I don’t know if I invented marinated croutons. Is it a thing? Has anyone used them before?
One quick Google later – alright, I didn’t invent them. Or, to put it a better way, I’m not the only person to invent them.
They’re pretty interesting, but let me start at the beginning.
Mushroom soup is one of my favourite things. So it’s surprising that I’ve never made it at home. I used to always buy Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup, and it ticked all the boxes, but the last few times I’ve had it, it seemed different. Bad different. Mushroom soup is especially one of my favourites when I’m feeling under the weather, and so it’s particularly shoddy that my usual go-to brand should have become less enjoyable.
I’ve tried all kinds of other brands, including a variety of supermarkets’ own brand, which are usually the best. I’ve tried tinned, and the kind from the chiller cabinet that comes in a carton, or a plastic tub. None of them are as good as I remember Campbells being in the not-too-distant past. This is a sad tale of mushroom soup, but don’t worry! Here’s the uplifting part!
I decided I’d better try making my own, and forthwith bought a big heap of mushrooms and a tub of creme fraiche. That was all I needed – I didn’t want a fancy soup with lots of ingredients, I just wanted a really good, solid, no frills mushroom soup. And then… then I remembered the croutons I got in my Foodie Penpals parcel last month, and how I’d said I was going to use them when I made this long-delayed soup. And then things did get a bit fancy, after all.
I started with a couple of tablespoons of oil – I used rapeseed oil, but another time I might look for something lighter. You will end up getting a big hit of the oil when you bite into the croutons, so you want an oil that you really, really enjoy the taste of, and isn’t too rich or heavy. I put the oil in a wee bowl, and added the leaves from one stem of tarragon, which I’d crushed and smushed up with the edge of a knife blade to release loads of fragrance and flavour. I then heated the oil up, just a little bit, to encourage the flavours to mingle. Then, I tossed in some croutons and mixed them so that they were coated in the oil. As I cooked the soup, I would periodically come back and stir the croutons, oil and herbs around, to make sure they were all soaked and flavoured evenly.
To the soup! I will approximate the amounts here – it’s a slightly ‘lost in the mists of time cos I made it up’ recipe, this one.
- 800g mixed fresh mushrooms
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic (to taste)
- 500 – 750ml vegetable, mushroom or chicken stock
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 6 tbsp creme fraiche
First, I chopped up all the shrooms, without being too careful about it – I knew I was going to throw the whole lot in a blender at the end, anyway. Here are a few pictures of mushrooms, in case you don’t know what they look like… I used a mix of button, closed cup and those giant flat ones you get at breakfast.
I put the oil in the bottom of a giant pot, sat it over a medium-low heat, then threw in the mushrooms plus the garlic, roughly chopped. I stirred them around, coating them with the oil, and added a generous couple of pinches of salt. Then, I covered them over and left them to stew in their own juices. Mushrooms release a lot of liquid, if you give them the chance, and when you’re making soup you definitely want to give them the chance.
Those photos are so blurry… You have no idea how much of a struggle it is for me to take photos over a simmering pot. Does anyone have any good tips for this?
I gave them about twenty minutes over the heat, to cook through and make themselves halfway into soup without me lifting a finger.
Next, I made my own mushroom stock, by grinding some dried oyster mushrooms to a powder and mixing several teaspoons with some boiling water. You can use stock cubes, or bouillion, or whatever you usually use for stock. I’m working on perfecting the ratio of mushroom powder to water before I think about sharing it.
Once the stock was added, I seasoned the soup again, then blended until completely smooth. I took a couple of ladles worth out of the blender after only a few turns, so that there would be some texture to the end result, but that’s totally optional.
When it was blended, I put the soup back in the pot, over the heat, and added the creme fraiche. I stirred through until the creme fraiche was melted, and the soup was hot, then I served with the marinated croutons and a tiny drizzle of the tarragon oil.
Then I instagrammed it.