We are nearing the end of the UK's wild mushroom season now, and despite the fact I live in an area which is probably prime real estate for the fabulous fungus, the only foraging I tend to do is in the local farm shops, farmers’ markets, and even supermarkets for the little blighters.
This has nothing to do with the merits of hunting through the undergrowth for these superbly tasty fungi, but purely because I wouldn't know a Tawney Grisette from a Slippery Jack or a Wood Blewit from a Stump Puffball! (these are all edible wild mushrooms seemingly) and I could easily rustle up a death cap omelette by mistake if left to my own devices.
If I was going to try my hand at wild mushroom foraging, I’d want the world wild mushroom foraging champion alongside me. But seeing that I don't know him or her then it’s off to the shops for me.
I buy my fungi from a variety of reputable sources, including supermarkets which often sell a decent variety of mushrooms at this time of year. Even the cultivated mushrooms are pretty good these days.
In one supermarket forage I managed to get some enoki, chanterelles, ceps, crimini, oyster, shiitake, chestnut, portabellini and forestiere mushrooms.
I know these aren't all UK mushrooms, and some aren’t even wild, but they all can help you make an excellent and quick mushroom soup without having to resort to crawling around the woods like an SAS recruit.
MUSHROOM SOUP serves 4
2 shallots, chopped
1 leek, chopped
sprig of fresh thyme
500g approx of mixed mushrooms, wild and cultivated, roughly chopped
10g dried porcini, soaked in about 150ml freshly boiled water for 20 minutes, chopped
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup (I use Geo. Watkins, sold in major supermarkets)
1 tbsp sherry (I used Oloroso, but whatever you have is fine)
1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
salt & pepper
Saute the shallots, leek and thyme in the butter until soft, but not coloured.
Add all the mushrooms, including the porcini and their soaking liquid, which you have drained through a fine sieve to catch any grit. Also add the mushroom ketchup and sherry.
Stir well, increase the heat and saute the mushrooms with a pinch of salt until they have lost their moisture and you are left with a kind of mushroom ‘sludge’. Doesn't sound great but this is what has all that intense mushroom flavour.
Add the stock and milk and let it simmer (quite a strong simmer but not a rolling boil) for about 15 minutes. Taste and season.
Let it cool for a few minutes then blend with a stick blender. If you like a chunkier soup just blend half of it.
If the soup is too thick for your liking, just thin it out with a little milk, stock, a splash of sherry or a tablespoon of creme fraiche if you prefer a richer creamier soup.
This lovely soup has a real earthy taste and is great with some crusty bread or jazz it up with a mushroom crostini (sauteed mushrooms on a piece of toasted sourdough) placed on top.