I’m sure most people have consumed a bowl of “cream of mushroom soup” at some point. In many cases, you may have experienced it straight out of a can – the insipidly pale, gelatinous blob never failing to underwhelm both visually and flavour-wise.
But canned soup aside, I believe that mushrooms have unlimited potential in soups. They have a powerful umami character and a complex flavour profile, which adds richness and dimension to soups.
In this recipe, it was my aim to create a full-bodied soup, with the deepest mushroom flavour possible. A few tricks helped me amplify the mushroomy taste: I cooked the mushrooms first to draw out their flavour before adding the stock; I used a large proportion of mushrooms to liquid; and I added a few cashews into the soup to provide body and creaminess.
The cashew cream is a versatile recipe to add to your repertoire – it adds a lovely sweetness to soup and can also be used as a pasta sauce or dressing for roasted vegetables. The topping is optional, but I love to finish my soups with a special something – in this case, sautéed lemony mushrooms and cashews – to add texture and crunch.
A note about mushrooms: I’ve used Swiss browns, but you could also use shiitake, button or a mix.
Mushroom cashew cream soup
1 cup (150g) cashews soaked in 1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup (185ml) vegetable stock
1 small clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
800g Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
½ cup (75g) cashews
6 cups vegetable stock
2 scallions, finely sliced
sea salt and black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
300g mushrooms, sliced
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp cashews
½ tsp Aleppo pepper or red chilli flakes
juice of ½ lemon
For the cashew cream, soak the cashews for at least 30 minutes. When ready, drain the cashews and add them with the vegetable stock, garlic and oil, then blend until smooth and creamy (if it is too thick, you can add a few splashes of water). Season well with sea salt.
Place a pot or large pan on high heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until it is fragrant, and then toss in the mushrooms, along with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Cook for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms release their liquid, and then add the cashews along with the vegetable stock. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Blend until smooth.
Meanwhile, prepare the soup topping by adding a drizzle of oil to a medium frypan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the mushrooms are caramelised. Add the cashews, Aleppo, and toss for a minute or so until the nuts are browned. Squeeze over the lemon juice and season with sea salt.
To serve, ladle the mushroom soup into bowls, drizzle over some of the cashew cream, add a spoonful of the mushroom topping and finish with a scatter of scallions.
Photograph: Hetty McKinnon/The Guardian