I should probably preface this recipe by stating that I do not like mushrooms. Usually. To be fair it’s just the texture that I don’t like, nasty slimy things. The taste doesn’t bother me at all. Which is why when Mr Colonial Cravings ordered a version of this soup at Brabo in Alexandria VA recently I was quite happy to have a taste.
Oh my was I glad I did. I almost made him swap starters with me. The soup was so rich and velvety and full flavoured that I knew I had to try to recreate it for myself. And here’s the result. I know the cocoa and brandy seem like they would be more at home in a dessert but they really do work well in this, adding both richness and bitterness against the sweetness of the chestnuts.
This soup is a little bit more fancy than the usual bowls of heartiness that I dish up for mid-week post gym dinners but it still doesn’t take a lot of work, which is always a good thing!
15g dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp butter
1 white onion
1 medium carrot
225g button mushrooms
1 tsp good quality cocoa powder
big pinch of black pepper
few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp brandy
150g peeled chestnuts (the sort that come vacuum packed)
600ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp sour cream (double cream will also be fine)
toasted hazelnuts, truffle oil (optional) and extra sour cream to serve
Soak the dried porcini in 500ml of boiling water for about 20 minutes.
Whilst you’re doing this dice the onion, carrot and button mushrooms. Gently fry these in the butter in a large sauce pan until they just start to colour and caramelise.
Strain the porcini through a very fine sieve (or one lined with a paper towel) and reserve the soaking liquid. Rinse the porcini well to make sure that there is no grit in them. Roughly chop these and the chestnuts.
Add the pepper, cocoa and thyme to the pan and stir it in before adding the brandy. Make sure that you scrape all of the lovely caramelised bits up from the bottom of the pan. Pour in the reserved liquor from soaking the porcini and then add the chestnuts and porcini. Add the stock, pop a lid on the pan and let it simmer until the chestnuts are tender.
Blend the soup until its smooth and then mix through the sour cream. Check the seasoning, add a little salt and more pepper to suit your own palate.
Serve the soup garnished with chopped toasted chestnuts, a swirl of sour cream and a drizzle of truffle oil.