Mixed Wild Mushroom Soup

How is it I don’t remember ever making mushroom soup…???

Unless memory serves me wrong, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of making and consuming soup made from one of my most fave vegetables… since what would’ve been a first attempt, in culinary school. How is that even possible?

I could eat mushrooms on everything from pasta, to frittata, to pizza, to bruschetta – and frequently do. This soup, adapted by a recipe from Jamie Oliver, really shows off their taste.

It’s absolute heaven to be in Italy when the king of mushrooms, the porcini, is in season. Whether proudly exhibited at the front of a restaurant or displayed at the market, some earth still clinging to the roots, they are indeed a wonder to behold.

Mercato Centrale, Florence

Leave it to the Italians, the champions of not only eating in season, but cleverly, smartly and oh-so-passionately holding the annual festa, to celebrate the harvest! From the porcini, to the chestnut, to the venerable truffle – it’s a celebration of not only the harvest, but indeed of life.

(One of) my ideas of culinary heaven…? I can still picture the plate of fresh fettucine, positively groaning under the weight of the glorious, sautéed porcini. Mamma mia… this, was on my very first trip to Florence, in a trattoria in the Altrarno district.

In fact, the dried porcini I used in THIS recipe… were purchased in the Mercato Centrale in Florence, lovingly carted home from my last visit.

Mixed Wild Mushroom Soup

Use whatever mix of fresh mushrooms you can get your hands on; cremini, shiitake, oyster, portobello and even button –  but please do get the dried porcini, that are now readily available. The flavour that’s added with their use, as well as the liquid from hydrating, really makes the soup. Serves 4 (for the purpose of testing, the recipe was halved).

1 small handful dried porcini mushrooms
olive oil
400 g mixed fresh wild mushrooms, clean and sliced (if you use shiitake, be sure to discard the stems)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
1 small handful fresh thyme, leaves picked/or use 1 tsp dried
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
500 ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
 truffle oil, a few drops to garnish (optional)

Place the porcini in a small heatproof dish, add boiling water just to cover and leave to soak, for at least 30 minutes. Get a large heavy bottomed pan nice and hot, then add a good couple of lugs of olive oil and your fresh mushrooms. Stir around very quickly for a minute, then add your garlic, onion and thyme and a small amount of seasoning. After about a minute you’ll probably notice moisture cooking out of the mushrooms and at this point add half of your porcini, chopped up, and the rest left whole. Strain the soaking liquid (a coffee filter in a strainer works well) to remove any grit, and add it to the pan. Carry on cooking for about 20 minutes until most of the moisture disappears.

Season to taste, and add your stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. Remove half the soup from the pan and whiz it up to a purée using your favourite method. Add it back to the pot, stirring in the heavy cream and parsley, then serve.

Serving/Garnishing Suggestions:
You can serve this soup as you like, but there are a few things to remember when finishing it off. Mix together a pinch of salt and pepper with the zest of one lemon and the juice of half of it, then spoon a little of this into the middle of the soup. When you go to eat it, stir it in and it gives a wonderful flavour. Other things you can consider include a spoonful of mascarpone or little slices of grilled crostini put into the bottom of the bowls before the soup is poured over. Or you could even quickly fry some nice-looking mushrooms – like girolles, chanterelles or oysters – and sprinkle these on top of the soup. If I was going to use truffle oil, then I would use it on its own – a few drips on the top just before serving.