We keep having rain, followed by warm weather. Which means we keep getting mushrooms. So i got to make mushroom soup after all. The latest haul was well over a kilo of horse-mushrooms.
While searching my cookbooks for a mushroom soup recipe i came across some comments by David Burton on mushrooms in his book 'New Zealand Food and Cookery'. Burton writes "Like the southern hemisphere generally, New Zealand is a 'mushroom desert' compared with the rich pickings to be had in Europe and North America."
I always feel jealous when looking at northern hemisphere cookbooks, with their delicious range of edible fungi. Of course we do have more than just field and horse mushrooms in the edible fungi department - i've already mentioned puffballs, and we have shaggy ink-caps, and boletes to name another couple. However i've tried cooking and eating boletes, and was distinctly unimpressed (it may have been the quality of the individuals i collected that was at fault, but the experience was unpleasant enough to put me off trying again); and just this season i tried a shaggy ink-cap - it was fine, but didn't taste particularly different from a regular field mushroom, i thought.
Burton continues..."Not that this matters since, traditionally, New Zealanders have inherited a deep-seated Anglo-Celtic fear of 'toadstools' and exotic wild mushrooms. The big exception, however, has always been the gathering of field and horse mushrooms in autumn. For some unknown reason the horse mushroom always used to be considered the poor cousin."
I remember my mother assuring me that horse mushrooms were inferior to the smaller field mushroom, but i have since discovered that i cannot taste the difference, with the benefit of the horse variety being of course that far fewer individuals are required to make a meal.
The following recipe comes from the Edmonds Cook Book. I have made a couple of minor changes to the recipe (the addition of fresh herbs, and not frying the mushrooms for as long as Edmonds suggest)
My sister and a friend of hers came for dinner, and we had the soup as a main, accompanied by some delicious home-made bread (recipe to come!). The soup was not as thick and creamy as i might have expected - if you like a really thick soup, consider adding an extra tablespoon of flour. The Edmonds recipe says it serves 4-5, but if you are serving it as a main course, as i did, you will need to double the quantities.
From the 'Edmonds Cookbook', with some minor alterations
Serves 4 (not as a main course!)
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
500g mushrooms, sliced (or chopped into chunks, if using horse mushrooms)
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme and/or tarragon
3 tablespoons standard flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and chopped thyme and tarragon, and cook until the mushrooms start to soften. Stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk and stock, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes or until the soup thickens slightly. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve garnished with parsley.