We all have them: foods that we’re just not sure about. This can range from mild dislike to utter loathing, and can be based on taste, texture, smell, colour or association. It can also be a mix of loving a food cooked one way but hating another. And it can be completely irrational. For me, this is mushrooms.
I only like mushrooms in cream of mushroom soup. By that, I mean tinned cream of mushroom soup and the freshly made version at Russian coffee house chain Shokoladnitsa. Anything else, I either feel like I’m chewing school erasers or it plays to childhood suspicions that I’m being poisoned by the Evil Witch who hates kids.
This can put me in an awkward position as mushrooms are often used in the only dish I can eat at restaurants with limited menus, especially risottos. It almost rendered me a freak of nature living in Russia for six years as mushroom picking is a national pastime. And for good reason, as these fungi are good for you.
Mushrooms come in many shapes, sizes and colours, though the most popular is the white or button variety. They are low-fat, low-calorie and low-sodium. They contain protein and fibre, and are rich in B vitamins and minerals, such as selenium and copper, and other antioxidants that can help protect the body against heart disease and cancer, and the damage caused by ageing, as well as improve digestion and maintain the immune system.
So for this logical reason, and the fact that I have actually walked through three feet of snow to eat it, is why I am including this delicious recipe for cream of mushroom soup. I dare any mycophobics out there not to try it and love it!
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
500g white button mushrooms
2 tablespoons of chopped dried mushrooms
½ medium onion
1 clove of garlic
3 medium potatoes
200g of creme fraiche (for the soup and for serving)
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tablespoon of unscented oil
1. Boil some water in a kettle and add to the dried mushrooms in a cup or small bowl until just covered. Leave for 15 minutes
2. Boil and measure out 500ml of water, add a stock cube and allow it to dissolve
3. Peel and finely chop the onion
4. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion
5. Sweat the onion on a low heat for five minutes with the lid on
6. Wash or wipe clean the button mushrooms. Remove the stalks of 8-10 mushrooms and put only the caps to one side
7. Finely chop the remaining mushrooms and all the stalks, peel and chop the garlic, and peel and dice the potatoes (1 cm square)
8. Add the remaining mushroom and garlic to a pan, stir, and sweat for five minutes with the lid on, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking or burning
9. Add the chopped potatoes, stir, and sweat for five minutes with the lid on. Continue stirring from time to time to prevent burning or sticking
10. Add the vegetable stock and stir
11. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and the liquid they are in and stir
12. Cook on a low heat for 20 minutes with the lid on
13. Add all but two dessert spoons of creme fraiche to the soup until thoroughly blended. Continue cooking on a very low heat for 10 minutes and ensure the potatoes are soft. Do not allow the soup boil or the creme fraiche will clot
14. Heat one tablespoon of unscented oil in a frying pan, cut the set-aside mushroom caps in 1/2 cm slices and fry on a moderate to high heat, turning as necessary until cooked through. Do not brown or burn
15. Liquidise the soup using a hand blender and pass through a sieve
16. Reheat the liquidised soup and add the cooked sliced mushrooms for texture.
Season to taste
17. Serve in warm bowls and put a tablespoon of the remaining creme fraiche in the centre of the soup in each bowl and create a decorative swirl
18. Eat with hot buttered rustic walnut bread!