Mushrooms haven’t made much of an appearance on my home menu in 2015. I blame my busy-ness since I got back from Italy in mid-April but now that it is the end of May and winter is just about to set in, I find myself craving them. I dream about buying porcini mushrooms at the local market, those divine, fragrant, enormous almost meaty creatures that are common in markets in Italy in September. Sadly this is just about an impossibility in Australia. We have lovely pine mushroom, shiitakes, Swiss brown and field mushrooms, but there are just no porcini. Or I have never seen any. However, things might be changing. I recently heard of porcini being found in small quantities in the Adelaide Hills and being sold at about $100/kg. I am thoroughly excited though quite alarmed at the price…
To celebrate the end of autumn I decided to purchase some mushrooms and make a soup. The recipe I used is from the Claudia Roden book “The food of Italy, region by region”. I received the book as a gift from the lovely people at the Italian Family History Group after I spoke at an event last week about my parent’s migration to Australia and my connection to their food and culture. The recipe is in the section on Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which is quite fitting seeing that is where my parents met and lived before migrating to Australia.
This soup is very simple. You chop the mushrooms and potatoes into very small pieces before you make the soup (using a food processor if you like) so you don’t need to use a blender at the end like you do with many other soups (which I find gets a bit messy). Furthermore, because the vegetables are chopped so finely, they cook very quickly. So it is a quick dish as well – you can have it on the table in about 45 minutes including preparation time. The original recipe uses porcini or ovoli, but I have substituted shiitake mushrooms and added some dried porcini for an extra Italian kick. Please do use the sour cream to serve – it is part of the influence of when the Austro-Hungarians ruled this part of Italy – and adds extra slightly sour creaminess to what is a flavoursome and rich soup.
Zuppa di funghi (mushroom soup)
350g shiitake mushrooms
10g dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
25g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon plain flour
175ml dry white wine
1.5 litres chicken stock (or mushroom stock)
1 tablespoon marjoram leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
fresh parsley, leaves picked and chopped (to serve)
sour cream (to serve)
thinly sliced extra mushrooms (garnish)
Place the dried porcini in a small bowl, cover with warm water and set aside. Chop the mushrooms and potatoes very finely (I used a food processor and processed them separately). Put the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the mushrooms and cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant, then add the flour, stirring it well. Then add the wine, stock, potatoes and marjoram. Drain the dried porcini, chop very finely and add to the soup. Add the left over warm “porcini’ water to the soup, taking care to strain out any bits of dirt that may have settled on the bottom of the bowl. Cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through. Discard the garlic. Stir in brandy (if using) and add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve with parsley and a large dollop of sour cream. Garnish with extra thinly sliced mushrooms if desired.