This morning when we looked outside, we saw a grey, foggy city. Knowing it would take hours for the fog to clear, we started thinking about something warm for lunch. Perhaps some soup with crusty bread? We opened our refrigerator. Various mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, cream, a carrot, some left over stock. Yes! We knew what we wanted to cook for lunch: Mushroom Soup with Pancetta. A hearty, rich soup, ideal for a cold, grey day. The combination of mushrooms, pancetta and cream works very well; the celery and leek add complexity and the thyme brings character.
It was much later that afternoon before the fog left the city, but since we also had some left over Chardonnay in the fridge, which we enjoyed with our soup, we didn’t mind that much.
What You Need
Mushrooms (Best is a Mix of Champignons, Shiitake etcetera)
Keep two strips of pancetta apart (to be grilled just before serving). You probably need 4-6 strips in total. Slice the remaining pancetta and fry in olive oil on medium heat. Remove the pancetta from the pan, chop the shallot and glaze it in the fat and perhaps some extra olive oil. Clean and slice the mushrooms, slice half a stalk of celery, half a leek, a small carrot, chop two gloves of garlic and add this to the shallot. Gently fry for a few minutes. Add the pancetta, the stock and the bouquet garni. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni. Blender the soup, pass through a sieve and leave on low heat for 10 minutes. The mushrooms will emulgate the soup, so no need to add a roux. Now it’s time to taste the soup and perhaps add some black pepper. Add cream and fresh thyme and leave for another 5-10 minutes. In the meantime grill the two strips of pancetta until brown and crispy. Cut the stripes in five pieces depending on the size. Serve the soup in a warm bowl with the pancetta on top of it.
It’s autumn, so obviously we want to cook pumpkin soup. A nice and warm combination of pumpkin, ginger, chilli and orange lentils for instance. Or with Jus de Truffe for a bit of extra umami and exclusivity. Both are excellent vegetarian dishes, perfect for lunch with some crusted bread or as a starter. Having recently prepared kabocha with shrimps, we decided to prepare a vegetarian soup with it. The basis of the soup is Kombu Dashi (made with dried Kelp). The dashi and the soy sauce bring saltiness and umami to the soup, which combines very well with the exceptional sweetness of the pumpkin and the mirin.
You could prepare the soup with the skin of the kabocha, but we love the intense orange colour of the inside.
What You Need
20 grams of Kelp
1 litre Water
Light Soy Sauce
What You Do
Add the kelp to one litre of cold water. Put on low heat and wait until it has reached 80 °C or 175 °F. Overheating it will make the dashi bitter. In the meantime, wash and peel the kabocha, remove the seeds and dice. Remove the kelp from the pan, discard and add the kabocha. Allow to simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes until the kabocha is soft. Remove some of the liquid and blender the kabocha. Add liquid until you have the right consistency. In our experience you will need one litre of water to cook the kabocha but it might be too much liquid for a nice, velvety consistency of your soup. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of mirin and 1 or 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce. It’s a matter of your preference, ripeness of the kabocha and the kelp. Best to decorate with some purple shiso, or with sprouts (as we did), provided they’re not too spicy.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the Dancing Mushroom, better known as Maitake, Hen of the Woods or Ram’s Head. Enjoy the powerful, intense and nutty flavours and be intrigued by the aroma. No wonder it’s a much loved culinary mushroom!
Legend has it that maitake got its name because foragers danced with happiness when finding it. Nowadays maitake can be wild or cultivated. Both are fine; we actually prefer the cultivated ones. Make sure you cook maitake through and through, otherwise you may upset your stomach (and other parts of your body).
Maitake combines very well with beef and thyme. It is also great when combined with shrimps, crab, coquilles St Jacques, coriander, dill and parsley; a salad created by Antonio Carluccio and published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. The book has a wealth of wonderful, simple recipes.
Our soup is perhaps a bit odd, because it’s a thickened soup, something you would perhaps not expect given dashi is the base of the soup. It’s a gentle soup, with some umami and bitterness. The fried maitake amplifies the flavours.
What You Need
For the Dashi
500 ml Water
10 grams Konbu
10 grams Katsuobushi
150 grams of Maitake
5 cm Fresh Ginger
Tablespoon of Cooked Plain Rice
What You Do
Prepare the dashi. Remove the base of the maitake. Set a few ‘leaves’ aside (to be fried later). Peel and quarter the ginger. Add the remaining ‘leaves’ of the maitake, the ginger and the cooked rice to the dashi. Leave for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove the ginger and use a blender to create a smooth mixture. You will notice that the maitake doesn’t thicken the soup, as a classic Champignon de Paris would do. The rice should do the trick. Pass through a sieve. Keep on low heat for another 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of sake, some soy sauce and mirin. Taste and adjust if necessary. The quanities very much depend on the flavour of the maitake and your personal taste. You’re looking for umami, bitterness and depth. Leave for another 10 minutes on low heat. Add olive oil to a small heavy iron skillet and fry the remaining maitake; initially on medium heat, later on low heat. This may take 5 minutes. Use the blender for the second time to make sure the soup is perfectly smooth. Serve in a miso bowl.
Preparing a chilled soup is more than simply combining and blending a few ingredients; it needs something extra, something that will give the soup a push, simply because it’s chilled and the aromas are not as present as when a soup is warm. For instance Gazpacho is not just a mixture of tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and red onion; it absolutely needs Jerez vinegar. Cold soups also benefit from adding excellent olive oil just before serving. The olive oil will give that velvety, rich feel in your mouth. Chilled avocado and cucumber soup also needs something extra. We add soft blue cheese (for instance Gorgonzola Dolce) and Dill. Lemon will bring the required acidity and Greek Yoghurt will enhance the texture.
Peel the cucumber and remove the seeds. Add the cucumber, avocado, stock, cheese and dill to your blender and mix. Now it’s a matter of tasting. Add a bit of lemon and black pepper. You may want to add more dill because it’s a fairly delicate herb. Once you’re happy with the taste, add some yoghurt and mix with a spoon. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool and integrate for at least 4 hours. In this case ‘integrate’ also means making sure the cucumber is not too present. Just before serving taste again and add some olive oil. Stir with a spoon. Serve in a cold soup plate and decorate with a sprig of dill.
This year seems to be an exceptionally good year for Matsutake. Antonio Carluccio once described it is a much-overrated mushroom but we dare to disagree. Just smell it! Pine, pine, pine. A unique mushroom. We tried making this soup with shiitake, but the result is not as refined, delicate and well-balanced. The key elements are of course the (home-made) dashi, the matsutake and the shrimps. Kamaboko (made from processed seafood) and Mitsuba (Japanese parsley) add colour (and some extra flavour) to the dish.
What You Need
0,5 l of Water
10 gram of Konbu
10 gram of Katsuobushi
75 gram of Matsutake
Light Soy Sauce
If you want to serve a drink with the soup, then serve taru sake. This is a dry sake characterized by its refreshing taste and the wooden aroma of Yoshino cedar. A wonderful link to the matsutake. And if you bought a bottle of taru sake, then please use this sake for marinating the shrimps.
What You Do
With a damp cloth clean the matsutake. Be careful not to remove the skin. The root should be cut like a pencil. Clean the shrimps and cut lengthwise in two. Let marinade in two tablespoons of sake and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. Gently warm the dashi, add a small tablespoon of sake and a similar quantity (or less) of soy sauce. Cut the matsutake in 8 similar slices and add to the soup. After a few minutes (depending on the size of the matsutake) add four slices of kamaboko and the shrimps. Taste and add some more soy sauce and or yuzu if needed. Serve immediately when the shrimps are ready. If available add some mitsuba.
Such a simple, tasty, inexpensive and vegetarian soup! What more can you ask for? A bit of jus de truffe maybe? Make sure to buy organic pumpkins. This allows you to use the skin; so two benefits: there is no need to peel the pumpkin and the soup will be better tasting. Red lentils will become completely soft when cooked for 30 minutes; very different from green or black lentils. We add the lentils not only because of their taste, but also because they improve the texture of the soup. Give the soup a finishing touch by adding pumpkin seed oil, jus de truffe or truffle flavoured olive oil (for instance produced by Moulins de la Brague).
Pumpkin Seed Oil, Jus de Truffe or Truffle Flavoured Olive Oil
Chop de red onion in smaller but equal sized bits and put in a pan with olive oil. Put on moderate heat and give it some 5 to 10 minutes. Now add the chopped and seeded chilli pepper, the garlic and stir. Continue for 5 minutes on moderate heat. Add the chopped pumpkin and the lentils and stir for another 5 minutes. Peel the ginger, cut in cubes and put on a small wooden stick. This way you can easily remove the ginger later on. Now add boiling water and leave for 30 minutes to simmer or until the pumpkin is very, very soft. When done remove the ginger. Taste the ginger and decide how much ginger you want to add to the soup. We just love fresh ginger so we would add most of it. Blender the remainder into a smooth soup. You could pass it through a sieve to make sure it’s like a lovely velouté. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator for the next day. Warm the soup and add a splash of truffle flavoured olive oil or pumpkin seed oil and lots of cilantro before serving. You can also make a milder version by reducing the amount of chilli and ginger. Then add jus de truffe, a bit of olive oil and maybe some pepper before serving.
Sunday afternoon, my mother in the kitchen, asking us what we would like to eat as a starter. Would we like vegetable soup with broken vermicelli or Londonderry soup? My favourite! Londonderry soup! Monday meant school but Sunday was all about Londonderry Soup! My mother seemed less keen to prepare Londonderry soup because, depending on the chili and the curry, it could be too spicy to her taste. The vegetable soup was more predictable. As always in life, things change. I moved to another city, she became less interested in cooking and so here we are today: I haven’t tasted the soup for years. Time to start cooking. The Londonderry soup I tasted as a child seems to be a Dutch and Belgium phenomenon. And a rather undefined one. Some use veal stock, others chicken. Some add mushrooms, others rice. Also used are chili, sambal, cayenne pepper, parsley, egg, meat balls et cetera. And to make things even more confusing, in the UK it’s known as a pea soup. Which is not at all what my mother used to prepare. Plus no-one seems to know what the origin is of the name. So we decided to follow the recipe my mother included in her ‘kookschrift’, which is a notebook with recipes she learned as a young woman.
Start by glazing the chopped shallot in butter. Add the chili (my mother used 4 small slices, but feel free to use more!) and the curry. The curry should be spicy and powerful. Make sure the curry is fried, allowing for the flavors to develop. Now add the flour and start making a roux. Add the warm stock, step by step, take your time, and create the soup. Leave it for 15 minutes to integrate. In parallel gently fry the very small mushrooms (so called button mushrooms). Pass the soup through a sieve. Use a spoon to get the flavors of the shallot and the chili. The soup should be completely smooth. Now things become unclear in my mother’s recipe. She suggests adding white wine just before serving (which will add acidity plus the taste of alcohol which is not great) or single milk or cream. Milk will only weaken the taste of the curry. Cream however will give a velvety feeling on your lips when tasting the soup, which is great in combination with the spicy curry. So we added a touch of single cream, left the soup for 5 minutes on low heat, allowing for the cream to cook. Just before serving add the gently colored button mushrooms.
A bit of magic in your kitchen! This soup requires ‘clarification’ in order to become a true consommé. Clarification is a simple and very effective way of making a liquid clear, regardless if it’s cold (wine) of warm. The goal of clarification is to remove all insoluble matter before serving (or bottling in case of wine). The ‘matter’ is in most cases too small to be removed using a filter. Hence clarification. In this case we use a mixture of tomatoes, basil and egg white, the so-called clarifique. We use yellow tomatoes to create a bit of a surprise. When you use red tomatoes your guests will immediately guess it’s a consommé of tomatoes. Using yellow tomatoes will definitely surprise them. Plus we think the yellow ones are a bit more gently, fresher, more refined. You could also use all of the tomatoes for the soup and add ravioli to the consommé: turning it into Ravioli in Brodo. A quick comment before you start : it’s a bit of work and it requires a bit of patience as well. It’s not your ordinary soup!
Peel all 6 tomatoes by leaving them for 10-15 seconds in gently boiling water. Cool and peel, one by one. Keep the skin. Set 2 tomatoes aside. Chop the 4 tomatoes in smaller bits. Add butter and olive oil to the pan and gently glace the chopped shallot for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the finely chopped red pepper and leave for 1 minute. Now add the tomatoes and the peel and fry for a minute or so. Then add thyme, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf and water. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer for 45 minutes. Taste and if so required add a touch of black pepper. If you do so, leave for an extra 5 minutes. Adding pepper later on is not a good idea because you want a completely clear soup. Pass through a sieve and cool to room temperature. Remove seeds and the internal white from the two tomatoes, keeping the outside of the tomatoes only. Set the outside apart. Using a bowl create a mixture of tomato left overs, cooked garlic, lots of basil and the two egg whites. Mix with a spoon and then blender a few seconds. This is the clarifique. Transfer the soup to a pan and add the clarifique. Stir with a spoon, making sure the mixture is homogenous. Start heating the mixture gently, until just below boiling. Some people will argue it’s should be 80º Celsius, exactly, which we think is not the case. You don’t want it to boil because that will destroy the funny looking cake on top of the mixture. Leave it for 30 minutes. No lid required. Now use a slotted spoon to remove most of the cake. You can simply throw it away. Pour the liquid into a sieve lined with wet cheesecloth (or a clean cotton kitchen towel if you cannot find a cheesecloth, as long it’s odour free it will work; if not odour free soak in water for 24 hours). And Lo and Behold: you have a clear soup, a true consommé! Just taste it and be surprised! Herbs, even basil and of course tomato. Cut the remains of the 2 tomatoes in small chunks and put them in a warm soup plate and transfer to the table. Pour the consommé around the tomato and enjoy!