“Soup breathes reassurance, it offers consolation; after a weary day it promotes sociability…There is nothing like a bowl of hot soup, it’s wisp of aromatic steam teasing the nostrils into quivering anticipation.” ~ Louis P. DeGouy, The Soup Book (1949)
Ever since I can recall, soups featured on our family’s menu as a starter. Even at our school diner we had soup as a prelude to the main, and as kids we were always more excited about the contents of the bowl than the contents of the plate that followed.
Soups are so entrenched in my cultural heritage that even my Dad, who generally tends to stay away from the kitchen, cooks soups. Potato and onion is his best, although my Mum makes a stunning cream of leek soup with croutons that is so delicious and smooth it would have to rank equal first. But then again – for me at least, another equal first would have to be mushroom soup, simply because I love mushrooms.
I grew up going wild mushroom picking in the woods in Autumn ever since I could walk (nice jumpsuit ↑, not). We’d stay up late cleaning, pickling, cooking and drying all the different varieties for use during Winter. My favourite ‘fast food’ has always been zapiekanka, which is a grilled cheese and mushroom baguette sold around my home town from those hole-in-the-wall outlets. And I always looked forward to savouring clear dried porcini soup on Christmas Eve.
It is therefore no surprise that I like to add mushrooms to the classic potato and leek soup, which combines both of my parents’ best soup recipes. The flavour and texture of mushrooms brings the whole dish together. I use both button and dried porcini mushrooms, as the latter are more intense in flavour and bring back memories of fresh porcinis air-drying in my Mum’s kitchen.
Considering my love of cheese and mushroom toasties, it is only adequate that I serve the soup with cheesy bread stick as the perfect accompaniament to this heart and soul-warming dish.