A Tale of Two Soups

Whilst the shimmering frost looks delightful and the pale blue/grey wintry sky are truly evocative of every other winter that has passed me by, I am already longing for the past (or, preferably future) summer. Despite the sun closing up early and denying us of mood-enhancing daylight, the days seem much longer as I shiver in my car on the way to work. Fortunately, we have Christmas to look forward to, and, although it’s gone before it seems to have barely arrived, the days leading up to Christmas are always thrilling. There’s the Gingerbread House to make, biscuits and cookies to take to work, the tree to decorate and presents to buy and wrap.
So, because of all this extra activity, we need quick and nourishing meals, using up wilting vegetables from the fridge to ensure plenty of room for the seasonal extras. And what quick and nourishing meal do we always turn to in days of financial hardship and droopy vegetables? That’s right, soup.
The first soup, Mushroom and Wild Rice, is incredibly simple, some mushrooms sauteed in vegan butter with a little fresh Thyme, some garlic before being pressed gently through a sieve. The garlicky/fungus liquid is then used to form the basis of the soup alongside a basic roux, and the rest is made up with almond or soy milk. The mushrooms are then added to this rich soup with some wild rice and simmered gently for about 45 minutes.
The second soup is truly a testament to my ingenuity in the kitchen or you could call it “good luck”. A three week old bunch of Broccoli, rapidly turning yellow is simmered in some
vegetable stock with a diced potato and some sauteed onion. This is then pureed and returned to the pan and enriched with a swirl of tofutti sour cream. As someone who generally despises Broccoli, this tasted revelatory. At last! A way to make those little green trees interesting!
Despite both soups being “leftover” users, with the right garnish, they are also elegant enough for a dinner party yet hearty and speedy enough for a quick after work supper.

250g Mushrooms, cleaned of any loose soil with kitchen paper or a soft brush and roughly chopped. I used Chestnuts Mushrooms but normal white, cultivated ones would be OK. You can, of course, use Shiitake or Oyster or Wild for an even better flavour.
50g Vegan Spread, such as Pure
Spring of Fresh Thyme
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
25g Flour
25g Wild Rice
1 Pint non-dairy Milk
Salt and Pepper and a little Nutmeg
Gently saute the chopped mushrooms, Thyme and Garlic in 25g of the butter. Grind over a little pepper and salt to help release the juices. Cook until softened and easily pierced with a fork.
Strain through a sieve into a bowl, reserving both the liquid and the mushrooms separately.
In the same pan, melt the remaining 25g of butter and whisk in the flour, until a smooth roux is formed. Pour over the onion juice and half the pint of milk. Bring gently to the boil but keep whisking to ensure it does not go lumpy or stick. Add more milk if the soup seems too thick.
Grate over a little nutmeg.
Add the reserved chopped mushrooms and the rice. Leave to simmer gently until the rice is softened. Season as necessary and serve.

BROCCOLI SOUP serves 4-6
Large head of Broccoli, about 300 or 400g, cut into small florets
1 Medium Onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Medium Potato, peeled and diced
1 Pint Vegetable Stock
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Some Tofutti Sour Cream or vegan cream
Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion until translucent. Add the diced potatoes and florets of broccoli, sauteing briefly before covering with the stock. Bring to the boil, cover and turn down to a gently simmer.
Cook until the potatoes and broccoli are tender.
Pour this mixture into a blender, leaving some whole pieces behind for texture if you want. Process until smooth and return to the saucepan. Taste for seasoning and cook gently for another couple of minutes. Stir through some vegan sour cream to further enrich the soup and serve.

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