This has turned out to be a strangely epic post. I just want to let you know up front, that buried in all of this storytelling there are actually three recipes for cream of mushroom soup. One is very lowbrow (past), one is very fancy (present) and one is JUUUUUUUUST RIGHT (future)! The future one involves cashew cream and I am very excited about it.
CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP (Past)
As I have mentioned before, my mother is a healthy eater. We were vegetarian when I was child and there was no sugar to be had…. blah, blah blah. Well the truth is, that once we moved to the United States and my parents embarked on that hallmark of The American Dream, home ownership, we all took a break from healthy eating. My parents worked three jobs each, and there was no time to cook. It was convenient for me, because as a middle school student, I really just wanted to be left alone to prepare some ramen noodles, or pour sweet bottled tomato sauce on Kraft macaroni and cheese, or decide to eat nothing but lemon yogurt and baby carrots for a week, or eat an entire box of raisin bran for dinner. I’m just being honest.
Then in high school all of my friends moved in with us (my parents were just that cool) and even if my mother had wanted to feed us all exquisite home cooked meals, she could not have afforded to. She bought ramen, tomato sauce, mac and cheese, lemon yogurt, baby carrots and raisin bran in bulk at Costco. I regained interest in real food toward the end of highschool and started cooking, mostly from a really wonderful Asian cookbook which my mum had gotten me from Walden Books (where she worked). I also went through a phase of baking from recipes that my Aunty Mona and Aunty Betty gave me, but my mum told me to knock it off because we were spending too much money on butter. Also we lived in a very, very hot climate and one batch of butter cookies literally MELTED one afternoon while sitting on the kitchen table.
One of the Costco items was Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. We had it on hand so that we could make tuna casserole. I remember making myself a can of cream of mushroom soup when I was about 13 and realizing that it would taste a lot better if I squeezed a bunch of lemon juice in to it. I was very proud of this innovation and I still think of it as an early indicator that I would eventually escape from my American bad diet stupor. You too can make this mushroom soup by combining…
- 1 can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup prepared as indicated on the label
- The juice of one fresh lemon
CREAM OF OYSTER MUSHROOM SOUP (Present)
Sometime in my mid twenties I prepared myself a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and, even with lemon juice, it tasted of nothing but salt to me. So, I learned how to make a cream of mushroom soup that I liked. It takes a bit of effort to make and involves Marsala and oyster mushrooms and cream, so it doesn’t really qualify as everyday food, but I occasionally prepare it for fancy dinner parties. I adapted my new Fancy Cream of Mushroom Soup from an Oyster Mushroom Chowder recipe from Anna Thomas’ New Vegetarian Epicure. Anna Thomas has also given me my favourite Broccoli Soup recipe and my beloved recipe for Tomato Cognac Soup. She is a fancy soup goddess. Goddess or not, I made quite a lot of changes to her recipe only because I was looking for a cream soup rather than a chowder.
- 2 large yellow onions, halved and slivered into very thin wedges
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- a bit of salt
- 1 pound cleaned fresh oyster mushrooms, sliced
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup chopped leeks (white part only)
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dry thyme
- 3 Tablespoons Marsala
- 1 red bell pepper (minced)
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- a generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- salt to taste
- In a large pan, saute the onions in the butter and oil with a bit of salt until they begin to color.
- Add the sliced mushrooms to the onions and cook over medium-low heat for about half an hour or until the mushrooms turn golden brown. Add half of the wine and continue to cook until the liquid cooks away and the mushrooms are crackling. Add the second half of the wine and let it cook away again.
- Meanwhile, combine the potatoes, water, 1/2 tsp salt, chopped leeks and celery, bay leaf and thyme in another pot. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. When the potatoes are very soft fish out the bay leaf and thyme twigs ( if using fresh) and puree the mixture until smooth.
- Combine the potato and herb puree with the mushrooms, along with the red pepper, Marsala, cayenne pepper, black pepper, milk and heavy cream. Heat gently and adjust the seasoning before serving.`
I recently came across a recipe for vegan cream of mushroom soup on the blog Joy The Baker. What, you may ask, is Erin doing looking at a (not gluten-free) baking blog? Well, there are many reasons for this. First of all, I find Joy to be a very charming writer. Secondly, just because I can’t eat cookies doesn’t mean I don’t like looking at pretty pictures of them. Also, sometimes Joy includes pictures of her very cute cat. Most importantly, Joy seems to saves up all of her flour and sugar intake for baked goods, so when she posts, say a soup recipe, that soup recipe tends to be very healthy, very delicious and, in this case, gluten-free!
This vegan cream of mushroom soup recipe is easy, inexpensive and healthy. The original recipe recommends cremini mushrooms, but I have made it with the cheapest variety of white button mushrooms and it was fabulous. When I made this with my mother at Christmas she noted that it tastes like it was made with fancy expensive mushrooms. The recipe uses raw cashews which are soaked and then blended into a cream, a technique which is also used to thicken sauces in some indian recipes such as Korma. Now, you know that I am a fan of milk fat, BUT cashew cream is totally delicious and it blends beautifully with the flavours in this soup.
I have made very few changes to the recipe from Joy The Baker. I just realized that I totally skipped the final straining soup. I just ate the soup all thick and textured and I loved it!
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used white button mushrooms)
- 1 tablespoons soy sauce (Joy used Bragg’s Amino Acids)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (if you are actually serving this to vegans get vegan Worcestershire sauce)
- about 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 3 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)
- salt to taste
- Soak the cashews in the water while you prepare the soup.
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions to hot oil and saute until translucent and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute more.
- Add the mushrooms, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook until mushrooms are cooked and broken down, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Add cracked pepper and vegetable stock and cook at a simmer until mushrooms are completely soft (about 10 to 15 minutes).
- While the soup simmers, blend the cashews and water on high until smooth. Pour into a measuring cup and set aside. Don’t worry about washing the blender… we’re going to use it to blend the soup.
- When mushrooms are cooked through, add about one third of the soup to the blender. Hot soup rises high in the blender so definitely be careful how high you fill the blender. Blend soup on low, increasing the speed to high, until no large mushroom chunks remain. Pour blended soup into a clean pot or large bowl. Blend the remaining soup in batches. Add the cashew cream to the blended soup and stir to incorporate.
- OPTIONAL- Place a fine mesh strainer over the pot that you cooked the soup in. In batches, pour the blended soup into the fine mesh strainer and work the soup through the strainer with a rubber spatula. Don’t use a wooden spoon… you could get splinters in your soup… seriously. Heat and serve the strained soup. Or place in a freezer safe container for a few weeks down the road.