. Thus far I’ve always been disappointed by my efforts to recreate the creamy, spicy, meaty favorites from the university days in my home kitchen, but this soup breaks the losing streak. It’s a delicious soup with a funny name and a bit of a history: apparently the British took a thin, spicy lentil broth that was popular in India at the time of colonization, thickened it and added meat. Whatever, all you need to know is that it’s wicked good. Stupid good. Far more delicious than its simple parts (broth, sweet potatoes, ground meat, spices) might lead you to expect.
One note about the full cast of spices included in this recipe and my South African Curried Meatloaf: if you’re partial to Indian or related regional cuisine, then it’s just worth it to make an investment of time and funds in building up a spice collection that lets you whip up exotic ethnic dishes without the need to run to specialty shops every time. It was a fantastic feeling to find a Mulligatawny recipe in Saveur and realize I had every spice called for already in my pantry–except fenugreek, which has a flavor I don’t care for and which I omitted from my version.
Lastly, I used puny ground turkey because I had it in my freezer already (do you see a theme, here?) but I’d encourage the use of ground beef, lamb, or wild game meat if you’re lucky enough to have access to it. Make this recipe your own, because that’s what I did! If you use a fattier meat, consider downsizing the amount of added oil in other parts of the recipe (in the sauce, for instance) to avoid a greasy finish on the soup’s surface.
This soup is a rich, thick riff on a traditional Mulligatawny recipe with a Paleo spin.
Preheat oven to 450F. Peel the sweet potato, cut into ½-inch cubes and toss with 2 tsp coconut oil and ½ tsp salt.
Roast until soft and browned on the undersides, approximately 15 minutes.
In a thick-bottomed pan with high sides, warm 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat then add the ground meat, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp black pepper.
Cook, stirring frequently, just until the meat is no longer pink. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and set aside. Skim off all but 2 tbsp fat from the pan and save for another use.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine chopped onion, garlic cloves, ginger and jalapeño (split and seeds removed).
Pulse to a fine shred then add to the hot fat remaining in the pan and cook until caramelized but not burnt, around 10 minutes. Stir in the arrowroot flour, coconut flour, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric, stock, roasted sweet potato and cooked ground meat.
Bring to a boil, then boil until thickened (approximately 20 minutes). This reduction step not only thickens the soup but also concentrates the flavor.
While the soup boils, heat 3 tbsp coconut oil in a small skillet. To make the sauce, add the minced tomato, Aleppo pepper, cumin seeds, coriander, mustard seeds, chiles de arbol (crumbled) and ½ tsp salt. Cook until fragrant, stirring frequently.
Stir half of the sauce into the thickened soup, then stir in the cilantro and remove from heat.
Allow to cool slightly, then serve warm, garnished with more sauce and a dollop of coconut milk.