Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup
The main focus of this soup, the key flavour that dominates, is mushrooms. Their earthy, woody flavour stands out and if you like mushrooms, you will love this soup!
That is one thing about mushrooms… you either love them or hate them. In biological taxonomy, mushrooms are classified as a kingdom, ‘fungi’, separate from plants and animals. Actually, the mushrooms that we see are the fruiting parts of the fungus. The common name of mushrooms is toadstools, though no one uses that name these days.
While reading about mushrooms, I was a bit surprised to find that genetic studies have shown that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants. No wonder many vegetarians do not eat mushrooms!
Humans have been known to use mushrooms as food for a long time. Also, they have been used as leavening and fermenting agents in food preparation.
There are so many varieties of mushrooms, both cultivated and growing wild, in different sizes and shapes and colours. The most common variety available in the markets will be the white button mushrooms which are widely cultivated commercially. Shiitake, portobello, oyster, cremini, chanterelle… these are other common varieties used in cooking.
One of the most expensive food items in the markets today, truffles, are a variety of mushrooms that do not sprout above ground. Highly prized by chefs the world over, they have been known since ancient Roman times. Trained pigs and dogs are used in hunting for truffles growing below the soil surface.
There is a branch of biology devoted to the study of fungi, known as mycology.
Enough about mushrooms… let’s talk about the soup. I wanted to make it a real mushroomy soup and used two types of mushrooms in it… fresh sliced baby portobellos and dried shiitakes. The water in which the shiitake has been soaked, should be added to the soup as well.
I have used a wild rice mix for this soup. Instead, if you prefer, you can use either quinoa or barley with very tasty results. Whichever grains you are using, you have to cook it separately before adding it to the soup.
I have used chicken stock as the base, as I love the chicken-mushroom combination. If you want to keep this as vegetarian, you can use vegetable stock or just plain water. However, in the light of the studies mentioned above, I don’t see much point in that!
- ½ cup wild rice mix
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms
- ½ cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 large red onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 medium sized carrots
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried herbs (mix of thyme, basil, and parsley)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- In a small pot, bring one cup of stock and one cup of water to boil.
- Add the wild rice, bay leaves and enough salt. Cover and cook on medium heat, till tender.
- Soak the shiitake mushrooms enough water to cover them.
- Slice the onion lengthwise, into thin wedges.
- Chop the celery.
- If the carrots are slim, slice them thinly; if they are fat, slit them lengthwise and then slice them.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion, celery and carrots.
- When the onion turns transparent, add the tomato paste and continue stirring for two minutes.
- Add the remaining stock, mix well and bring to a boil.
- Add the cooked rice along with the bay leaves.
- Add the soaked shiitake mushrooms along with the soaking water.
- Add the fresh sliced mushrooms and check that there is enough liquid in the soup.
- Allow the soup to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Check the consistency and add more water, if required.
- Add the dried herbs and season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and serve hot.