Creamy Mushroom Soup (Dairy Free)

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Everyone loves a good 'shroom. Whether you are a Woodstock revivalist or a protein hungry vegetarian, the nutritional value of the mushroom is outstanding. I have always been mesmerised by the variety of this power-hub fungi, from robust knobs of chewy brown velvet to bleached shoelaces wearing pearl hats, the range certainly challenges one's own concept of strange familial relations. The beauty of this dish is the freedom it allows for you to pick and choose your favourite fungi.

This dish was a total experiment, but I could not be more wrapped with the outcome. The cashews create a dream cream, forget Elle Macpherson, this soup has some serious body. Feel free to adjust the thickness by slowly adding the cashew cream until desired consistency is achieved. I for one like it eeeeextra creamy, like someone is hugging you from the inside out. Mushrooms are a wondrous vegetable: they contain high amounts of glutamate (not to be confused with gluten) which account for their rich flavour, and are a high source of Vitamin D (ironic as they are grown in the dark).

A note on the zesty topping-do it! Seriously.

Serves 4

1 small handful dried porcini 1 cup hot water ¼ cup olive oil 600 g/1.5 lb fresh mushrooms (oyster, chanterelles, shiitake, crimini or similar)– chopped 2 garlic cloves – crushed 1 medium red onion - chopped 4 sprigs fresh thyme – stems removed ½ tsp salt ½ tsp pepper 4 cups chicken broth 1 cup raw cashews – soaked for 2 hours 1 cup of flat leafed parsley – roughly chopped

Topping

1 lemon 1 tsp salt 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place the porcini in a small dish, add boiling water just to cover, and leave to soak.

Heat the olive oil on high in a deep pan and add the mushrooms.

Stir quickly for a minute. Turn the heat to medium, add garlic, onion and thyme, and keep stirring for another minute.

Add the salt and pepper and stir.

Drain the porcini, setting aside the soaking liquid, and chop up.

Then add to the pan.

Pour the soaking liquid through a sieve and add to the pan.

Simmer for 20 minutes until most of the moisture has disappeared, but the mushrooms are still wet. You would want about a cup of liquid left in the pan with the mushrooms.

In the meantime drain the cashews, place them with ½ cup of water into a fast food processor, and process until smooth and creamy.

Set aside.

Add the chicken stock to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes.

Remove half of the soup into a food processor and process until smooth.

Then add it back to the pan with the chopped up parsley and cashew cream.

Stir and bring back to a simmer.

Turn off heat and serve with the lemon zest mixture.

Topping

Zest the lemon and mix the zest with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the top of the soup short before serving.

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