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Cold Cucumber Soup Recipe – 50 Women Game Changers in Food – #7 Madhur Jaffrey

by Jeanette on July 22, 2011 · 16 Comments
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Madhur Jaffrey’s Cold Cucumber Soup – This Soup Was Spicy and Flavorful!

It is so hot outside these days that I’ve been thinking about making some cold soup. Typically, I enjoy hot soups, and the only cold soup I’ve ever made is Gazpacho. However, I’ve been thinking about trying a cold cucumber soup with all the cucumbers I’ve been getting in my CSA Box.

Recently, Gourmet Live came up with a list of 
50 Women Game-Changers in food. Mary from One Perfect Bite and a small group of food bloggers decided to celebrate these influential women in food by cooking a recipe from each of them over a 50 week period. Recently, I posted Martha Stewart’s (#4) Cold Sesame Noodle recipe; however, as I’ve been out of the town the past several weeks, I missed out on M.F.K. Fisher (#5) and Marcella Hazan (#6).

This week, the group is celebrating Madhur Jaffrey (#7), the noted author of 29 cookbooks to-date, including Indian, Asian and Vegetarian cuisines. Madhur Jaffrey is a seven-time James Beard Foundation Award winner and is best known for introducing the Western world to Indian cuisine. 

One fact about Madhur Jaffrey that I was totally unaware of was that she was actually an actress who appeared in many films before she became known as a cookbook author. In fact, it was her award-winning performance in Shakespeare Wallah in the 1960’s that gave her the name as the “actress who could cook,” after which she was hired by the BBC to present a show on cooking. In 1966, she received a book contract that produced her first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking, after an article about her and her cooking appeared in the New York Times.

When I first started learning how to cook Indian cuisine, I borrowed several of Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks from the library, including Quick & Easy Indian Cooking and World Vegetarian. Over the past several years, cooking Indian food has turned from being totally intimidating to a much more approachable cuisine, thanks to Madhur Jaffrey and a few Indian cooking classes.

With a bounty of cucumbers in my last several CSA boxes and the sweltering heat this summer, I could think of no better way to celebrate Madhur Jaffrey as one of the top 50 Women Game-Changers than by making her Cold Cucumber Soup from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey

I’ve been getting a bounty of cucumbers in my CSA box lately.

Madhur Jaffrey brought this Cold Cucumber Soup recipe back with her from a trip to the Maldives, after tasting this soup at the Cocoa Island resort on the South Male Atoll, just southwest of India. She recalls “sitting in an airy pavilion, the calm blue sea on two sides of me, balmy breezes blowing past, sipping the soup a tablespoon at a time, and thinking, ‘This is what heaven must be like.'”

Although this soup appears simple, apparently the original recipe was quite complicated to make. In fact, Madhur Jaffrey spent two years simplifying this Cold Cucumber Soup recipe for the home cook, trying to retain its essence while cutting down on all the steps used at the restaurant. The chef who created this soup, Stana Johnson, combined South Indian seasonings and the notion of cucumber raita, an Indian yogurt relish, in this light cooling summer soup.

When I first read through this Cold Cucumber Soup recipe, I was intrigued by the idea of creating a soup base by toasting urad dal and spices, and then allowing this spice mix along with curry leaves to infuse the chicken broth. I have eaten dal as a dish, but not as a flavoring. Toasting the urad dal with mustard seeds adds an unexpected flavor dimension, and the chilies give this Cold Cucumber Soup a kick.

Today was 90 degrees out, so this Cold Cucumber Soup was perfect. In fact, I had it for lunch and dinner. 

Cold Cucumber Soup

Adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey. Toasting the urad dal with the mustard seeds and chilies adds a nice flavor dimension. Fresh curry leaves are well worth seeking out, and can be found at your local Indian grocery store. I used non-fat yogurt to keep this summer soup on the lighter side. You can substitute vegetable broth if you’d like.

Madhur Jaffrey's Cold Cucumber Soup
Don’t Let This Light Colored Soup Fool You – It Is Super Flavorful And Has A Kick.

Printable Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons urad dal (or yellow split peas)
  • 1 tablespoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 dried hot red chilies
  • 15 fresh curry leaves, or 6 basil leaves, torn up
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Cucumber, enough to get 3 cups after peeling and blending, plus some finely diced cucumber for garnishing
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice, for garnishing’


  1. Heat oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add dal; as soon as dal takes on a hint of color, add mustard seeds and chilies. As soon as the mustard seeds pop, throw in the curry leaves and quickly pour in the chicken stock. 
  2. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the stock is reduced to 3 cups. 
  3. Set aside for 3 hours or overnight, allowing the stock to chill and get infused with the seasonings. Strain.
  4. Peel and roughly dice the cucumber. Put in a blender along with 1/2 cup of the strained broth. Blend finely.
  5. Put salt and yogurt in a large bowl and whisk lightly so you have a smooth mixture. 
  6. Slowly whisk in the remaining chicken stock and cucumber mixture. Taste for salt and then refrigerate until ready to serve.
  7. To serve, stir the soup well (it tends to separate), and ladle into soup bowls.
  8. Sprinkle the diced cucumbers and diced tomatoes over the top and serve.

Serves 6-8.

Please stop by and take a look at what the rest of the group made this week in celebration of Madhur Jaffrey:

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  1. Sue/the view from great island says:

    What an interesting soup—your photo has an instant cooling effect on me, I could sit here and look at it all day! I love the story behind it, too.

  2. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    I bookmarked immediately! I love the idea of the spicy undertones with the cool yogurt and cucumber. Curry leaves are often in the freezer section of Indian markets, too.

  3. This looks delightfully refreshing. I love the heat that's tucked into the soup. It looks beautiful and I'm sure it is delicious. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…MAry

  4. Miranda says:

    Who knew a cold cucumber soup could be so beautiful! Love the addition chilis in this. A must try.

  5. Susan Lindquist says:

    What an interesting soup! I have never made chilled soups, but this heatwave is inspiring me to new lengths of seeking a cool-off! Excellent post!

  6. Jeannette–This soup looks so delicious and light! I wouldn't have even thought to look for a recipe like this. Yum!

  7. Jeanette says:

    It is over 90 degrees today and I am going to have the rest of this Cold Cucumber Soup for lunch!

  8. girlichef says:

    This is a stunning soup…beautiful and elegant! I would love a cooling bowl of this today for lunch 😀

  9. I love this celebration of influential women – beautiful soup. Love how creamy it is with the yogurt.

  10. Shirley @ gfe says:

    I agree with girlichef … that soup is absolutely stunning! I'd like to sample this recipe and go to the Maldives to sample the original (please, please!). I've got cucumber water chilling right now. (I was inspired by this post from Zoe.) I'm going to sample it a little later. Anything to provide some relief in this heat. Cucumbers are abundant so it's great to find new cooling ways to use them–thanks, Jeanette!


  11. Jen_from_NJ says:

    Perfect timing – I have plenty of cucumbers and this would be perfect in the heatwave that we are having!

  12. Jeanette says:

    I'm glad I have this cold cucumber soup in my recipe file now – it's a keeper.

  13. i totally thought it would be green! this looks so good! i love cold soups, especially gazpacho!

  14. Lwbookeater says:

    Loving the premise of female "game-changers." Jaffrey's World Vegetarian is a go-to in our household. This soup looks fantastic.

  15. France@beyondthepeel says:

    The texture you achieved or should I say smoothness is fabulous. It's not often you find a cucumber soup with so much flavor.

  16. bellini says:

    I just arrived back from holidays Jeanette with no Internet access but just had to see what everuone had been up to! Well done!

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