I'm still on my soup fetish, perhaps to tide me over the dismal tart affair, and to keep me going until Is My Blog Burning: Eggs rolls around.
Everybody loves mushroom soup. It's one of those old staples that can be found in just about any restaurant you go to. The number of places that try to palm you Campbell's mushroom soup, though, is utterly disgraceful, especially when it's really not that difficult to make your own.
There are only a few types of mushrooms easily available in Singapore: white button mushrooms, brown cremini mushrooms (which are just brown buttons), portabello mushrooms (which are just overgrown creminis) and shiitake mushrooms. See Foodsubs for pictures. Also available at some specialty food shops are chanterelles, trompets de mort, morels, porcini and truffles, but are much too expensive to be of any use to the normal home cook.
The problem with most of these mushrooms is that they are not particularly flavourful. Buttons and creminis are close to tasteless, and while the portabello is meaty, they're not very economical. Shiitakes are the tastiest of all, but impart a distinctive oriental taste to an otherwise European soup.
The trick, then, is to incorporate a very strong flavour base into your soup. This may be down with a small amount of porcini mushrooms, which are intensely aromatic. They're cheaper if bought fresh, but less flavoured than the dried variety.
A more affordable compromise is to buy dried Shiitake mushrooms, then rehydrate them with hot water. Not only will the mushrooms lend strength to your soup, the water used to rehydrate them can be added in to fortify the mushroom flavour, in place of plain vegetable or chicken stock.
Mushroom Soup (serves 4)
250g Shiitake mushrooms (fresh, or a mixture of fresh and dried)
200g Cremini mushrooms
1 stalk celery
500ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
50g butter (or 5 Tbsp olive oil)
You can be flexible with the mushrooms, depending on what is available or what is convenient. In this instance I used white button mushrooms in place of shiitakes, but included some dried shiitake for flavour. I also used some porcini oil in the hopes that this would do something for the taste.
Roughly chop your celery and mushrooms, and place in a covered pot along with the butter or oil. Allow to sweat over low heat for 15 - 20 minutes. Toss them about in the pot every once in a while to ensure the bottom isn't burning.
Add half the chicken stock or the rehydrating water, the bay leaf and simmer, covered, for another 15 - 20 minutes.
By this time the funghi should be soft and have infused the water with flavour. Remove the bay leaf and transfer the contents of the pot to a bowl and allow to cool for 20 - 30 minutes.
In a blender, process the mushrooms and liquid to a paste. Personally, I like leaving little bits of mushrooms to chomp on, but you can blend the mixture as finely as you want.
At this point, the soup may wait till close to serving time, or you may freeze the excess for later consumption.
Before serving, add the remaining chicken stock to the soup until it reaches your desired consistency, and season to taste. Warm up the soup to a gentle simmer and serve in individual bowls with a tablespoon of cream stirred into each.