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!

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.

Chicken Stock

For years, I read countless recipe books and blog posts raving about homemade chicken stock. I tried making stock a number of times but always ended up with bland dishwater that needed to be fortified with bouillon powder to be edible. So I gave up… until I found a recipe that changed everything. I used to avoid making soup at all costs (because mine always seemed painfully bland) but this stock has changed that, too. The secret? Roasting the poultry bones before throwing them in the soup pot. It seems like an unnecessary step but I promise you, it makes a world of difference.

Roasted Chicken Stock
adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook 

1 chicken or turkey carcass
12-16 cups water (more for the turkey, less for the chicken)
2 tsp salt
4 pepper corns
4 whole garlic cloves
1 unpeeled onion, chopped
2 scrubbed, unpeeled chopped carrots
2 stalks chopped celery
1/2 cup fresh parsley, unchopped
1-2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of thyme, if you have them

In a large roasting pan, spread out the remains of the poultry carcass (I had stuffed this chicken with parsley and lemon so threw that in as well). Here, I used the same pan I used for roasting potatoes. I didn’t wash it so the leftover crumbly bits could be added to the stock. Roast the bones at 425 degrees; 45 minutes for chicken and 60 minutes for turkey. When they are done, they will look significantly browner.

Before & After Roasting

When the bones are roasted, add them to a large stock pot, cover with water and add the remaining ingredients. It will look like a horrible mess of peels, skins and very dark chicken bits (see below) but don’t worry. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 3-4 hours. Remove from heat, cool to warm and strain.

NOTE: this original recipe calls for 2 cubes of chicken boullion to be added to the broth. I skip this and add more flavouring to taste, if needed, when I later use the stock. Depending on what soup I am making, a bit of extra seasoning (poultry seasoning, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper) usually does the trick.

Comfort Food

T’is the season of soups, stews and things simmered in the crock pot. It was my turn to cook for our care group this week and I made a Cheese and Corn Chowder I’ve not made in many years… and it was delicious.


Corn and Cheese Chowder
adapted from the More with Less Cookbook
serves 4-6

2 1/2 cups frozen corn
boiling water
1 teaspoon of sugar
6 slices of bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups of carrots, diced
1 cup of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes OR diced raw potatoes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 Tablespoon of dried)
2 cups milk **
1 cup grated sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese **

Place the frozen corn in a blender and pour in enough hot water so that the water level comes almost up to the corn. Pulse so that the corn breaks up but is not entirely pureed. Add sugar and set aside.

In a soup pot or dutch oven, brown bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside, leaving rendered bacon fat in the pot. Add onions, celery and carrots and redece heat to low. Cook mixture slowly for 30 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add garlic and peppers and increase heat to medium, stirring for ~2 minutes. Add chicken broth, potatoes, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add corn mixture and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in parsley, then add milk and cheese and cook at a lower heat for 5 minutes, making sure the milk does not boil. Add crumbled bacon and serve.

** To make this soup dairy free, I simply replace the milk and cheese with soy milk and soy cheese.

On Request

The last post included a picture of some Borscht I made last weekend. It never occurred to me that someone might actually want the recipe but after receiving a request, I’m pleased to share “my” version of this classic and comforting soup.

Lithuanian-Russian Beef and Beet Borscht
Yield: 8-10  servings

6 medium beets, roasted and peeled (*see note below)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 lb ground beef or stewing meat
4 cups beef broth
2 cups water
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 (14 ounce) cans diced or crushed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded
1 Tbsp dried dill (or 1/4 cup fresh)
2 tsp dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh)
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon white sugar

*I love the depth that roasted beets brings to this dish- to roast them, simply cut beets into eighths and drizzle with olive oil. I also add salt, pepper and a sprinkling of dried dill and garlic powder. Mix well to coat the beets evenly with olive oil and spices and roast at 350 for 60 to 90 minutes- until the beets test done. Before adding them to the soup, I chop them further into small cubes. If you want to skip roasting, simply peel and roughly grate the beets. Both roasted or grated, the beets are added to the soup at the same time as the cabbage and spices.

Directions: In a large dutch oven or soup pot, cook onion and beef in a little olive oil until onions are translucent and beef is no longer pink. Add broth, carrots, potatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, beets and seasoning. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes or until cabbage is completely cooked (wilted). If the soup is thicker than you would prefer, simply add more water.

Garnish with chopped dill, parsley and a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!