Making Cream of Mushroom Soup

A lot of of recipes for vegan cream of mushroom soup use cashew as a thickener. I immediately searched for an alternative because the thought of crunching on a piece of stray, unblended cashew makes me shudder. That, and I just think having nut paste in a soup is a bit weird.

Cream of mushroom soup is usually made with button mushrooms; finely chopped and sweated down with and almost dissolved in a mixture of broth and cream. In this one I’m using dried shiitake for two reasons; the first is that they’re unbelievably cheap. The second is that when you steep them in water, you also get a very deep, earthy mushroom stock that is simply delicious. If you want to thin the soup you can use almond milk or mushroom broth, the latter is a bit strong so use sparingly. A little bit goes a long way.


[ 1 ½ cup dried shiitake mushroom + 2 cups cauliflower florets + 1 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1 teaspoon olive oil + ½ yellow onion, diced +  2 cloves of garlic + ½ teaspoon dried oregano + salt and pepper, to taste + a small bunch of parsley ]

Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in 4 cups of warm water for at least 1 hour. Reserve the liquid and drain the mushroom. Set aside.

Bring cauliflower, milk and ¾ cup of the reserved mushroom liquid to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it boils, put the lid on and reduce heat to low and simmer for 7-8 minutes, until cauliflower is softened.

Take off the heat  and puree the cauliflower mixture using a blender or food processor. Return back to the pot.

Thinly slice the shiitake mushroom. Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and onions and sautee over medium heat until the onion begins to brown. Add in the mushroom and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the dried oregano and season to taste.

Add half of the sauteed mushroom mixture to the pureed cauliflower. Bring to a boil over medium heat, adding more almond milk to get the consistency you want (you can add the mushroom liquid instead, or a mixture of both. Almond milk will give it a creamier taste, mushroom both a more earthy flavor. Your call). Season to taste.

Pour warm soup into serving bowls and garnish with leftover sauteed mushrooms and freshly chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve immediately with some crusty bread.


Literary Recipes * Farmer Maggot’s Mushroom Soup

“I know these fields and this gate!” Pippin said. “This is Bamfurlong, old Farmer Maggot’s land. That’s his farm away there in the trees.”

“One trouble after another!” said Frodo, looking nearly as much alarmed as if Pippin had declared the lane was the slot leading to a dragon’s den. The others looked at him in surprise.

“What’s wrong with old Maggot?” asked Pippin. “He’s a good friend to all the Brandybucks. Of course he’s a terror to trespassers, and keeps ferocious dogs but after all, folk down here are near the border and have to be more on their guard.”

“I know,” said Frodo. “But all the same,” he added with a shamefaced laugh, “I am terrified of him and his dogs. I have avoided his farm for years and years. He caught me several times trespassing after mushrooms, when I was a youngster at Brandy Hall.”
— The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring, by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Incredibly rich and creamy, a little of this soup goes a long way. The beef broth and smoked salt bring out the earthiness of the mushrooms, while the cheese and cream add to the wonderful texture. Consider serving with some crusty white bread to soak up every bit of soup from the bowl.

Ingredients —

  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 oz. shitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 10 oz. crimini mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp. smoked salt
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tbs. sherry
  • ⅓ cup finely shredded sharp cheddar, plus more for garnish

Directions —

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion, then cook until they are softened but not yet brown.
  • Add the chopped mushrooms and stir to coat them with the butter. Cover with the broth and cream, then add the salt, and bring to just under a simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Using a slotted spoon, scoop out ½ cup of the cooked mushrooms and onions, and set aside as a garnish. Puree the rest of the soup, using either a submersible blender or a food processor. When the texture is smooth and creamy, add the sherry and the grated cheese, then stir to combine.
  • Scoop into bowls, garnish with the reserved mushrooms, and shred a little extra cheese over the top.

* It’s interesting to note that in March 1958, Tolkien had attended a “Hobbit Dinner” organised by Voorhoeve en Dietrich, a Rotterdam bookseller, where he was served “maggot-soup.” It was, of course, mushroom soup, named after Farmer Maggot and his renowned mushrooms, not a soup of vermin at all. However, it was quite an embarrassing moment for author and booksellers alike!

As long as we’re sharing recipes, this is my be-all-end-all favourite mushroom soup ever (and I’m not even a mushroom fan!). It is… the best. It makes SO GODDAMN MUCH SOUP, it’s awesome on it’s own, and it makes an amazing base for stews and really anything you would normally use canned cream of mushroom for. The first time we made it, it lasted three of us a whole week, we got straight soup, chicken stew, and chicken pot pies out of it before we finished the batch off. (word to the wise, use a really big pot) This one is from

Half cup of butter
Quarter cup of flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound of mushrooms, finely chopped
1 pound of mushrooms, roughly chopped
4 cups chicken stock or broth
4 cups of light cream (half and half)
Quarter cup of fortified wine, such as sherry, port or madeira
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped or dried parsley and basil to taste.

1. Melt butter in soup pot on medium low heat.

2. Add onions and salt. Saute onions until they are soft.

3. Add mushrooms, and cook for about 5 minutes.

4. Add flour in a bit at a time, stirring it in as you do to help prevent lumps.

5. Add broth a bit at a time, stirring as you do to prevent lumps. After enough broth has been added to make everything liquid, add the rest of the broth.

6. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or so. This will allow the flour to thicken the soup somewhat.

7. Add the cream, pepper, basil and parsley. Gently simmer the soup without boiling for about ten minutes to allow the flavours to mix completely.

8. Add the fortified wine, stir and serve.