This is a recipe that would have been familiar to all Britons living and working in the Imperial Raj. Indeed the combination of Indian cooks, British tastes and exotic foods have made a lasting impression on British cuisine right down to the present day. New, strange and exciting ingredients would be used to try and recreate familiar, edible and nutritious meals befitting the ruling class that they had become. Lack of refrigeration, a hot and humid climate and unfamiliar cooking facilities would all conspire to make cooking an even more difficult prospect than it already would have been. However, the results of these intrepid culinary explorers could often be an interesting mix of East meets West. And very often create unforeseen varieties of dishes, courses and menus.
'Pepper Water' was the nearest thing to soup in the cuisine of India, and indeed the word mulligatawny comes from the Tamil words molegoo (pepper) and tunes (water). It was originally a vegetarian 'sauce', but the British added meat and various other ingredients to create a variety of mulligatawnies which were popular in India and Ceylon, but had an extremely bad press back home in England!
The soup below is one which our delightful cook in Ceylon, Soloman, used to serve us in huge Victorian soup bowls. A basic peppered water was flavoured with various other ingredients, then the soup would be served with side bowls of cooked rice, lime wedges, grated coconut, snippets of fried bacon, quartered hard-boiled eggs and sliced chillies. You helped yourself to what you wanted - a meal in itself.
7 oz coconut cream, cut into chunks
1 heaped teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander
1 teaspoon chilli powder (flat or heaped)
1 small tin tomato puree