My great-grandfather was a forester and passed this passion for nature on to my father in no short order. Many miles away from our country of origin, I was indoctrinated with a romanticised vision of these European forests. Teeming with stylised woodland creatures, I imagined scenes of sculptured trees, bright orange foxes, acorns hoarded by a greedy squirrel and mushrooms. So many mushrooms.
“The one’s in Australia don’t taste like anything.”
That’s a line I’ve heard my dad repeat over and over. The guy loves Australia to pieces… except for the mushrooms. And the strawberries. And the bread. Is this sounding familiar to anyone of European lineage? Apparently they’re just indescribably better on the Continent. Ok, bread and strawberries, I’ll concede. But mushrooms?
I’m a really big fan of cooking for dad. He’s one of the only people in my family who shares the same palate as me and there’s visceral excitement when we eat together. Every time I come across a great recipe, my first thought is ‘I bet dad would love this.’
He always talks about the mushroom soup his mum made when he was a kid. Well, not always. Truthfully it’d be strange if someone spoke incessantly about any kind of soup, but he mentions it often enough that I’ve taken on a quest to replicate it for him.
Now I know what you’re thinking, beacons of positivity that you are. The recipe that follows is going to be the culmination of all these attempts and I’m presenting it to you today bathed in adulation from my father, right?
Even the best of many attempts was sitting at a 7/10 on the mushroom soup nostalgia scale. I’ve bought Portobellos, Swiss Browns and all manner of ‘white ones’. Holy shitake old man, I know they’re not real European mushrooms but short of hiring a Concorde to fly me there and back within the shelf life of a fungus, can you give me a break?
I did, however, up the ante and channel the Mother Country by using dried forest mushrooms, which happen to be grown in Eastern Europe. Nigella expressed the sentiment with a naff eloquence by saying that the intense flavour of the dried somehow awakens the spirit within humble button mushrooms, like a call to the wild.
As you can imagine, my seventy-eight year old father wasn’t swayed by this mushroom mythology, in spite of its eloquence, but he did concede that this batch was the best mushroom soup he had tasted in Australia. So I’ll take that title, proudly.
If you’d like to try making the best Antipodean version of European Forest Mushroom Soup, the recipe is below. I would love to hear from any fungus aficionados on their global mushroom comparisons and how they found this recipe.
Incidentally, the Croatian word for mushroom is gljiva and it surely represents, to non-Slavic speakers, one of the most confronting examples of unabashed consonant stringing. G – L – J definitely rolls off the tongue. I know what you’re thinking: Can I buy a vowel?
PS: In the written word there’s mushroom for misunderstanding but, believe me, I adore my dad. He’s such a fungi.
Wannabe European Forest Mushroom Soup
- About 50g of dried forest or porcini mushrooms
- 750g of assorted mushrooms, preferably flown overnight from the forests of Croatia but Coles also has a great selection, chopped (Reserve a handful for serving)
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 splash of whiskey, sherry or white wine (optional)
- 1 tbsp mild paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp sour cream, plus some for serving
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme (or a sprinkle of dried) and some chopped parsley
- Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
- Meanwhile heat oil in a heavy based pot on medium and add onion, garlic and mushrooms.
- After a few minutes add salt and paprika then deglaze with your alcohol of choice, if using.
- Once the boozy aroma has dissipated, stir in the cornflour and cook for a minute.
- Add the dried mushrooms including the soaking liquid, stock, mustard, thyme and parsley then cover and cook on low for about twenty minutes.
- Stir through the sour cream and blend to desired consistency with a stick mixer – keeping a little bit of texture is nice in this soup. Return to the heat to stay warm until serving. Season as required.
- In a frying pan, fry off the reserved mushrooms with a little oil and salt. Sprinkle these on top of each bowl of soup along with some more sour cream, fresh thyme and parsley.