Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness – and Wild Mushroom Soup

Pin It Once upon a time, I went on a Mushroom forage at Avondale, the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, “uncrowned king” of Ireland for anyone who is interested in history. That I am alive to tell the tale is down to the fact that my colourful haul with its minks and mauves and sulphur yellows was confiscated and labelled beautiful... but deadly!

Wild mushrooms... captured!

"I've never trusted toadstools."

- Cheshire Cat

Our guide - a mycological ‘Ray Mears’ - told us that there are around 3,000 types of mushrooms in Europe - or was it 30,000? Either way, it was a bewildering array but the job of making identifications is relatively easy as there are only 30 or so that are good to eat, the rest being inedible or downright poisonous. I unerring selected the downright poisonous. You can catch the full story, broadcast on RTE’s Sunday Miscellany. My bit starts exactly a minute into the clip.

One of the ‘mushroomiest’ mushrooms to eat is the porcini (aka cep, or penny bun) and it is the star of this rich autumnal soup. You’ll be glad to know that I did my foraging at the supermarket. Given my level of foraging expertise, it is much safer that way.

For 4 to 6 servings you will need:
10g (½ oz) dried porcini mushrooms
150mls boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, peeled and finely chopped
500mls (1 pint) chicken/vegetable stock
250g (8oz) button mushrooms, thinly sliced
50g (2oz) butter
50g (2oz) plain flour
500 mls (1 pint) fresh milk
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Salt and black pepper

1    First, rehydrate the porcini mushrooms by placing them in a measuring jug with the boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. This also allows any grit to settle at the bottom of the liquid.
2    While the porcini are soaking, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a gentle heat and add in the onion and celery. Cover and cook gently without colouring for 5 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened.
3    Remove the porcini mushrooms from their soaking liquid with a slotted spoon and chop finely. Strain the soaking liquid through a sieve into the saucepan, catching any grit in the sieve. Add the porcini mushrooms, button mushrooms and stock and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
4    Meanwhile, in another medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add in the flour and stir until it forms a paste. Continue cooking and stirring over a medium heat for a minute or so, then remove from the heat. Now, add in the milk a little at a time, stirring rapidly with a wooden spoon. It will almost certainly look a little lumpy. Don’t worry we’ll sort that out in a moment. When you have added about half the milk, swap the spoon for a whisk and add the remaining milk.
5    Return the saucepan to the heat and use the whisk to stir any floury lumps back into the liquid. Now add the cooking liquid from the vegetables and mushrooms and continue cooking (and stirring) until the liquid starts to bubble gently. Turn down the heat and add in about three-quarters of the mushrooms and softened vegetables, along with the Worcestershire Sauce. Simmer gently for 2 minutes, then blend the soup. A stick blender is perfect for this job.
6    Finally, add in the remaining mushrooms and vegetables and the fresh parsley. Taste, and add salt and black pepper if needed.

Gilding the lily...When you’ve dished up the soup, pour a little fresh cream into the centre of each bowl, sprinkling with a little more parsley (or chives if you prefer).
If you prefer a smoother soup, blend all the mushrooms and vegetables at step 5.
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  1. I definitely prefer to do my mushroom foraging at the grocery store, although I impressed that you tried it out in the great outdoors. That soup looks super delicious, too! :D

  2. This wild mushroom soup sounds so delicious! Wonderful for the chilly weather that's just starting :)

  3. This looks delicious! I love mushrooms, among many other reasons also because they are so versatile, but must confess a total addiction to mushroom soup. Your recipe sounds very nice and I totally agree with your decision to do the foraging at the supermarket - I would be too scared to trust my own instincts when it comes to wild mushrooms :-)


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