Eliza Acton’s Vegetable Mulligatawny, or “What can I do with that marrow?”

Mulligatawny Soup

This spicy autumnal soup is a great way to rid yourself of the huge marrow that your dear neighbour has kindly bequeathed you! The one I’ve just disposed of was an absolute monster which had been left out on a grass verge by an anonymous gardener ‘free to any taker’, so we did!

I originally found this recipe by way of Delia Smith’s Vegetarian Collection a few years ago and I make it every autumn. This version is slightly simplified for the sake of ease as Delia toasts and crushes a variety of whole spices instead of using generic curry powder as I do. She also uses oodles (4oz/100g) of butter and to be truthful the butter really adds richness so if you don’t exclude dairy from your diet, you could swap the margarine I use here for butter (though I wouldn’t suggest using quite as much as Delia does unless you really love rich buttery flavours.)

Delia says she got the original inspiration for her vegetable mulligatawny from classic English cook Eliza Acton (1799-1859), who in case you don’t know, was one of the very first people to write a cookery book specifically for domestic cooks.

Mulligatawny itself is a classic example of Anglo-Indian food (a hybrid of British and Indian cuisine originally imported from India to Britain by members of the British military and colonial administration) that was particularly popular during the Victorian period, and which indeed remains popular in the form of ‘old fashioned’ favourites in the UK today. Even Worcestershire sauce – a cupboard staple most people would think of as being British through and through – originally heralds from the Victorian love of Indian spices.

The one small extravagance I’ve splurged on in this otherwise frugal soup, is the use of a small amount (and it is only a small amount) of wild rice mix in place of the basmati Delia uses. I think the wild rice mix adds extra interest by the way of texture and colour, but feel free to substitute any kind of rice you have in stock.

Eliza Acton’s Vegetable Mulligatawny – vegan

Serves 4 – 6


  • 50g / 2oz vegetable margarine  
  • 3 large onions , finely chopped
  • 2 – 4 tsp curry powder (depending on how hot you like your food!)
  • 700g / 1&1/2lb marrow, peeled de-seeded and chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes, dissolved in 850ml / 1&1/2 pints hot water
  • 2oz rice (I used a wild rice mix)
  • 1 tbsp of vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce


  1. Melt the margarine in a large pan and saute the onions until they are soft and golden.
  2. Stir in the curry powder and cook briefly.
  3. Add the chopped marrow, potato, tinned tomatoes and stock to the pan.
  4. Bring to the boil, reduce the temperature, put on the lid and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.
  5. While the vegetables are cooking, simmer the rice in a separate smaller pan until just cooked. Then drain, rinse and set to one side.
  6. When the vegetables are cooked, remove pan from the heat and blend the soup to a smooth puree with a hand held immersion blender (beware of hot splashes!)
  7. Stir in the cooked rice and Worcestershire Sauce and warm through if necessary.
  8. Season well with salt and pepper and serve with brown rolls.                                                                                        

13 thoughts on “Eliza Acton’s Vegetable Mulligatawny, or “What can I do with that marrow?”

  1. This sounds great, really delicious! I agree with you, the wild rice gives it an interesting look. Wish I had a marrow left to make it tomorrow! 🙂

    • Cheers, I’ve got loads of it left so it will be my lunch for a good few days yet! Other vegetables should work just as well in place of marrow; particularly fellow cucurbits like courgettes, pumpkin and butternut squash.

  2. I’ve never heard of Mulligatawny before. What a great name for a dish! I loved reading the back story on the dish, so thank you for sharing it with us 🙂 I sadly wasn’t bequeathed with any marrows this year but if I see them going cheap in the market, I’ll buy one so that I can try your soup. I know my family would love it as we’re huge curry fans. I love its beautiful Autumnal colour too ♥

    • I love the word too! Mulligatawny is one of those queer sounding colonial era Anglicisations of an Indian word, as well as an Indian meal. Another one is Kedgeree. The original ‘kedgeree’ is called ‘kitchari’ and doesn’t have any smoked fish or boiled eggs in it, like ours does. It is a very simple dish of rice, spices and split dahl and surprisingly tasty too! I actually do my own veggie kedgeree (aka “vedgeree”) as a bit of a mash up of Indian kitchari and British kedgeree, with rice, lentils, onions, peas and mushrooms 🙂

    • Yeah, I’ll have to get on to that 🙂 Just need to get my measurements and timings written down first (I’m pretty bad at making notes).

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