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Mary Schoenlein and the ingredients for her famous mulligatawny soup. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

When Mary Schoenlein, of the sorely missed bakery and lunch spot Mary’s Marvelous in East Hampton, decided to close her beloved shop’s doors back in September 2021, loyal customers were left longing for flavorful, hearty soups. Most notably: her vegetarian version of a Madras Indian staple, mulligatawny.

“We always had a robust soup at the store and started making mulligatawny around 12 years ago,” recounts Schoenlein. “It was a little funny in the beginning because people couldn’t pronounce it!”

Dating back to the 18th century, there are hundreds of varied recipes for this soup, often made with meat(usually chicken). It can be known as pepper water or curry soup, neither of which describes its complex deliciousness. 

(Photo credit: Doug Young)

“A lot of things in it appeal to me: cabbage, cauliflower, carrots,” she says. “Originally the recipe was brothy with chicken, and then we started playing around with a vegetarian version, adding coconut milk and chickpeas. We just had to keep it on the menu and get people to try it. Once they did, they loved it. Vegetarian mulligatawny became one of our top sellers on our soup menu.”

With its vibrant color and distinct flavor, madras curry, a blend of earthy and fragrant spices is the key ingredient here and one that Schoenlein is very specific about. “I am very careful where I buy spices, and curry powder in particular as the quality and freshness of the spices are important.” Kalustyan’s in New York is a favorite of hers, but Citarella, too, carries it, typically.  

While working on a future cookbook of recipes from Mary’s Marvelous, Schoenlein shares this favorite from an upcoming chapter. Pair it with some warmed naan bread sprinkled with za’atar for a familiar and comforting winter meal.

Mary’s mulligatawny soup

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil, canola oil or ghee
  • 4 medium Spanish onion peeled and cut into a 1/2" dice
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger grated
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 4 medium carrots peeled and diced
  • 1 large tart apple peeled, seeded and cut into a 1/2" dice
  • 6-8 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato peeled and cut into a 1/2" dice
  • 2 cups green cabbage shredded
  • 1 small red or green chili finely minced
  • 2 cups cooked chick peas
  • 1-2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped

Directions

  • Using a heavy-bottom pot, heat your oil or ghee on medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the diced onion and minced garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring often until the onion softens.
  • Reduce heat to low and add the curry powder, turmeric, fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon of salt, the carrots and the apple, along with a few grinds of black pepper. Cook this for about 6 more minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the water or vegetable stock, the cauliflower, sweet potato and the cabbage and bring this mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low again and allow the soup to simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the cabbage is soft.
  • Add the minced chili and the chick peas. (Schoenlein likes to mash some of the chick peas with the back of a spoon to give some added texture to the soup). Let this simmer for another 1O minutes. Taste for seasoning adding salt as needed.
  • Add the coconut milk. Use 1 cup for a hint of coconut flavor, or use more according to your taste.
  • Taste again, adding salt or pepper and the juice from the lime. Add freshly chopped
    cilantro as a garnish if desired. Enjoy!
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