The damp days of early autumn send me, spoon in hand, in search of soup. Cloudy miso broths the colour of fallen leaves, old fashioned leek and potato so hot it steams up my glasses, sweet pumpkin, and in particular a bowl of deep and earthy mushroom.
I rarely make cream soups, but a splash stirred into a chestnut mushroom soup is no bad thing on a soggy day. Made with standard brown mushrooms, it is a cheap enough recipe, but I sometimes include a handful of interesting varieties, such as porcini, king oyster or chanterelle, fried with a knob of butter, at the end.
The dark chestnut cups I used for my soup this week had been in a brown paper bag in the bottom of the fridge for a good few days. They were damp, almost sticky, and smelled like autumn woods after the rain. I added parsnip to the softening onion. The pale roots yielded a faint sweetness and, more satisfyingly, a deep, mellow quality. I scattered steamed freekeh and fried chanterelles into the soup, too. Dipping our spoons through the steamed, roasted wheat into the grey-brown depths seemed a gentle enough nod to the season. The recipe itself was hearty and satisfying.
To follow, I rolled and fried crisp, green fritters – little bundles of crushed edamame – and served them with a mound of soft smoked cod’s roe. A verdant flash of green to cheer us through the damp.
Mushroom soup with freekeh and parsley
The addition of the wheat is not entirely necessary as it is good without, too. But it makes the soup more of a light supper. Serves 4
For the soup:
parsnip 1, medium
onion 1, medium
olive oil 2 tbsp
thyme leaves 1 tsp
mushrooms 450g, assorted
chicken or vegetable stock 1 litre
double cream 100ml
For the wheat:
freekeh (green wheat) 100g
parsley 4 tbsp
wild mushrooms 50g
Peel and roughly chop the parsnip. Peel the onion and roughly chop it.
Warm the olive oil in a large, deep pan. Add the butter and when it has melted, the chopped onion and parsnip. Let them cook for a good 20 minutes over a moderate heat, until the onion is soft and translucent, then stir in the thyme leaves.
Check the mushrooms, removing any tough stalks or growing medium, then roughly chop them. Add the mushrooms to the pan, continue cooking for a further 10 minutes then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Let the soup simmer, with the occasional stir, for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.
Purée the soup using a blender, season carefully and set aside.
To cook the wheat, rinse it first, then let it soak for 30 minutes. Bring the stock to the boil, add the freekeh and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Finely chop the parsley.
If you are going to serve the soup with the fried mushrooms, trim and clean them, then melt the butter in a shallow pan. When it starts to sizzle add the mushrooms and cook for a minute or two.
Bring the soup back to the boil. Lower the heat, stir in the cream, then ladle it into bowls. Stir the parsley into the wheat and scatter over the soup. Finish with the fried mushrooms.
Edamame fritters, smoked cod’s roe cream
Most frozen edamame is already cooked, ready to beat to a cloud of green mash with olive oil or butter. You could substitute frozen broad beans, but be prepared to skin a lot of beans to get 500g. Cook in boiling, salted water then pop them from their papery skins before mashing, seasoning and rolling them. Serves 4
For the fritters:
edamame, defrosted 500g (podded weight)
spring onions 50g
garlic 3 cloves
groundnut or vegetable oil for frying
For the smoked cod’s roe:
white bread 75g
smoked cod’s roe 300g
olive oil 400ml
Bring a deep saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the edamame and cook for 20 minutes till tender, then drain.
Remove the parsley leaves from their stalks. Roughly chop the spring onions, discarding tough, dark shoots as you go. Transfer the edamame to a food processor, add the parsley, coriander leaves and stems, the spring onions and garlic and work to a thick purée.
Roll the mixture into 16 equally sized balls. Place them on a tray and refrigerate. (Don’t skip this step or they will fall apart.)
Make the creamed cod’s roe by soaking the bread in a basin of cold water for 10 minutes. Wring the water gently from the bread then place it in the bowl of a food mixer. Slice the cod’s roe in half, then, using a teaspoon, scrape out the roe and discard the skin.
Beat the roe and bread slowly introducing the olive oil in a steady stream. When the texture is soft and creamy, but still spreadable, season with the juice of half a lemon or more. Chill, covered, in the fridge until needed.
To cook, warm a thin layer of groundnut or vegetable oil in a pan. Add the fritters and fry over a moderate heat for 4 or 5 minutes, then turn and cook the other side. Serve with the cod’s roe.
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