What's filling, yummy, creamy but crunchy and a guaranteed tummy-warmer on a cold evening? Megan Jane de Paulo's Creamy Mushroom Soup with Crunchy Mushroom Croutons.
AUTUMN IN Australia is mushroom season, so these fungi are more frequently invited to your dining table.
Mushrooms can be a divisive love/hate kind of food - but there's no disputing they are good for you (low in calories, high in fibre, protein and antioxidants, and a source of selenium, copper, thiamin, magnesium and phosphorous).
Plant-like, mushrooms don't have chlorophyll: they are saprotrophs that obtain nutrients from metabolising non-living organic matter.
However, before you gleefully go harvesting them from your compost pile, many mushrooms - like other Australian organisms - can kill you or at least make you very ill.
The aptly named Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), Yellow-staining mushroom (Agaricus xanthodermus), Ghost fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis) and Shaggy Parasol (Chlorophyllum brunneum) are just a few of the more well-known ones involved in poisonings in Australia. In fact, not that many wild mushrooms have been tested for edibility and they are often indistinguishable from edible varieties.
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There are a few foraging groups around. This year Ballan, Victoria, will be home to the first (hopefully annual) Moorabool Mushroom Festival in mid-April, where you can learn about local mushrooms and foraging.
Fortunately, Australia is well supplied by commercial farming, where mushrooms are cultivated in a controlled environment. Most of the mushrooms grown in Australia are one species - Agaricus bisporus - which comes in white or brown and is sold in different sizes: Swiss Browns become Portobellos; white mushrooms grow from bottoms to cups to large flat whites. It takes about three weeks for a mushroom to go from the first spawning phase to harvesting.
Peel or wash? Neither, according to Australian Mushrooms - just brush off any debris before you use them. Mushrooms eagerly absorb water, so you should only briefly wash whole mushrooms right before use if not doing so seems icky. But don't wash once sliced.
Mushrooms are versatile and easy to add to various dishes or just slice, cook in butter and have on toast.
Creamy Mushroom Soup with Crunchy Mushroom Croutons
The following soup recipe is one of my favourite ways to use up a pile of mushrooms when they are cheap - it's filling and tummy-warming on chillier evenings.
And, okay, "croutons" are technically any kind of bread pieces toasted or fried - but by using the same vegetable as the soup, breaded and fried, you get an extra complimentary flavour boost.
These are not recipes needing strict measurements. You just need to eyeball some quantities to get the consistency you like.
I've used white button mushrooms here because that's what I had to use up. You can use a variety of mushrooms. And, you can omit the lemon juice - but I find it lifts the whole soup.
I slice the centres out of mushrooms I'm going to cut up for the soup. Slices are about 5-6mm wide.
Allow for two slices per bowl (and a couple extra because you'll end up snacking on a few while you cook).
If your panko crumbs are too big, smash them up a bit using a mortar and pestle.
You should chill freshly crumbed pieces since it helps prevent the crumb from falling off when frying.
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Creamy Mushroom Soup with Crunchy Mushroom Croutons | Crunchy mushroom croutons | Creamy mushroom soup
Crunchy mushroom croutons
- mushroom slices
- 1 egg
- panko crumbs
- grated Parmesan cheese
- oil for frying
In one bowl, crack the egg and beat it.
In another bowl, mix the panko, Parmesan cheese and pepper.
Coat a slice of mushroom in egg, then put it into the panko mix. Repeat.
Place on a tray and chill in fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Fry in small batches at around 180℃. (I used a small home deep fryer, but a saucepan with enough oil to cover the slices would be fine.)
Drain on paper.
Creamy mushroom soup
- 500g mushrooms, wiped clean, diced
- 30g butter
- 100ml whole milk
- 200ml heavy cream (more might be needed)
- juice of half a medium-sized lemon
Place mushrooms and butter in saucepan over medium heat and cook mushrooms down.
Add milk to prevent mushrooms from sticking to pan.
Add cream, warm through but don't allow to boil.
Remove from heat, use a stick blender and blitz into a smooth soup.
You can add more cream or chicken stock to thin out the soup if required.
Add in lemon juice slowly, mixing to prevent curdling.
Serve warm, with mushroom croutons and fresh sprigs of tarragon.
Megan Jane de Paulo is a Melbourne-based, inner-city latte sipper and social media provocateur. You can follow Megan on Twitter @gomichild.
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