“Sweet Bell Pepper Puree with King Oyster Mushrooms”

There are few things in life I enjoy more than soup.  There’s just something about taking a few very simple ingredients and turning them into something luxurious, and soul-satisfying, that appeals to me.

I absolutely love looking through my fridge and pantry, and finding inspiration in some form or another. I usually don’t go to the market with a soup in mind, but after I make a dish, the leftovers always seem to inspire me.

For the recipe: 

I believe that making soup is one of the best ways to practice technique. One of my culinary idols, Marco Pierre White, the mentor of Gordon Ramsay, once said that, “Cooking is about knowing when to stop cooking. Everything peaks. We peak, beauty peaks, food peaks.” With soup, I find this statement to be very true.

The following recipe is for a soup that hits all of the basic tastes. The sweetness of the bell peppers is complemented by sourness brought to the table by white wine vinegar, and the meaty, umami flavour delivered by the mushrooms. The mushrooms themselves are sprinkled with some pimento (smoked paprika), to bring out the meaty flavours of the mushrooms and add some spice.

Sweet Bell Pepper
Puree with King Oyster Mushrooms

Ingredients – (Serves 2)

For the soup:

  • 4 sweet bell peppers of any colour,  finely sliced/julienned – (I used a mix of
    red, orange and yellow)
  • 5 small shallots, finely sliced – (Shallots are
    a member of the onion family, but have a softer, more delicate flavour)
  • 30 ml of white wine vinegar
  • 70 ml of Noilly Prat Vermouth, or any White
    Wine  – (Vermouth is a herb-infused wine,
    but even white cooking wine will do)
  • 750 ml of low-sodium chicken stock – (Easier to
    control the salt levels)
  • Fresh Basil (6 sprigs), Fresh Thyme (6 sprigs),
    or a tablespoon of dried Herbes de Provence or Italian herbs
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter
  • Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
  • Cheese cloth
  • Kitchen string
  • Blender/Food Processor
  • Strainer

For the Mushrooms:

  • 2 King Oyster mushrooms, cut into 1-inch long
    cylinders
  • Smoked Paprika – (aka Pimenton)
  • Fresh Basil, Finely Sliced
  • Canola Oil – (Olive oil will do, but canola oil
    has a more neutral flavour and a higher smoke point, and can be heated to
    higher temperatures)

Steps

1.  Heat a thin layer
of olive oil on low-medium heat in a medium pot. When hot, put in the shallots
and sweat (cook gently), for 3-5 minutes, or until soft.

2. Meanwhile, cut a square of cheesecloth, approx. 4 inches
by 4 inches. Put your herbs in the middle, and fold the cheesecloth to make a
parcel. Tie with the string.

3. When the shallots are soft, put in the peppers, herb
parcel, the butter, and two pinches of sea salt. Stir, and then cook over
medium heat for 15 minutes. You want the peppers to soften, and release some
liquid.

4. Pour in the vinegar and cook for about 2 minutes, or
until the liquid has reduced to a syrup.

5. Pour in the Noilly Prat or wine, and cook for about 2-3
minutes until the liquid has reduced to a syrup.

6. Pour in the chicken stock, bring the liquid to a simmer,
and then gently simmer for 5 min.

7.  Take the herb
parcel out, and pour the rest into a food processor/blender. If you have a
blender, make sure the blender is not too full, or else you will be splashed by
hot soup. Blend until smooth.

8. Strain the liquid. Strain again. Strain once more, this
time lining the strainer with one layer of cheesecloth. You should be left with
a silky smooth puree. Reserve for later.

For the Mushrooms:

1.  Heat a thin layer
of canola oil over medium-high heat. Season the mushrooms with salt.

2. When the pan is hot, put the mushrooms in on one of the
flat sides. Leave it alone, and let that side brown. When one side is brown, do
the same for the other side.

3. Cook over medium heat for 7-8 minutes. King Oyster
mushrooms have a lot of water and this water needs to be cooked out. Regular
white mushrooms have less water and will take less time to cook.

4. When done (if you have a bunch, you can eat one to see if
it’s done), put in the butter, and baste.

5. Take them out of the pan, and place on paper towel. Wipe
some of the oil off.

6. Sprinkle a very small amount of smoked paprika, sea salt,
and fresh basil on one side of the mushrooms. Reserve for later.

To finish:

1. Heat the soup up, and taste. If too watery, simmer  until the right consistency. Add as much sea
salt as necessary.

2. For an elegant presentation, put two mushrooms in the
bottom of a bowl, and pour the soup around the mushrooms until ¾ of the way up
the mushroom.

Bon Appetit!

 

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