Italian Mushroom Soup

Peter Flynn

Potage Veloute aux Champignons

I was introduced to this recipe by Teresina. It originally came from Elizabeth David’s Italian Food (p.82), but I have adapted it here for the modern kitchen, because finely shredding even ¾lb of mushrooms by hand takes longer than most people have time for these days.

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Serves 4. Prep time: 60 minutes.


Ingredients

Mushroom mix

  • 350 g mushrooms [preferably of mixed types, and ideally with a few genuine field or forest mushrooms]
  • 35 g unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic | very finely chopped
  • large bunch of parsley | finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 100 ml Marsala (or Fino sherry)
  • 250 ml vegetable stock (or chicken stock)

Béchamel

  • 1 ℓ milk
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 50 g salted butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
  • pinch of grated nutmeg

Method

Mushroom mix

  1. Peel and destalk the mushrooms if needed, otherwise just clean them up. Then either chop them very finely by hand, or use a coarse cheese grater, or put them through the coarse shredder blade of your food processor. It doesn’t matter too much if they’re a bit coarser than you want at this stage, or if the shreds are too long, as we’ll reprocess them after cooking. (see tip)

  2. Melt the unsalted butter in a big pan and add the mushrooms, moving them around to mix them well. Put on the lid, or cover with a plate, and let it cook for about 10–15 minutes. They will exude water, so they’ll effectively stew in their own juice for a while, which cooks them.

  3. Remove the lid, add the garlic, mix well, and continue cooking until the water is evaporated, so you end up frying the mushrooms lightly in the unsalted butter.

  4. Add the parsley, salt, white pepper, and Marsala, and stir well. Set aside.


Béchamel

  1. Heat the milk with the peppercorns until nearly boiling. Strain into a jug (discard the peppercorns).

  2. Melt the salted butter in the same pan, add the flour and stir over a low heat for half a minute until well mixed. Turn off the heat. (see tip)

  3. Add a small splash of the milk and stir vigorously. The mixture will become almost solid as the milk and flour combine.

  4. Add a little more milk and stir again, making sure you beat it smooth.

  5. Repeat again and again, adding a little more milk each time, and stirring until the mixture is creamy and glossy. Nicholas Freeling says that a well-made sauce crème should be shiny.

  6. Add the remaining milk with the salt, finely ground pepper, and nutmeg, and bring to a gentle boil for a few minutes. It should be slightly thicker than you would normally want, because it’s going to be diluted.


Finishing

  1. Pour the mushroom mixture into your blender (not a liquidiser), and add the stock. Whizz for a few seconds only, enough to chop the strands of mushroom into the right consistency: you need to keep some texture, we don’t want a purée.

  2. Pour into the béchamel and mix well. Check for seasoning. If it’s too thick you can add extra stock or milk.


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