Mushroom soup doesn’t sound particularly enticing for a dinner party except for when the weather is really cold and wet and it takes forever to get warmed up once one has reached the sanctuary of a warm room, away from the thoroughly inclement weather that hit us just over a week ago. It wasn’t so much a dinner party as a ‘gathering’ of people who are distantly connected, geographically speaking, but very close in terms of friendship ties. I didn’t even know two of the people coming that evening (they were son and daughter-in-law of one of our friends) and, to make matters more complicated, they were landing that very evening at a nearby airport — and so there was the very real possibility that their plane might be delayed. Another friend was driving down to Rome from Siena, and negotiating the treacherous driving conditions meant that his ETA was a moot point too.
All this to say that my menu had to take into account that dinner might be very late in any case, that we didn’t have a clue when we’d actually sit down and that we might even have to start eating before some of the dinner guests arrived. Hence the polenta casserole in my previous post (and the martini that went into its making) and hence mushroom soup. Soup is warm and soothing, it is nourishing and, very helpfully, it can be heated up for any late arrivers without disappointing.
This soup was made using very plain button mushrooms but I also added one packet of dried porcini mushrooms to make it a little bit more exciting (if soup can be thought of as exciting …whatever).
It took quite a long time to make but it is also very EASY to prepare, so it doesn’t ruffle one’s temperament thermometer in the kitchen. In order to thicken its consistency, I used potatoes. When it was time to process the mushrooms into a soup as such, I mashed the potatoes separately. That is because it is not a good idea to use a hand blender to process potatoes: they go all sticky and gluey and the consistency is vile. Just use an ordinary potato masheror even a good strong fork. For the rest, the recipe is really a no-brainer. Read on.
In terms of quantities … use your eyesight. Think of a soup bowl and imagine how many mushrooms, sliced, would fit in nicely. And that came to 6 per person. There were 12 of us that evening … so I bought 6 x12 mushrooms plus a few more handfuls for extra.
I placed the packet of dried porcini mushrooms into a jug, and added about 1 liter of hot water to it. I let them sit there and steep their taste into the water while I got on with making a ‘soffritto’ : cutting some carrot, celery and shallot. I also added a couple of cloves of garlic.
I put the diced vegetables into the soup pot and added some butter as well as olive oil. That dark cylinder-shaped object you see is not poo that an insect accidentally plopped into the pot, it is a kernel of pepper that gives off a lovely scent.
Cook the vegetables on a medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Then add the mushrooms that you have sliced and mix everything up. Turn the heat up too. After a while, the mushrooms release their own liquid and we want some of that to burn off. Cook for at least 10 minutes.
This is where we are going to have to do some arithmetic. I had worked out that we were going to need the better part of 3 liters (1 liter of liquid for soup is enough for 4 people, thus 3 liters was going to cover enough for 12 people). What you see in the photo is the 1 liter which had been used to steep the dried porcini. (The porcini can be seen behind.) Set aside, in anticipation.
I was unable to take any more photos of this soup that evening but all the guests said they enjoyed its and its invigorating properties. There was some left over the next day, however: