I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with mushroom soup. I can't bear those gloopy tins of 'Cream of Mushroom' soup, thickened with too much cornflour and tasting more of long-life cream than mushroom, with dubious floating chunks which may or may not have begun their life as a mushroom. But a really deep, earthy homemade mushroom soup with suitably garlicky bread to dunk in is a proper treat, and here I've even splashed in some sherry to make this a soup showstopper.
This could just as easily be a dinner party starter or a simple weeknight supper. The amount of sherry you need to add really depends on a) how alcoholic you like your soup (!), and b) whether you're using a sweet or dry sherry. Add 2-3 tablespoon first, mix well then taste and keep adding until you're happy. You should be able to taste it, but don't let it overpower the mushroom-y flavour from those lovely dried porcini, which must be the star of the show.
This is actually a vegan soup, with not a hint of cream required for a luxuriously silky texture. The trick to this is dividing the soup into two and blitzing half in a blender, then returning it to the pan. The result is a thickened and silky soup but with plenty of deliciously juicy mushroom chunks to scoop up with your chewy garlic bruschetta croutons.
If you want to serve this as a lunch or supper in its own right, you could make it more filling and substantial by throwing in a handful of pearl barley, puy lentils or even orzo pasta, then simmering until cooked through.
Why not make a loaf of my easy Plaited Bread to serve on the side?
Porcini Mushroom & Sherry Soup
- 25 g dried porcini mushrooms
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 500 g fresh mushrooms I used a mixture of chestnut and flat-cap
- 500 ml vegetable stock
- 1 handful fresh baby spinach
- 60 ml 4 tablespoon sherry (check it is vegan)
- half a ciabatta loaf
- garlic oil or olive oil and a garlic clove
- handful fresh parsley finely chopped
- Pour 400ml boiling water into a jug and add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside to soak for 10-15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion. Cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes until softened, then add the garlic.
- Chop the fresh mushrooms into small pieces, and add to the pan. Cook until they have released their liquid - around 5 minutes.
- Strain or sieve the jug of porcini mushrooms into the pan, so the liquid goes into the saucepan and the mushrooms are reserved in your sieve. Chop the mushrooms finely, and add them to the pan.
- Add the stock to the pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, then ladle half the soup into a blender or food processor, add the spinach and blitz until smooth and thick. Return this to the pan with the rest of the soup and stir to combine. Taste the soup and season well with salt and pepper to your own taste. Add the sherry one tablespoon at a time, tasting in between until you are happy with the flavour.
- To make the garlic bruschetta croutons, simply slice the ciabatta thinly, drizzle with a little garlic oil (or rub the surface of the bread with the cut side of half a garlic clove, then drizzle with olive oil). Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden brown.
- Sprinkle both the soup and bruschetta croutons with parsley, and serve immediately.