As a child, the only edible mushrooms I knew about came buttered and stewed, in a tin, and were eaten as a side dish with a grilled piece of steak. Sad but true!
Even as an adult, cooking mostly vegetarian food in my 20s and 30s, I rarely bought any fresh mushrooms, and the few that I did buy were of the slightly bland, white-skinned variety that was mass-produced in contrived environments.
Eventually, in my mid-40s, I began to take mushrooms more seriously. Although I am hardly a connoisseur, I at least look for opportunities to avail myself of their savoury qualities, either on their own or as a significant ingredient in a complex dish.
The original recipe for this soup came via Maggie’s daughter, a self-confessed soup-aholic. I have enjoyed it from the very first time I made it and I have barely altered the recipe over more than a decade of preparing a pot of it several times each year.
I made a batch last week, expecting to serve some at home and capture it on my i-Phone before I ate it. However, it was put aside to be taken to Healesville and shared with Julian, Sara and Iris for lunch. Everyone enjoyed it, although some of Iris’ serve didn’t quite make it to her mouth; she is determinedly independent but, at 18 months, is still a few weeks short of mastering her use of a spoon! (And that’s another photo I wish I had taken.)
And, in a first for me, Julian commented on the ‘umami’ element of the soup’s flavour. I have only recently heard of this fifth flavour being added to the long-recognised salt, sweet, bitter and sour. So, I learnt something from my son, a not-infrequent event, as I age and he hits his straps.
40g unsalted butter
1 large leek
1-2 cloves garlic
1 stick of celery
375g mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 zucchini, chopped (optional, but only use with well-flavoured mushrooms)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
4-6 sprigs of thyme
generous grinding of pepper
1 thick slice dense bread, torn into small pieces OR one large potato, peeled and diced
1 litre salt-reduced chicken stock
- Heat butter in a large saucepan over low heat
- Coarsely chop leek, garlic and celery, add to pan and sauté for 5 minutes
- Add mushrooms, zucchini and potato (if using) to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.
- Add parsley, thyme, pepper, bread (if using) and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes. Cool slightly and remove thyme sprigs.
- Place the soup in a blender and blend until it is smooth.
- Return soup to saucepan, adjust seasoning and reheat.