Al Dente: How Not To Merchant Ivory Your Mushroom Soup

If soup was a film production company, it would be Merchant Ivory. You know the sort of thing, beautiful spectacle, immaculate performances, really well blended vegetables and Helena Bonham Carter being aristocratic and mad whilst Linus Roache is a repressed upper-class aubergine struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality in post-war Morrisons.

That got away from me but my point is this; soup is not a food you would ever look at as…exciting. Vibrant. Pulse-pounding. At no point, at all, would Hugh Jackman walk away from a bowl of soup in slow motion as it exploded behind him. Soup, ladies and gentlemen, is the British film industry. Desperately enthusiastic, endlessly hard working and with the odd exception (The movies of Edgar Wright and most of Guy Ritchie’s work), frequently a bit dull.

I know, I know, scandalous blah blah look at Harry Potter (that’s actually a fair point) blah blah Colin Thing at the Oscars in 1723 yelling ‘Verily, the British doth come!’. But here’s the thing, British movies are terrified of being liked by people. The natural reticence of the national character is carried over to our culture and as a result, so many British movies feel the need to apologize for existing that they actually forget to be exciting.

As film so soup. But fear not! For Our High Lord Jamie

(We lug in his name)

Walks amongst us and he sees our pain! He understands our need! He lives here so he realizes the frequently pissing miserable weather means soup is a big deal! And he knows, he knows that when you look in your bowl and, on occasion, see something that looks a little like an unusually sad cup of tea with some grumpy onions in it, that is not good enough. He is here to help, he has come to save soup for us all and his principle ingredient is…


What, really? VICTOR! The suspects!


So what do we have here? Well:

-Olive oil

-Basmati rice

-5 big Portobello mushrooms

-An onion

-Some garlic

-A stock cube

-Single cream

-And lurking shamefacedly off shot, some Camembert, an apple and a Ciabatta loaf made from breadmaker mix.


Let’s talk about breadmakers for a moment; I love them to tiny little pieces. Firstly because they enable my ‘WHAT’S THIS DO?!’ school of baking where I’ll throw a thing into another thing to see if it tastes like a third thing. Secondly because they’re fast and simple and thirdly because every now and again buying a pack of magic bread dust, adding it to the Breadifier 5000, adding some water and coming back an hour and a half later to find you have dough to play with is just really good fun. The apple and Camembert were, I don’t know…checking Twitter. Yeah, let’s say that.

So, first off, chop the Portobellos (And other mushrooms if you want, as I apparently did), garlic and the onion and fry them off for a while.

When they’re soft, put them, along with 100g of Bastmati rice, in a big pan. The volume of soup constructed will seem to work in directly correlation with the amount of soup produced. I know that has a lot more to do with volume of ingredients rather than pan but hey, this is why my Master’s Degree is in Contemporary English Literature, not Advanced Soupology.

Anyway, add a liter of stock and put it onto boil with the lid on. If this is starting to sound familiar, then guess what? It is! Because isn’t there something else we’re waiting for?

Nope, still not done.

Whilst this is boilerfying (A word now), make up the toastlets. Normally I would have sever issue with anything that implied a cap on my bread consumption like the suffix ‘-let’ does but here it works. I went for ciabatta in a box but French bread works too, as, I would imagine, would drop scones or modified pancakes, weirdly. The point here, weird as it is, is not the bread. The point is that this is a one or two bite adjunct to the meal. Ciabatta’s ideal for this and so I went with that but this whole section of the meal has a huge EXPERIMENT WITH ME neon sign over the top of it so please do.

Then, add the secret ingredient. As this photo shows, that ingredient is clearly apple. I used a Mandolin to slice this, hence it’s wafair-theen nature. The Mandolin and I have danced several times since then and it has tasted my blood just as I have…touched it’s…plastic. Regardless the thing’s huge fun but remarkably stabby and I don’t have photos of it this time round.

So, place the wafair-theen apple on the toastlet, then place the Stinky Cheese Du Jour on top of that, like so:

Then check to see if the Squash is done?

Of course not.

The soup, however, is!

But still requires Soupification. To do that, pour it into a blender:

And blend it like it’s DAMNED or, at least, until it’s a thick, but liquid, consistency. This is the secret of the recipe, the Basmati breaking down under heat and its starches thickening the soup so you’ve got a lot of fluidity but a lot of flavor with it. It will, I warn you, take a while. I blended this for about two straight minutes and even then there were detectable rice grains. A couple of weeks later, when we unfroze the leftovers, we actually blended it a third time and that got it to a decent consistency. Experiment with it, cut or add liquid as needed because the beauty of the recipe is the flavor stays pretty solid whatever you do.

Then, pop the toastlets out of the oven and plate them, put the soup in bowls, add a dash of cream across the top and take the photo from entirely too far away!




I know ‘Check out my bowl of awesome grey goo’ doesn’t exactly sound like the Michael Bay explode-a-thon I implied soup needs to be at the top of the meal but trust me it actually works. It’s incredibly tasty and the toastlets are stunningly good, the wafair-theen apple transferring it’s sweetness to the bread and the saltiness of your Stinky Cheese of choice wrapping around them both. If this soup was a movie, it certainly wouldn’t be a blockbuster but it would be a cult movie that people could quote from years after they saw it. And let’s face it, that’s a step up.


Things I learned;

-Blending takes time. Make sure you give it enough.

-I am dreadful at remembering ingredients for the group shot. Either that or I need to ban my ingredients from checking Twitter.

And that’s mushroom soup, as well as a restart for this column. There’ll be another this week, covering my first recipe from the Bread Book of St Paul Of Hollywood and then all sorts of stuff. Whoopie pies, Brioche, more soup, guest recipes, it’s all coming down the line and it all tastes great. See you then.

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