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If you’re in a soup, drink up

Soup and soup-adjacent recipes for those work-from-home-can’t-do-supermarket-run days

(above) Vegetable clear soup by Archana Doshi; and Andhra-style garlic pepper ‘rasam’ by Monika Manchanda.
(above) Vegetable clear soup by Archana Doshi; and Andhra-style garlic pepper ‘rasam’ by Monika Manchanda.

Being laid up with a throat infection in the week before the Covid-19 threat truly broke in India was no walk in the park. With ever-present mild panic about having caught the virus (despite the doctor’s assurances that this was highly unlikely), restlessness at being stuck at home, and a lacklustre appetite, the only thing that brought me solace was soup and soup-adjacent food like rasam, which proved to be the only bright spot in my life one day when a neighbour brought over a huge batch—redolent with garlic and pepper and just the right consistency to warm up the insides.

As more and more people are forced to stay at home because of very necessary social distancing measures, and with Covid-19 not being the only disease of viral or bacterial origin that’s doing the rounds and making people sick, making a large batch of soup to feed self and family is a great idea. “We don’t have too much of a soup culture in India—it’s only popular among younger people in the metros. Raab, kashayam and rasam—these are usually the go-to even today among most people," says Archana Doshi, food blogger and entrepreneur who runs digital food network Archana’s Kitchen ( Raab is a warm drink made from pearl millet flour (bajra) infused with ginger and ajwain (carom seeds), explains Doshi, and is often served to strengthen the immune system of a new mother or someone who is low on energy or has a congested chest, while kashayam, an Ayurvedic decoction brewed with various spices and ginger, is a favourite of Malayali grandmothers.

However, most of these require some amount of experience and skill to make. For soups that you can rustle up quickly using stuff that is in your pantry (without having to step into a crowded supermarket), we dipped into our own recipe books and reached out to chefs. I will start with my mother’s unbeatable egg-drop soup, which unfortunately has never been exactly quantified—in the manner of all Indian-mother-recipes—yet is practically idiot-proof: Heat a wok, add some butter (about a quarter of a 100g stick), fry some chopped garlic and a green chilli in it, and add 2 teaspoons of refined flour, stirring quickly till it browns. Add two cups of water, and a mix of vinegar, soy sauce and green chilli sauce, and stir. Separately whisk two eggs, and when the water-sauce mixture is boiling, add the eggs and stir rapidly till the mixture thickens. Add salt to taste. I can guarantee that it hits just the right spot for those restaurant-style Chinese soup cravings.

Chef Gresham Fernandes, culinary director, Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, shares the building blocks of a hearty vegetable soup: Take a vegetable—a head of cauliflower, beetroot, carrot, tomato or any seasonal vegetable like pumpkin or turnip. Marinate it in olive oil and then roast in an oven till charred, and then puree it. Now, add a thinner like coconut milk, almond milk, chicken stock, vegetable stock or just water, and flavours like thyme, rosemary, oregano, dill, or roasted cumin. You can add croutons for texture. “I also experiment with orange juice as a thinner. In lukewarm pumpkin soup, I add some freshly squeezed orange juice a minute or two before serving. Instead of tomato-basil, one can also experiment with tomato and coriander and flavour with curry leaves. Similarly, mustard oil can replace olive oil in a red pumpkin soup seasoned with Madras curry powder and turmeric. Feel free to experiment but be conscious that the seasoning doesn’t overpower the flavour of the primary ingredients," says Fernandes.

Chef and restaurant consultant Monika Manchanda’s go-to for a cold or flu is not always soup, but an Andhra-style garlic pepper rasam that is popular in her husband’s family. “The recipe has been passed down is soul food in our house and a complete winner," says Manchanda.

“Actually, not just the garlic pepper rasam but all rasams are truly loved in my house—whether it is the famous summer mango rasam or crab rasam or a simple tomato rasam. While I drink them as soup, the man and child float their rice in it and have it as a comforting meal," writes Manchanda in her blog “It does make for a warm hug kind of a meal."


Vegetable clear soup by Archana Doshi

Serves 4


2 spring onion bulbs, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup French beans, finely chopped

1 cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 stalks of spring onion greens cut into 1-inch sticks

Salt to taste

1 tsp whole black peppercorns, coarsely crushed

4 cups water

K lemon, juice extracted

1 tsp vegetable oil


Heat oil in a deep saucepan. Add the spring onion bulbs and sauté for a minute. Add garlic and sauté for a few seconds. Add the carrots and beans. Sprinkle salt and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Now, add the mushrooms and stir for a minute. Add pepper, four cups of water and the spring onion greens and boil briskly for 3-4 minutes. Check seasoning. Finally squeeze the lemon juice and serve hot.

Andhra-style garlic pepper rasam by Monika Manchanda

Serves 4


3 tbsp toor dal, boiled and mashed

4-5 medium-size tomatoes

10 curry leaves

2 cups water

1 lemon-sized tamarind ball

K tsp turmeric powder

Salt to taste

1K tsp pepper powder; decrease to 1 tsp if you don’t want it very spicy

1K tsp jeera (cumin) powder

For the tempering

1 tbsp sesame oil or ghee

10-12 garlic cloves (increase if they are small cloves, there has to be a pronounced garlic flavour)

K tsp mustard seeds

N cup coriander leaves

2 sprigs curry leaves

4-5 dry red chillies

A pinch of asafoetida

In a pressure cooker, boil toor dal, curry leaves and tomatoes. Once the steam is released from the cooker, add turmeric, salt and tamarind pulp. Bring to boil and add pepper powder and cumin powder. In a small pan, heat oil. Add asafoetida, curry leaves, mustard seeds and dry red chillies. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add smashed garlic and sauté till it starts turning brown. Add to the rasam mix along with half the coriander leaves and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes till the raw smell goes. If the rasam feels too thick, add some boiled water. Check seasoning. Finish with the rest of the coriander leaves.

Note: If you have rasam powder, add 1 tsp of that and reduce both pepper and cumin powder by a bit.

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