The secret to a deeply flavourful vegetarian soup: Dried porcini mushrooms

Joe Yonan

THE WASHINGTON POST – Dried mushrooms are a cook’s friend. They can hang out in your pantry, undisturbed, for an eternity, and then when you’re ready to bring them out to play, they do so with such power and energy the only downside is you feel guilty for not inviting them to the party earlier.

For a plant-based cook, their appeal is even stronger, because they add the kind of depth and umami to your cooking that you may have thought was possible only through the use of low-and-slow-cooked meat.

In this soup recipe, dried porcini transform a simple combination of chickpeas, Swiss chard and aromatic vegetables. You soak them in hot water, strain them (they can also add grit if you don’t) and use the soaking liquid as a mushroom stock – better than anything you can buy by the carton, trust me. You chop the rehydrated mushrooms and add them, too.

Then the only issue is your patience: The soup is so flavourful, you may have to remind yourself that, rather than gulping it down, you should slow your pace and savour it. When you’ve finished, be sure you have more dried mushrooms in your pantry for the next time the craving hits.

CHICKPEA, CHARD AND PORCINI SOUP

Active: 15 minutes | Total: 50 minutes

Four servings (six cups)

This hearty soup gets its big flavours from the earthiness of porcini mushrooms. If desired, use canned white beans, such as cannellini, instead of the chickpeas, and kale or spinach instead of the chard.

Ingredients

One ounce dried porcini

Three cups hot water

Three tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Two tablespoons unsalted butter One small yellow onion, chopped

Two cloves garlic, finely chopped

One (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, plus their juices

One (14-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed

One sprig rosemary

Half teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

Freshly ground black pepper

10 ounces (one bunch) Swiss chard, stemmed and shredded

Parmesan, hard goat cheese or other flavourful hard cheese, shaved

Steps

Soak the porcini in the hot water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon, reserving the soaking water.

Rinse the mushrooms briefly under cold water (they can be gritty), pat dry with a clean dish towel and coarsely chop.

Strain the mushroom soaking liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels into a bowl.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the olive oil with the butter. When the mixture is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.

Add the garlic and stir for one minute, then add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for another two minutes. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, rosemary, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer gently until the flavours meld, 20 to 30 minutes.Add the chard and cook until it is tender, about five minutes.

If the soup seems too thick, thin it out with a little water.

Discard the rosemary.

Taste and add salt and/or pepper as needed.

Ladle into warmed bowls, drizzle over some olive oil, and top with the cheese shavings, if using.

Serve hot.