You won’t find it when you rifle though the old crumbling pages of her notebook – the one she left her notes in; those now yellow and earmarked documents have grand recipes like murgh musallam and shami kebabs. But one of the most comforting legacies my paternal grandmother left behind is her chicken soup, fondly called ‘mulkatawni’ at home. This is different from the similar sounding mulligatawny soup, which is made using chicken broth, lentils and a dash of rice. (I found that out when I tried to replicate that feeling of home one lonely day in a new city – imagine my shock.)
The recipe is as simple as is it delicious and while I can give you approximates of ingredients, we learnt it the old fashioned way: a pinch of this, a handful of that; it had to look right and smell right to be right. No how-to record remains of this soup but ask any in ‘the family’ and they’ll rattle it off by memory.
Over the years, whenever we were sick or cold or in need of comfort, it’s this hot drink that would be ladled into huge bowls that were half filled with rice. One squeeze of lemon later, it was ready for consumption.
It’s pretty light on the stomach, too; it wends from gullet to belly, soothing all the way. I learnt this first-hand when I had mumps when I was 11 – a viral infection that inflames the salivary glands - I could barely open my mouth and swallowing whole food was out of the question for about a week. This warm liquid spooned into my feverish mouth was medicine.
It was just one of those things you take for granted, those ubiquitous dishes that are part of the house, doled out at opportune moments – like tea in the morning or lemonade on a hot summer’s day. I didn’t think much about it – just throwing things together in a pot every so often for a treat. Then came a visit to a Canadian cousin’s home. A chef by profession, he had come home excited one day with the menu of his restaurant in hand. He’d made the soup for the executive chef and it had now made it to the list.
It was a fair tribute to a woman who loved to cook and comfort. Infused with the flavour of coriander seeds and lemon juice, the chicken soup is a light drink that’ll warm up your evening and nourish your soul. Try a sip of this…
- Chicken bones + chicken thigh/leg 150 grams
- 5 cloves garlic, sliced
- One onion, sliced
- ½ inch of ginger, sliced
- Salt, to taste
- 2tbsp coriander powder
- 6 cups water
- Lemon juice, to taste
- Steamed rice (optional)
- Put all the ingredients except the rice and lemon juice into a pressure cooker. Cook on medium flame until you hear 3 to 4 whistles. Take it off the stove and wait for it to cool before opening the cooker.
- Strain the soup and keep aside. Debone the chicken pieces and add the chicken to the soup.
- Adjust seasoning and add a squeeze of lemon.
- Fill a bowl half with rice. Add chicken soup. Eat hot.