Forager’s Mushroom Soup with Beefsteak Mushroom Croustades
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a starter or serves 12 as a canapé (soup served in espresso cups)
Foraging for food is currently a very popular activity and it’s amazing how much free food there actually is out there to collect. However, it’s not always as simple as it may seem. Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible and ideally go foraging with someone who knows what they are looking for. Books will help, as will plenty of commonsense, and remember, if in doubt, leave it out. Don’t collect and eat things that you are not completely sure are edible.
The wild mushroom season comes around twice a year and the early spring flurry brings us delights such as morels, St George’s mushrooms, flat field mushrooms and beefsteak fungus. Later on in the year, during the autumn, other varieties will follow. If you’re lucky enough to find beefsteak fungus, which grows on trees (usually oak or sweet chestnut trees), then soak them in cold milk or water for 10 minutes and drain before cooking. This will draw out the bitterness from the mushrooms. Once fried in butter and seasoned with salt, they taste just like a piece of steak.
Ingredients & Method
For the mushroom soup
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 300g fresh mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 2 banana shallots, finely sliced
- 200g celery, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 150ml Madeira
- 600ml vegetable or chicken stock
- 200ml double cream
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the beefsteak mushroom brioche croustades
- 200g fresh beefsteak fungus/mushrooms
- 100ml milk
- 2teaspoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 300g fresh mixed wild mushrooms (such as field mushrooms, fairy ring mushrooms, etc), cleaned and sliced
- 1 banana shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 6 large slices of brioche, cut about 1cm thick
- small sprigs of fresh chickweed, rinsed and drained, to garnish
First, prepare the soup. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and once the butter starts to foam, add the mushrooms, shallots, celery, garlic and salt and pepper and sauté over a high heat for 8–10 minutes or until the vegetables are deep golden brown. Add the Madeira to the pan and let the liquid bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it. Boil rapidly over a high heat for 3–4 minutes or until the Madeira turns syrupy and coats the vegetables. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until the stock is rich and deep-coloured.
Meanwhile, start the croustades. Thinly slice the beefsteak mushrooms, then put them in a dish, cover with the milk and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, discarding the milk, then wash the mushrooms under cold running water, drain and pat dry. Set aside.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and as soon as the butter starts to foam, add the beefsteak and mixed wild mushrooms, shallot, garlic and salt and pepper and sauté over a high heat for 7–8 minutes or until the vegetables are golden brown. Stir in the thyme. Remove from the heat and keep hot.
Toast the brioche slices until golden brown on both sides – either under a preheated medium-hot grill or using a toaster. Using a 4cm round cutter, cut 12 rounds out of the toasted brioche slices, then set aside and keep warm.
Finish the soup. Add the cream to the soup in the pan and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the soup to a blender and blend until very smooth and frothy (see Cook’s Note), then return it to the pan and reheat gently.
Finish the croustades. Divide the mushroom mixture evenly between the toasted brioche croustades and then garnish each one with a small sprig of chickweed.
Serve the hot, frothy soup in bowls with the warm croustades alongside. Serve 3 croustades per portion, if serving as a starter; serve 1 croustade per portion, if serving as a canapé.
For extra cappuccino foaminess, return the blended soup to a deep saucepan and reheat, then use a stick blender to aerate the soup further. The soup must be hot and I find it aerates best if the soup is just below boiling point. If the soup is too thick, it will not foam, so if this is the case, add a dash more double cream to thin the soup down slightly. I also find adding a small knob of cold unsalted butter also does the trick. Fatty components help the soup to aerate. As soon as the soup is aerated and foamy, serve it immediately.