Life is better up here today. It's warm, it's raining, and thus all the decrepit piles of dirty snow are finally slinking away, down into the mud where they belong. And, the nice DSL people finally showed up, so yes, I can write and post from home now. It's the small things...
So, on the cooking front, this week's excitement was the re-fashioning of two styrofoam boxes of leftover Jamacian curried chicken into a swell variation on mulligatawny. Out along the highway, one of K's Army buds had recently taken over a small soul-food and Caribbean restaurant, and we went on their opening night. As their first customers, we got not only massively heaped portions but the same thing again to take home with us. So double-wides of curried chicken sat in our fridge all weekend, until K. suggested turning them into soup. I mulled this over for a while, and what we ended up with was a thick orange potage, filled out with a handful of red lentils cooked to slush and cubes of sweet potato, and sparked up with a whole lot of fresh minced ginger--a kind of island-influenced version of mulligawny, itself a curry-spiked lentil soup invented by Indian household cooks during the Raj for their Anglo employers.
This was good stuff, and you could make it yourself even without Caribbean-restaurant leftovers. Just add some curry powder to the veg as they're sauteed, and either leave out the chicken altogether, or shred it in at the end.
Caribbean Chicken Turned into Mulligatawny
Amounts are approximate; fiddle around depending on what you've got in the house and how much soup you want at the end of the day.
1 TB olive or vegetable oil
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 or 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, ditto
1 to 2 tsp curry powder, or to taste (if not using already curried chicken)
2 to 3 inches of peeled fresh gingerroot, finely chopped or grated
2-3 TB tomato paste (you could also diced canned or fresh tomatoes, maybe half a cup or so)
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
1 cup red lentils (because the color matches the soup, and also because the red ones fall apart into sludge better than the green or brown ones)
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 to 3 cups shredded leftover cooked chicken (optional)
1/4 cup half and half (optional)
lime wedges and chopped cilantro for garnish, if desired
Saute onions, celery, carrot, and garlic in oil until onions are translucent and veg are starting to brown lightly. Add curry powder, if using, ginger, and tomato paste. Saute, stirring frequently, for a couple minutes. Add lentils, broth, and potato. Add water as necessary to bring it to a soupy consistency (the lentils will absorb some, so use a bit more water than you think). Bring to a gentle simmer, stir, then partially cover and leave on a very low heat for at least an hour. Stir occasionally.
After an hour, check and see how soft the lentils are. You want them totally sludgy and falling apart, which may take another 30 minutes or so. When you like the consistency and it tastes all nice and blended, add the chicken and simmer for another five minutes. Pour the half-and-half into a cup and spoon in some hot broth to temper it. Keep stirring in hot broth until you've filled up the cup. Turn off the heat and pour in the cream, stirring gently.
Sprinkle each bowl with chopped cilantro and serve with lime wedges on the side.