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Friday, January 31, 2014

Potato and porcini mushroom soup

 
 
 
 
There was a time in my life when I woke up every morning to what is considered one of the most breathtaking views in the world. The Dolomites, that unique part of the Italian Alps that turns pink during sunrise and sunset, were so much a part of my everyday life that I barely noticed them outside of my window.
 
I am sure that being a teenager at the time didn't help my indifference to nature, busy as I was whispering with my girlfriends, listening to my Walkman, sometimes doing homework but mostly daydreaming about some guy I had met the day before out on the slopes. In boarding school you rarely stop to smell the roses, to breathe in the fresh mountain air, to look at the silver pine trees or admire the snow sparkling in the sun.
 
Now, however, whenever I get the chance to go to the mountains - any mountains - things are very different. I gasp at the beauty that surrounds me, I rejoice in watching my children run in the tall grass and wild flowers or making snow angels in the winter. I realize those years changed me without me even noticing it. The mountains have stayed within me, in my heart and soul, and few places make me feel so at peace.
 
 
 
 
I already wrote about going back to visit those mountains. Once every few years we visit an old friend. Our kids play together, our husbands talk airplanes (seriously, how many chances are there that your high school bestie will marry a guy who is as obsessed with civil aviation as yours is?) and we reminisce about how silly and boy crazy we were (did I mention the boarding school was not co-ed?) and about the ups and downs of being a teenager. We still giggle and there is still wine, but it is no longer hidden away in a pillowcase inside a shoebox in a suitcase somewhere in the back of our closet.
 
My friend and I also sometimes collaborate. This recipe was part of a project we worked on and I couldn't not share it with you, my friends. It is a recipe from La cucina delle Dolomiti by Dino Dibona and was chosen to allow tourists to easily recreate the flavors of those mountains in their own home.  To make this you simply have to procure a package of dried porcini mushrooms, an ideal ingredient to carry back in your suitcase because they are so lightweight. If, on the other hand, you haven't been skiing in the Dolomites, luckily for you dried porcini are nowadays readily available almost anywhere and although they are pricey, a few go a long way.
 
 
 
 
In this essential and effortless soup the (once) humble ingredients really shine through. In old times people from these valleys used to prepare this kind of meal to fill their bellies and warm their bodies during the freezing months using what was available to them from farming and foraging. Potatoes held well all winter and mushrooms were plentiful in the fall and were then sliced and dried for the colder months.
 
What I loved most about the soup is the incredible flavor these few ingredients can create when combined: its is so much more than the sum of its parts. The texture is wonderful too: the soft, sweet  potato nuggets absorb all that flavor and the mushrooms add a subtle earthiness and chew. Every bite tastes and smells like you are walking through the forest, dark fronds towering over you, your steps softly sinking into the warm, dry mossy carpet.
 
 



Ingredients (4 servings)
600gr/3 medium-sized potatoes
1 liter/4 cups/35 oz. vegetable stock
100gr/3.5 oz. fresh porcini mushrooms or 50gr/1.7oz. dried porcini
50gr butter/about 3tbsp butter (or oil for a vegan recipe)
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
chives, for garnish

 
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms if you are using fresh porcini. If you are using dried porcini (like I did), rinse them quickly with cold water and then soak in hot (but not boiling) water for up to an hour. Set aside the liquid when you drain them.
 
Melt the butter in a pot over low heat and add the potatoes, onion and garlic. Sauté for about 3 minutes, mixing constantly.

Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and simmer covered for about 20 minutes.

Add the porcini mushrooms. If you are using dried mushrooms, pour in part of the remaining liquid for extra flavor. 

Raise the heat and cook for another 10  minutes. Garnish with finely chopped chives and serve.

 


 




 

12 comments:

  1. Love this simple soup! Too bad porcini here are flavorless... Have to try bringing some along! BTW I saw some great recipes! I have been lazy lately and not really reading (or posting) too much...

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    1. I never thought about quality elsewhere not being good... but the good thing is they are so light you can pack a ton in your bags without worrying about overweight!

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  2. Amo la cucina delle dolomiti così come questa zuppa! ...i miei suoceri hanno una casa in Cadore. .passano l'estate lì e noi quando possiamo andiamo.
    Io son cresciuta in Puglia perché mi padre era trasfertista li...e son cresciuta con il mate. .. ma la che scopro queste montagne resto sempre incantata. .e come dici tu i tramonti rosa sono da togliere il fiato! :)
    Terry

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    1. Si, sono posti davvero meravigliosi... che fortuna poterci passare tanto tempo!

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  3. I would love to visit the Dolomites! I love the look of your soup. Potato soup is my favourite. I've never made it with porcini so I must remember this for when our weather changes xx

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    1. When I saw it, it seemed so simple I was almost unimpressed... then, when I tasted it I wondered why I hadn't ever thought about it before. It is so incrediblt tasty.

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  4. Ohhhh Fiona, such an amazing recipe! I love potatoes and porcini together and the consistency of this soup is just how I like it! I am bookmarking this to make as soon as the weather becomes cooler down here... hopefully soon! :-) Thanks for always stopping by!!! :-)

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    1. I feel like lately I always tend to puree my soups and when my friend told me about it I was convinced it would be the usual creamy potato soup. I was really surprised when I read the recipe and realized the potatoes were in chunks and suddenly so much more excited about it. It makes a world of difference, especially in flavor.

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  5. This really does sound like a lovely, warming winter soup. And an awesome photo, too, by the way!

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    1. That is all merit of my trusty iphone... since they stole my beloved Canon over a year ago, that is all I use.

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  6. Wow - this is a beautiful soup - one that just really make me wish we had cold weather a bit here in the U.S. Southwest. But that won't stop me from making it. I still have some porcini leftover from our October trip to Venezia. What a great way to use them! I have been enjoying your blog a lot this morning - glad you stopped by Cocoa and Lavender so I could "meet" you! ~ David

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    1. Hi David, so good to "meet" you, I love reading your blog! The great thing about this soup is the incredible flavor you get out of something so simple and easy to make. Let me know how you like it.

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