Now that autumn has come along, soups really come into their own. One of my favourite things to do at weekends is stroll around London markets on crisp, cold days and then return home to a hot soup. I remember an old advert for Ready Brek porridge when I was younger that had a person being heated up like a radiator after eating it, and soup really has this effect.
Soup has a bad reputation with lots of people who think that it is boring, or who would never eat it as a main meal. But soup can be as exciting or boring as you like it to be, you’ve just got to think about what you put in. I used to be very cynical about soups, and would never order or make one, but I have eaten loads over the past few years and now eat them at least once a week. They are a really good way of using up any leftovers, and can be really cheap; perfect for when things are tight at the end of the month.
Then there are the obvious health benefits. Eating soup makes it easy to eat loads of vegetables in one go, and if the base of the soup is just that and stock then they can be very low fat. I went on a very basic diet earlier this year that just involved eating soup a couple of times a week and doing more exercise, and I was staggered at the amount of weight that I lost. On the other hand, adding things like cream, bacon and cheese to soup can make them taste amazing. But often a little goes a long way, and so there’s no excuse even if you’re on a diet! This bacon and brie in this recipe really elevate it and make it so tasty.
Feel free to use different mushrooms when making this soup, but I have included chestnut and portobello mushrooms as they are easy to get hold of and have a much better flavour than most others commonly available. If you want to make the soup more substantial you can add peeled and diced potatoes, just add to the broth with the stock and cook until they are tender.
9 large portobello mushrooms, 3 sliced
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
300g smoked bacon, cut into small pieces
30g dried porcini or chanterelle mushrooms
2ltrs good chicken stock
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, stalks removed
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
50g butter, cubed
Salt and pepper
1 large handful of rocket, washed
250g brie, cut into 1cm cubes
First soak the dried mushrooms. Tip them into a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 30 minutes. When soaked and softened carefully drain the mushrooms, retaining the liquid, and roughly chop. Put aside.
Heat the stock up in a saucepan until it is at boiling point. Strain the mushroom liquid to remove any grit and add to the stock.
Fry the bacon in a little oil in a large saucepan until crispy round the edges. Remove and put aside. Add the chopped onions, garlic and thyme to the bacon fat and cook gently until soft.
While the onions are cooking, put the 6 whole portobello mushrooms into a food processor and blitz until you get a very fine, almost pate texture.
When the onions are softened, add the soaked and chopped dried mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the blitzed mushrooms, season well, and cook until all of the moisture evaporates. When the mushroom and onion mixture has cooked, add the bacon back into the pan and pour over the hot stock. Bring the soup to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
When the soup has simmered and has a deep, rich taste, add the sliced portobello and chestnut mushrooms to the broth. Cook for another couple of minutes then add the butter and parsley and stir well until dissolved. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Ladle into deep bowls and scatter a good amount of brie cubes over soup, then add a small heap of rocket and a generous grind of black pepper.