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:
For the Mushrooms:
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.
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.