Sunday, 15 February 2015

Some Feathers In My (Mushroom) Cap

At every Western cuisine outfit I patronise, mushroom soup is often a go-to thing, especially if it's my first time there and if it's available.

So it's only a matter of time before I made my own Western-style mushroom soup.

Main ingredients for mushroom soup

What kept me back was my paranoia of mushrooms. These look dirty - how do you clean them? Do you even need to? Should I remove the stems? These look like a lot - should I use them all? What if the factory accidentally slipped in a poisonous one?

I know, silly me. But to me, these were valid concerns.

While mulling a method to help me shop for groceries better (like recipe cards), I decided to do a mental one for the day I tackle my favourite appetiser. Once I do mushrooms, I might end up putting it into every other thing I cook: Stir-fries, pasta sauces, sandwiches, curries...

Earlier, the mushrooms filled about half the pot

Right, the ingredients. Brown button mushrooms (200g), some Portobello mushrooms, shallots, garlic, mixed herbs and 500ml of pre-packed liquid vegetable stock. This recipe is loosely based on this one.

Prepping the mushrooms was a bit tricky. Several recipes I referred to don't mention washing the 'shrooms first, but one said to remove the stems from Portobellos (which can be woody and tough, I reckon). So I just showered them with water. Rubbing a brown mushroom cap caused the brown to come off, so I stopped.

ROILING HELLBROTH; note the clean stovetops and the saved
mushrooms, chopped (should've saved more)

When the pile of sliced mushrooms got uncomfortably big, I saved the last three Portobello for later. I used these instead of shiitake for the extra flavour and meatiness, but as I learnt later, it's fine for them all to go into the pot - after the aromatics (chopped shallots and garlic) were tossed in and sautéed with a little oil.

Watching Jamie Oliver cook mushrooms, I learnt that the fungi are like sponges that release their own water into the pot, while absorbing other flavours you throw in. And these 'shrooms release a lot of water. As I stirred, the huge pile shrank by at least half, while a puddle of liquid slowly pooled at the bottom of the pot.

I wasn't sure if I should save it all, so I took the pot off the heat and poured put most of it in a bowl; the rest went into the sink, which, in hindsight, was not a good idea.

Bubbly blended fungal ambrosia, peppered with black pepper

Then the pot went back onto the flames. Several minutes is all is needed, then the veggie stock went in. As it started to boil, I tasted the mushroom water.

Mm-mmm, good.

So back into the pot it went, along with a bit of salt, pepper and mixed herbs. And- uh oh, maybe 500ml of vegetable stock was a bit too much. But getting some of it to boil away would take too long. So I killed the heat and waited for it to cool before blending it up.

Oh yes, save a bit of mushroom to chop up for texture.

Almost like how they do it in restaurants

I made a similar mistake with the "ancient carrot" soup: to get as much soup out of the receptacle, I used water, which went back into the pot for a final boil and a swirl of milk - no cream on hand, and I thought with extra mushrooms, why bother?

Yes, the soup was a bit salty on top of being slightly watery - no cream. Perhaps a future version would also benefit from it, plus more mushrooms and less water.

But it is still good, and it was a huge bowl. But at RM18++ for all those mushrooms and almost RM10 for the veggie stock, the cost of raw ingredients is a bit steep.

Still, I've made something with mushrooms. I can see myself doing this again.

The remaining Portobellos went into a (yummy) mushroom pasta dish

As for the remaining Portobellos, they ended up in a yummy home-made mushroom pasta dish the next day. They're not cheap, okay?

...Yes, this is starting to look like a cooking blog. Maybe it's because I find cooking therapeutic - at the moment. Glad the title still applies, though. (Books? No. Maybe. Later. Kitchen? Yes.)


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