Friday, March 18, 2011

Dried Porcini Soup--My Number One Soup

Using my mother's help and knowledge, I have been recently cooking a lot of my native food, including some dishes that I have never cooked myself. I write down these recipes diligently just in case one day I feel like having them again and of course to share them on the blog.

One of such dishes which I always loved but never cooked myself was the traditional Polish soup made with dried wild mushrooms. It is my absolutely number one soup among all the soups in the world. So the other day, on my birthday, I asked my mom to cook this soup for me.

It was a pretty egoistic request as I had only one cup of dried porcini left over from last Christmas (we use a lot of them for Christmas to prepare our traditional dishes). Such amount should be enough to serve four, as this recipe prescribes, although not necessarily four people like me who like to have a lot of mushrooms in their soup and usually eat two plates of it at once. But it was my birthday after all and I felt like having something that I do not eat everyday, or almost cannot afford.

Dried mushroom soup in Poland is a delicacy but not something completely out of the ordinary, as all its ingredients are widely available. We pick up and dry wild mushrooms ourselves when they are in season or can buy them at food markets at any time of the year. Here, unless I smuggle dried porcini from Poland in my luggage, it is a pretty luxurious request. I know, you can buy dried porcini here, but they are expensive and not available everywhere.

When I took my porcini out of the bag and their aroma filled the air, my son who hates all kinds of mushrooms (he picked them last summer wearing rubber gloves like a surgeon) left the kitchen screaming "Take this fungus out of my sight!" Well, it appears that there was at least one family member less to share my soup with, so maybe my request in the end was not as egoistic as I thought.

This soup originally is made on a meat stock, but I like the vegetarian version better, especially if we are lucky enough to work with the best quality mushrooms, like porcini. Using just the vegetable stock helps bring out their woody aroma.

Parsley root is another important ingredient. Please do not confuse it with parsnip. I have been having hard time to buy parsley roots recently, so when I find it finally, I usually freeze some of them for the future use. I also bring some dried parsley root from Poland. If you do not have it, you can use green stems of flat Italian parsley instead.

Dried mushroom soup should be served with noodles. I like best not a typical plain pasta, but the ribbon-style egg noodles that are softer and richer in taste, and remind me those home-made.

Dried Porcini Soup
(Serves four)

1 cup dried wild mushrooms,
2 carrots,
1/4 medium-sized celery root,
1/2 medium-sized leek,
1 parsley root,
1 vegetable bouillon cube,
1 tbsp flour,
4 tbsp sour cream,
2 bay leaves, 4 whole peppercorns, and 3 all spice grains,
salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley,
3 cups wide egg noodles.

1. Soak mushrooms in a cup of water for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight,
2. In a large pot bring to boiling four cups of water with salt, bay leaves, pepper, and all spice.
3. Add all the vegetables washed and peeled off and cook them whole for about 40 minutes, until they become soft.
4. When vegetables are soft remove all of them and all the spices from the stock and add mushrooms with the water they were soaked in. Add the vegetable cube and cook for 30-40 minutes, until mushrooms become soft.
5. Mix flour with sour cream until smooth. Add a couple of tablespoons of hot mushroom stock, mix and add the whole mixture back to the pot. Let it boil gently for 3 minutes.
6. Taste and add ground pepper.
7. Cut carrots in small rings and add back to the soup.
8. Cook noodles according to instruction, drain, and divide among plates.
9. Pour the soup over the noodles. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve.

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