Every now and then I fall down an internet rabbit hole and the result this week is Hungarian Mushroom Soup!
Recently, I was reading a forum post about the secrets behind restaurant signature recipes and one of the comments that provoked most discussion was the Hungarian Mushroom Soup recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook (thought by the owner to be an old family recipe from the previous owner, only to learn the dastardly truth when one of the kitchen staff recognised it).
Now I have a copy of the Moosewood Cookery book … *waves hand vaguely at bookshelves* … somewhere, and it is considered a classic of it’s time (1974). The recipe is ‘out there’ if you’re curious, and contains recognisable Hunagarian-isms such as sour cream and paprika but call me picky – I was a little unhappy about the addition of soy sauce.
So I set off to discover all about Hungarian Mushroom Soup from Hungarian websites. I love how the world of recipes can be at your fingertips, thanks to browser translation services. And what a fantastic selection I found! As well as several versions of mushroom soup, I also discovered Outlaw Soup, which is a heaty meat-and-vegetable soup, with several regional variations, and the original dish that was appropriated, some might say bastardised, and popularised in the US as Monkey Bread. Both on the (ever-lengthening) ToDo List.
I used to think mushroom soup was limited to the pale-and-not-very-interesting cream of, but when I got a job in a local restaurant in my teens, one of the first jobs I had was making their mushroom soup. It was jaw-droppingly good and also kinda shocking, because the recipe called for Field mushrooms, with the dark gills. When whizzed in a blender, it turned into a stunning charcoal puree, bursting with flavour. I thought it was amazing: dark, rich and earthy.
‘Mushroom’ and ‘earthy’ got locked into my head and have been there for a very looooong time, so I was definitely in the mood for something to shake that up a little, and with the prompt from the message board, this soup does that and then some.
The colour, not reflected very accurately in the photo I’m afraid, is a beautiful apricot from the paprika and creme fraiche, the background of the soup is rich with root vegetables which give body as well as allowing the mushrooms to shine. And the flavour is BOOM! We have mushroom, yes – but also spice from the paprika, creaminess from the creme fraiche, sharpness from the lemon juice. This is no wallflower, pale-and-interesting beige soup, neither is it black and, earthy – this is bold, brash, feisty and full on.
Yes, if this soup were a drag-queen, it would be Season 9 Finale Sasha Velour.
Obviously, it is my new favourite soup – hope it becomes yours too!
Hungarian Mushroom Soup
I really like chestnut mushrooms, but you can mix things up with your favourite types. This soup is hearty and low-carb, but if you’d like to make a meal of it, you can add some nokedli – traditional Hungarian dumplings – which will cook in the soup in just a few minutes. I’ve replaced the original sour cream with creme fraiche, but you can put it back in if preferred.
2tbs vegetable oil
2 onions – chopped fine
2 cloves garlic – sliced fine
1 medium carrot – shredded fine
1 white turnip – shredded fine
500g chestnut mushrooms – sliced
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme – leaves only
½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1.5 litres of stock – vegetable or chicken
3 rounded tbs cornflour
1 tbs Hungarian paprika
200ml low-fat creme fraiche
lemon juice to taste (optional)
chopped parsley/dill to garnish
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-low heat and add the onions and garlic. Cook gently until softened and translucent.
- Add the turnips and carrot and saute for a few minutes.
- Add in the mushrooms, thyme, stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on a low heat until the vegetables are tender (20-30 minutes depending on how *ahem* ‘mature’ your root vegetables are).
- Mix the cornflour, paprika and sugar into the creme fraiche.
- Add two ladles of liquid from the soup to the creme fraiche mixture and stir until smooth.
- Pour the creme fraiche mixture into the soup and whisk until combined.
- Simmer gently, stirring, until the soup has thickened to the consistency of single cream. If you like a thicker soup, mix more cornflour into a slurry with cold water, add and stir gently until thickened.
- Taste for seasoning, and add the lemon juice if liked – but the sharpness of the creme fraiche might be enough.
- Garnish with parsley/dill and serve.