Mushrooms come in a wide variety, some are earthy and full of personality, others quite bland. I chose dried Porcini mushrooms as their flavour is more concentrated, almost more intense then the fresh ones. I used the soaking liquid to cook the vegetables and the taste comes out strong. Adding some bechamel sauce at the end just made it creamier. —Maria Teresa Jorge
porcini mushrooms dried
potatoes, peeled and cubed
courgettes, peeled and cubed
garlic cloves (inside green stem removed)
onion medium size
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to sautee the porcini for decoration
In a bowl, put the dry porcini and cover with 7 cups of hot water and leave for 1 hour.
Peel the potatoes, wash them and cut them in small cubes - do not wash them because you want to keep the starch in the soup.
Peel the courgettes completely so you only have white flesh, wash them and cut them in small cubes.
Peel the garlic, cut in half and remove the inside green part.
Chop the onion in in medium size pieces.
Wash carefully the stalks of parsley and leave them with their full length so you can take them out easily, later.
Remove the porcini from their steeping water, squeeze with your hands. DO NOT throw away the steeping liquid, it will be used for the soup. Take 2 tablespoons of porcini and set aside in a glass or ceramic bowl.
Through a very fine sieve, sieve the porcini steeping water, very slowly, discarding the last part of water with the earth and sand (about 1 cup of water). Put the steeping water in a large measuring cup and set aside.
In a large pot add the Olive Oil, the parsley stalks and the onion. When the onion is almost translucent, about 3 minutes, add the garlic halves, stir one minute, add the porcini, stir and let cook for 5 minutes. Add the cubed potatoes and courgettes and stir for 1 minute.
Add 4 cups of the steeping water, again slowly so that if any sand is still in the bottom, it won't go in the soup.
Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes covered. The potato should be completely cooked.
Discard the parsley stalks.
Process the soup in a liquidiser with the bechamel sauce and pour it back in a clean pot. Season with salt and some freshly ground black and white pepper.
At this point check the consistency of the soup - it should be smooth and velvety but not too dense. Add some steeping water if the soup is too thick.
In a sautee pan, add 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil and the sprig of thyme, let it get hot and stir fry the remaining porcini mushrooms, about 1 minute. Add a pinch of salt. Remove the mushrooms from the sautee pan and set aside.
Serve the soup hot, add a teaspoon of sauteed porcini in the middle and sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper over it.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add the flour all at once and stir (I prefer to use a whisk) for 1 to 2 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from heat. Add the milk very slowly, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Return to heat. Cook on low heat stirring the sauce until it thickens and the flour is cooked - 12 to 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Do not add nutmeg as it will interfere with the flavour of the mushrooms.