Happelsauce was born in Brooklyn late one cold winter’s night over three and a half years ago. I had quit my corporate job about four months prior in a huff of calculated confusion. Honestly, it wouldn’t be false to deem my entire 20s as a haze of calculated confusion. What was I doing with my life? How could I make a difference? What really makes me happy? I didn’t know. Or, I should say, the knowing came in fits and starts.
I knew what I didn’t want to do. Being an electrical engineer was out of the question, for example.
This was not remotely reassuring.
I was raised to believe that I could do anything. I knew I was one of the very lucky, privileged few who had the resources, support and love to make it happen. Yet, I was stifled by an abundance of choice. And, that led to feeling guilty. I felt stuck.
Back in my Brooklyn days before Happelsauce – before taking off for Barcelona in search of friendly farms, before learning how to herd goats and make cheese at La Ferme Belmont – back then, I worked at an online health media company in DUMBO that just so happened to be a block from a bakery called Almondine. They made perfect croissants everyday, but every week or so they would offer mulligatawny soup for lunch. It was the best soup I’d ever had. I started calling ahead from my desk at the office to find out if it was being served that day. If the answer was yes, I would hurry downstairs to buy a cup before it sold out. The mulligatawny almost always sold out. I could never quite pinpoint exactly what was in it, but it was hearty, exotic, and regal. Just, I imagined, as a Maharaja would have wanted it to be.
That mulligatawny soup was an easy choice for me to make during that uncertain time. I liked it. It comforted me. Some days it would taste a little different from others and I was never entirely sure what it was made of, and that made me like it even more. A few months later, when I sat down that winter’s night to post my very first blog entry, I felt the same way. I liked it. It comforted me. Since then, I’ve typically had a recipe to share when I write, but I almost never know what else I’m going to say. I just hope each entry tastes a bit different from the last. The choices are still vast and endless, but no longer confusing.
Finally, choice feels like the greatest gift of all.
Notes: I made heavy edits to the mulligatawny recipe listed in the October 2012 issue of Saveur. I added carrots, upped the spices, and omitted the flour to thicken but added potato instead. The original recipe called for a lot of mincing, but ultimately the soup gets pureed with an immersion blender (or in batches in a food processor), so don’t worry too much about how you chop the ingredients. They’ll all get blended together in the end. This soup is not as rich as Almondine’s but equally as robust and regal.
3 tablespoons neutral oil (canola or grapeseed)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons minced ginger
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
1-2 Thai bird’s eye chilis, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons group turmeric
9 cups chicken stock
2 cups red lentils
1 can coconut milk (use the regular, not light)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 potato, chopped
juice of 3 lemons and/or limes
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed and chopped
kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, onion and chile; cook until browned.
Add potato, tomatoes, carrots, coriander, cumin and turmeric and cook until the vegetables soften a bit, about 5 minutes.
Add stock and lentils, bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook until tender, about 45 minutes.
Add cilantro and puree with an immersion blender.
Stir in coconut milk, lemon/lime juice, salt and pepper.
Divide into bowls, garnish with plain yogurt if you’d like.