Austin: Part 1
Without even trying, my brand spankin’ new husband just summarized my whole approach to travel: “Time to head home–your favorite part of vacation!” Fellow homebodies out there…you feel me?
Going on vacation, to me, is like going out to the bar on Saturday night. I love the idea of it, and I like it for about a half an hour, but then I’m ready to return home to my cozy couch or kitchen, spending time testing a new recipe, sipping some wine, snacking on cheese, and actually conversing with my friends or honey. Such an introvert.
To skip the honeymoon details, click here and jump right to the meatless Mulligatawny recipe fun.
After we got married last weekend, I made a big batch of veggie chili (this recipe) for my family the next night, then we took off on Monday morning for a much anticipated trip to Austin. The trip was amazing, but it’s pretty different from what I thought it would be. We spent the first couple days relaxing at Travaasa Austin, a resort and spa near Lake Travis which offers gorgeous views and plenty of activities, free of stress and any children. The weather was decidedly un-Texan, gracing us with clouds and a bit of a chill, but we took on more activities than we thought we would just after such a busy event. We hiked, we threw hatchets, and we discovered our new favorite indulgence: couples’ spa treatments. Specifically, a honeybee body treatment, which included the giggle-inducing pleasure of being rubbed down with sticky, sweet-smelling honey. Besides us, the bees outside found it especially delightful, as we attempted to enjoy a sunset over a glass of wine afterwards. In the end, they couldn’t keep us straight from the bee hive, so we headed inside to sit by the fire and finish our cocktails.
Travaasa’s food was also a pleasant surprise. I knew the spa food would be healthy, but I worried it would be too healthy, and after practicing portion control for the weeks leading up to the wedding, I was up for a little indulgence. I shouldn’t have worried. My taste buds and belly were totally indulged, all while avoiding most gluten and meat. The first night’s dinner was a rich pile of mushroom “stroganoff”, complete with raw carrot and parsnip noodle ribbons. Breakfast tacos were served on fresh, hearty corn tortillas with nearly made-to-order salsa, which did quite the job of clearing my sinuses. I’m told the extra heat is a trademark of chef Diego. My last meal at Travaasa was the perfect pile of greens topped with a scoop of vegan sunflower “tuna” salad (see above), surrounded by a few roasted potatoes, kalamatas, and a drizzle of arugula pesto dressing. Ummm, and a giant glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Oh, and did I mention every tomato I tasted at the resort was as juicy and sweet as the ones I got in my CSA almost three months ago?
So far so good. Stay tuned later this week for more on the weird world of honeymooning in Texas (plus some adorable mini apple pies).
This soup seems like a long lost friend right now. I haven’t seen it in over two weeks, since before I left Connecticut to head to Minnesota for wedding week. But, as I look through the pictures and write in the final recipe tweaks from notes on my phone, the warm, spiced, and most importantly meatless details of my Mulligatawny soup come flooding back to me.
Mulligatawny soup is quite the unicorn. The internet can’t pin down the ingredients that were part of its first incarnations, or even the exact origins of the dish. But, as I did some research to fine tune the meatless version of a delicious soup I first tasted in the office cafeteria several years back, I found some common threads:
- Curry powder or a combo of Indian spices
- Green apples
- Cream or coconut milk
- Garlic, ginger, and lots of black pepper
- Protein, usually chicken (sometimes lentils)
No two recipes are the same, and not a single one can claim to be the authentic original. So I thought, why not replace a meaty protein with tasty fried tofu (or chickpeas if you’re in a big hurry) in a one-pot version loaded with veggies and finished with that signature, subtle apple sweetness? It’s perfect for fall, with those warming spices and seasonal apples. Most of the other produce is easily found any time of year. The soup is quick (see below for ideas to make it even faster), keeps well for days (or longer in the freezer), packs more vegetarian protein and fiber than you could even ask for, and looks bright and colorful in a bowl, especially when topped with a pile of fresh cilantro. It smells warm and homey, and on top of everything else, it’s vegan and gluten free with zero adjustments.
For the real Mulligatawny experience, make all the adjustments you want. The ingredient quantities aren’t crucial, especially for the onion, celery, and carrots. I like to keep it basic, but you can substitute or add other veggies, like everyone’s fall favorites, squash or sweet potatoes. Simmer it longer if you like, and adjust the quantity and types of spices. As written, the soup has just a hint of heat, so just omit or up the cayenne for less or more heat, respectively. I have a few tips below for helpful equipment and methodology to help you enjoy the texture and flavor wonderland that is my new favorite fall soup, meatless Mulligatawny.
Tools you might need:
- Microplane, for grating garlic and ginger
- Enameled cast iron Dutch oven
- A heavy object to press the tofu
- Pressing tofu, to drain it of excess moisture and make it cleaner to fry.
Make it faster:
- Skip frying the tofu, just press it.
- Make brown rice ahead of time and refrigerate for a week or freeze in small portions in freezer bags (I make a double batch any time I make rice, so I always have some on hand).
- Substitute cooked lentils or canned, drained chickpeas for the tofu, for a quicker vegetarian protein.
- 15 - 16 oz. firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1 x 1 x ½" squares
- 5 T vegetable, coconut, or peanut oil, divided
- Sea salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 C diced sweet onion
- 4 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise and sliced ¼" thick
- 1 C chopped celery (about 6 stalks)
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic, finely grated
- ½ T finely grated ginger (peeled first)
- 1 heaping T curry powder
- ¼ t cayenne pepper
- 6 C vegetable stock or broth
- 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced small
- 1 C cooked brown Basmati rice
- ½ can full fat coconut milk (about 1 C)
- For garnish: yogurt or sour cream, cilantro leaves, lime wedges, red or green onions
- Heat 1½ tablespoons oil over medium high in a medium Dutch oven. Add half the tofu, cook relatively undisturbed, turning as each side turns golden, after 4 to 5 minutes. Cook until golden on the other side, another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl or baking sheet lined with 2 layers of paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add 1½ more tablespoons oil to the pan, heat, and fry remaining tofu in the same manner.
- Add 2 tablespoons oil to any oil remaining in the pot and heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook until just softened. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder, and cayenne and cook about a minute, until fragrant but not burned. Pour broth in and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add apples, and simmer about 10 minutes more. Stir in rice, then reduce heat to low. Add coconut milk and stir to combine, then season with salt to taste and lots of fresh ground pepper.
- Serve in bowls with the tofu plus any garnishes you like.
Prep time does not include pressing tofu or cooking rice. To keep time to a minimum, see suggestions above.
The soup is gluten free and vegan (the latter only if served without sour cream or yogurt).
Note: This page contains affiliate links. Affiliate links (to products I recommend, on Amazon) offset my ingredient and website maintenance costs, so I can keep bringing you meatless recipes like this one. Thanks!