Thursday, 23 February 2012

Courgette and Mushroom Soup

Him Indoors and I recently visited a lovely little local French restaurant in Dulwich called Le Chardon. (Anyone interested in their website will find it here: http://www.lechardon.co.uk/)

Full of character, it is an informal French bistro converted from an old David Grieg grocery store with all the fin de si├Ęcle tile work and shopfront retained. Even though all the tiles have thistles on them (hence the name, as un chardon is a thistle in French), it has a homely and welcoming Gallic feel. I can’t explain it, but if you are ever in this neck of the woods, check it out and you’ll see what I mean.
The menu was full of variety, with fresh seafood, French country style dishes and bistro favourites. Sadly there was no cassoulet, but then given how long it takes to cook, you can’t blame them.

Anyway, after scouring the menu we turned our attention to the specials board. The rabbit stew wasn’t what I had wanted to eat for my main, and Him Indoors isn’t a rabbit kind of guy.  What we did notice was that the soup of the day was Courgette and Mushroom. It appealed to us, but firstly, we probably wanted to eat some of the other starters a lot more and secondly, soup with bread can be very filling and can spoil your appetite for the main. So we ordered other starters, but kept the idea in mind that perhaps we could have a go at making a French influenced Courgette and Mushroom soup all of our own.

I am sure those of you more well-versed in French cooking may find this isn’t the most authentic recipe. I don’t claim to have any expertise in French food. But hopefully some of you will give this soup a go and enjoy its herby mellow creaminess. We certainly did.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 courgettes, very finely diced but unpeeled
60ml Double cream
3 cloves garlic, very finely diced
2 echalion (banana) shallots, peeled and finely diced
300g mixed  mushrooms (I used 2 portobello, with the remainder being chestnut mushrooms), very finely diced
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
700 ml Vegetable (unless you prefer Chicken) stock
2 x 2 tbsp olive oil
2 x 15g unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Put the first batches of butter and olive oil into a large saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts.  Add the diced courgette and fry on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. 

Remove the courgette from the pan. Put the pan back on the heat and put in the second batch of butter and olive oil, and again, heat gently until the butter melts.

Now add the chopped shallots and fry for 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, thyme and mushrooms and fry gently for a further 10 minutes. You want all the veg to ‘sweat’ rather than brown.

Now put the courgette back in the pan and heat through.

Put all the veg in a blender, topping up with the chicken stock. Blitz until you have a soupy consistency.

Return to the pan.  Add the cream slowly, stirring as you go. Depending on the remaining water content of the courgettes and mushrooms, you may need less cream or perhaps much more (I’d say up to 100ml). You want a creamy smooth texture with some richness of flavour.


When you are happy with your texture, taste and season if necessary.

Put on a gentle heat to warm through the soup, (only about 3 minutes).
Serve up in bowls with a small swirl of cream.


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