April 29, 2011

Wild mushroom soup

Is it just me or does autumn make you feel a teeny bit nostalgic? Maybe it's the sound of the pounding rain, or the cooler and darker nights when you feel like wrapping yourself in a big blanket and cuddling up on the sofa with a good book. In the kitchen, I take out my huge French casserole and a big wooden spoon and I can happily stand next to the warm stove stirring soups and stews.

Back in Finland autumn was always my favourite time of the year - I think having a birthday in September had something to do with it, though. After moving to Australia and having somehow come to terms with the opposite seasons, it took me a few years to start embracing this time of the year again.

My love for autumn produce has not changed, however. I still adore the mushrooms, chestnuts, apples, root vegetables and all that this season has to offer. Pumpkins, like the ones in these photos, make a beautiful piece of decoration too and there is no need for expensive cut flowers in the dinner table.

I treated myself with a small bag of precious dried wild mushrooms lately and thought there is no better way to celebrate their strong flavour than a gorgeously warming soup. This soup is exactly that. It is strong and bold, it is chunky with mushrooms and has a re-assuring feel to it - it will make you feel comforted and cosy. 

You could easily make this into a loving pasta sauce by just using less vegetable stock. Whatever you do don't throw away the liquid after soaking the dried mushrooms! Try freezing it for a later use in pasta sauces or other soups or use it more in this soup for a stronger flavour.

Wild mushroom soup
(serves 2-4)

30g dried wild mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
200g fresh Swiss brown mushrooms (or mushrooms of your choice), sliced
1 sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp good tomato paste (organic)
0,5 litre wild mushroom soaking liquid (or less for a milder taste)
1 litre vegetable stock ( or less/more depending how thin/thick you want it)
big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper

1. Soak the dried wild mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, but keep the liquid. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add brown onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes.

3. Add all the mushrooms, along with the rosemary and thyme and sauté for a further 5 or so minutes. Add some of the soaking liquid in as well.

4. Add the tomato paste, vegetable stock and more soaking liquid if you wish. Cover, then let simmer for a good 30 minutes.

5. Lastly, season the soup with freshly ground black pepper and throw in a handful of fresh parsley before serving. 

6. Serve with a rustic wholegrain bread.