Wednesday, October 27, 2010

mulligatawny soup with homemade almond milk

Saffron is such a gorgeous color, and stands out beautifully against the white of our homemade almond milk

     On a visit to my hometown in Pennsylvania, I noticed that my father-in-law had checked a cookbook out of the library entitled Splendid Soups by James Peterson. What an inspiring book! As I browsed through it, I was excited to discover a recipe for mulligatawny soup, because I had tried various versions at Indian restaurants and had often wondered how to make it myself. Once back in Vegas, Katherine and I got together and embarked on a mulligatawny soup adventure. It began at the local farmer's market, where we picked up the produce we needed for the recipe, as well as a beautiful loaf of artisan whole wheat bread and a bag of wild mache to use for a side salad. Then we headed home and spent a few hours preparing and enjoying this delicious lunch.
     This soup has a secret, magical ingredient... homemade almond milk! Sure, you can use supermarket almond milk, but as we found out, it's not only really fun to make your own, but the homemade variety tastes about a thousand times better. It was so unbelievably delicious, I could barely wipe the smile off my face. I have to admit, though, I didn't try very hard. Smiling cooks make good food, after all... or so I've heard.
     The following is the recipe as we made it. We didn't stray far from the original, changing only a few minor details.

4 T. ghee (you can also use unsalted butter or Earth Balance margarine or coconut oil if you're vegan)
2 medium-size carrots, chopped
2 medium-size onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium-size waxy potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups vegetable broth plus 3 cups water
1 cup tightly packed spinach leaves
1 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight and 1 cup water (or about 1.5 cups store-bought almond milk - original, unsweetened)
1/4 tsp. saffron threads, soaked in 1 T. water for 15 minutes
2 T. ghee (or unsalted butter or vegan margarine)
4 tsp. curry powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 T. finely chopped cilantro leaves
salt and pepper

Melt the butter (or ghee, margarine or oil) in a 4-quart pot over medium heat and add the carrots, onions, garlic, and potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the onions start to turn translucent.

Add the broth and bring the soup to a medium simmer. When the vegetables are soft and can be crushed easily against the side of the pot with a spoon, about 20 minutes, add the spinach leaves and simmer for 2 minutes more.

While the vegetables are cooking, use the almonds and water to make almond milk (see below for instructions).

Puree the soup in a blender or through the fine disk of a food mill. If you want the soup to have a smoother texture, strain it through a medium mesh strainer. Add the almond milk and the saffron with its soaking liquid.

Combine the ghee (or butter or margarine) and curry in a small sauté pan. Stir over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until you can smell the curry. Add this mixture to the soup.

Stir in the coconut milk and the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer and serve.

We garnished our soup with a quick pour of coconut milk and a sprig of cilantro, and had a hearty slice of toast and salad tossed with vinaigrette on the side.

Make your own almond milk!
The extra effort is entirely worth it, in my opinion.
You can use the milk for this and other recipes, but you can also use it for your cereal or in your tea, or any other way you might use dairy milk.
Soak a cup of raw almonds overnight. Cover them amply with water, because they will bloat up and the top ones won't be soaking anymore unless you use extra water. When you wake up in the morning, change the water. When you're ready to begin, squeeze each almond between your thumb and index finger, and the skins should pop right off. Once you get the hang of this technique, it's very easy work. Then, simply blend the almonds with a cup of water in a blender, until smooth and creamy. You may need to add more water, a little at a time, to achieve the desired consistency. Next, pour the almond pulp into a nut milk bag or onto a double layer of cheese cloth over a bowl. Close the bag, or gather the sides of the cloth, and start squeezing it until almond milk begins to drain into the bowl. This process is amusingly reminiscent of milking a cow. You can store your almond milk in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days until you're ready to use it.

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