Hungarian Mushroom Soup

We tend to prefer lighter soups with lots of vegetables but every once in a while, something richer is a nice change. This fits the bill, beautifully… if you like mushrooms.

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Hungarian Mushroom Soup
serves 4

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, margarine or olive oil
1 pound (4 cups) fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cups diced onions
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 teaspoons dried dill2016-01-09 020
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk or soy milk
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream (I use tofu sour cream if I’m making this dairy free)

Melt the a tablespoon of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Increase heat to high and saute half the mushrooms until caramelized and cooked through. Repeat with remaining mushrooms and a tablespoon of butter. Lower heat to medium low and add two remaining tablespoons of butter. Add the onions and paprika, stir well and reduce heat to low. Slow cook for 20 minutes or until onions are golden and soft. Stir in the dill, soy sauce and broth, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, whisk the milk and flour together. Pour this into the soup and stir well to blend. Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cooked mushrooms and simmer 10 minutes more.

Just before serving, stir in the salt, ground black pepper, lemon juice, parsley and sour cream. Mix together and allow to heat through, about 3 to 5 minutes, making sure not to boil. Serve immediately with crusty bread and salad.



More Soup

One of our favourite soups is one I found more than a decade ago. It works with almost any vegetable combination and the end result is a smooth and velvety bowl of deliciousness that we never tire of. I’ve shared the recipe in our favourite version below but feel free to vary the amounts and types of root vegetables. Coconut, Ginger, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Coconut, Ginger, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from Canadian Living
*updated December 2017

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 medium sized sweet potato or yam, peeled and cubed
6 large carrots, cut in 2″ chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet red, yellow or orange pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, stems and leaves divided and each chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and diced
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 Tbsp soy sauce or fish sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp. lime juice
1 pound of shrimp, cleaned & deveined (optional)

Optional first step: mix squash, sweet potato and carrots with 2 Tbps. olive oil and a generous sprinkling of sea salt. Mix well and roast on large pan at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Use a large enough pan that the vegetables will not be crowded.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat until hot. Add onion, celery, sweet pepper and cilantro stalks and immediately reduce heat to lowest setting. Add garlic and cook the mixture slowly for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is aromatic and the vegetables have softened. Add squash, sweet potato and carrots- if they were not roasted, cook in the onion mixture for a few minutes. If these vegetables were roasted, follow them into the pot with the stock, water, soy/fish sauce, sugar and pepper.  Simmer, on low heat, for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, add cilantro leaves and puree with immersion blender until soup is very smooth. Return to heat and stir in coconut milk and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

The original recipe calls for the addition of 1 pound of shrimp, added with the coconut milk after the soup is pureed – we usually pan fry a few shrimp at a time to add to the top of each bowl of soup (~6-8 large shrimp per bowl) when we serve. It’s a lovely addition. We also enjoy the soup very much without the shrimp, particularly with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds or with a slice of crusty bread for lunch on a rainy day.



Conquering Soup

Until last year, I dreaded making and eating soup. What changed? Flavour. First was discovering how much flavour is added by roasting poultry bones before making stock. Second was reading Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked” (thanks W!) and learning that when mirepoix (the standard starter mix of onions, carrots and celery) is cooked SLOWLY, magic happens.  These two techniques have radically changed my approach to soup making and for the first time in my life, I’m confident that my efforts will be considerably better than the bland dishwater I used to turn out.

These two techniques are best highlighted in classic chicken noodle soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup | Life On Van Island

Chicken Noodle Soup
from my own trial and error
serves 4 as a main meal

2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
fist full of fresh parsley, stems and leaves separated, both finely diced
1/2 tsp. coarse saltChicken Noodle Soup | Life On Van Island
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. dried aniseed or fennel
8 cups roasted poultry stock
1 cup diced, cooked chicken
100 grams (4 ounces) uncooked egg noodles or instant stir fry noodles
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Dice vegetables and put parsley leaves aside. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, parsley stems, salt, thyme, and aniseed/fennel, stir well and immediately reduce heat to very low temperature. Allow the vegetables and spices to cook slowly for about 25 minutes (the pot will lightly steam but not boil) until onions are translucent. Add stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add cooked chicken and noodles and cook 5 more minutes or until noodles are done. Remove from heat and add a pinch of cayenne, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with reserved parsley. Enjoy!


This year has been a fantastic year for raspberries here on Vancouver Island. We have eaten ourselves so silly with these little red jewels over the past month that the last bucket we picked needed to go somewhere other than directly into our bellies. I like jam that actually tastes like fruit and have been reticent to try out jam recipes in the past for fear they would be too sugary sweet. This batch turned out beautifully.

Raspberry Peach Jam
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yield: 8 half pint jars

6 cups raspberries (or mixed berries)
41/2 cups peaches, peeled and chopped
2 cups sugar
1 package liquid pectin
juice of half a lemon

Combine fruit and sugar in a large pot. Stir over medium-high heat until the sugar melts and the fruit has released its juice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. At the end of the cooking time, if the fruit has not cooked down to the consistency that you like for jam, mash it with a potato masher. Skim off the foam, add the liquid pectin and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, then top with lids and screw caps. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. Jeff loves jam on fresh pretzel buns (a Saturday morning tradition here) while I like a dollop stirred into plain Greek yogurt for a little fruity zip. Enjoy!

Summer Food

Our summer menu is pretty simple- a salad with some grilled meat, fish or vegetables on the side. Our summer treat? Burgers. Lately, we’ve been eating chicken burgers. These ones are simple and so very much tastier than anything that comes in a box.

Chicken Burgers
adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook

1 pound ground chicken
1 Tablespoons milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Form into 4-6 patties (don’t worry if they are a little wet and sticky). Place foil on surface of barbeque and coat with a little olive oil OR preheat a frying pan to medium heat. Cook burgers until they are cooked through and golden brown on the outside (~6 minutes per side). Enjoy!

Chocolate Pie

There is a big birthday in our extended family this weekend. The person in question has requested one of their favourites, chocolate pie. I have only made this once but it was enough to become a fan (and I don’t particularly like chocolate!). If you like chocolate, this silky smooth and very chocolately pie is for you.

Chocolate Pie
from my mum-in-law’s recipe collection

2 1/2 squares unsweetened dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3 cups milk (or soy milk, in our household)
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Combine chocolate squares, chocolate chips, milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it is thickened and bubbling. Add some of the hot mixture into the egg yolks and stir well. Mix the eggs into the hot mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes more, again stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into pastry or oreo cookie crumb shells and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

As for the 4 egg whites that remain after making this pie… I freeze them and bake them up later into a pavlova, or add them to scrambled eggs or a frittata.

Soup Weather

I finally broke out a pair of socks last week and put away my sandals. That means winter weather is here- for us tropical islanders, that doesn’t mean snow but it does mean chilly wind and rain. It’s the perfect weather for soup and here is one of my go-to recipes.

Beef Barley Vegetable Soup

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, finely minced
4 carrots, diced
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups water
4 cups beef or vegetable broth
1 large (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 small  (4 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup barley
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and crumble in the ground beef. Saute the beef until the beef is evenly browned and drain, saving a tablespoon of rendered grease in the pot. Add onions, garlic, carrots and celery and saute on low heat for 20 minutes (vegetables should not brown but slowly cook, all while giving the most wonderful fragrance). Return beef to pot and add remaining ingredients;  bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for 90 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Check seasoning and add additional salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves and serve with crusty bread.