Eat To Live

A mushroom soup thickened with walnuts

Walnut and mushroom soup
Walnut and mushroom soupST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

This mushroom brew does not use cream or chicken stock

The Teochews like their soups clean and light, the Cantonese prefer them full-bodied, while the Westerners seem to favour thick, creamy soups.

I'm Teochew, which probably explains why I'm not fond of creamy soups and avoid ordering soup from a Western menu. I have to ask if cream has been added.

My friend is worse. She is allergic to chicken and will ask if chicken stock has been used - which is usually the case - in soups as well as other dishes.

This broth, which I discovered in an Italian restaurant, need not rely on chicken stock and does not use tomatoes, which is unusual for an Italian eatery.

But it is still a hearty soup, thickened with walnuts.

For me, this is a soup to make again and again. As it is filling enough, it can even replace a meal on some days, which helps if you are counting your calories.

The nuts add flavour and nutrients. They are a much better choice than the usual corn flour thickener, which can turn out lumpy and does not add much to the taste.

Best of all, the soup does not use cream. But this is still a full-bodied brew, full of nutty goodness.

When I make it, I also use mushrooms for added flavour. They can be any kind, though the wild variety and porcinis, of course, are better. And, if they are dried, they turn out even more fragrant, as the drying process concentrates the flavour.

Not bad at all for a soup that does not use cream or chicken stock and has mainly two ingredients - mushrooms and walnuts.

And, of course, it is healthy, due to the mushrooms in it.

Dr Andrew Weill, an advocate for mushrooms, said they have anti- tumour, cholesterol-lowering, antiviral and immune-enhancing properties, in particular, Asian mushrooms such as the shiitake and maitake. He is the founder and director of the Arizona Centre for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Centre in the United States.

As for walnuts, these tree nuts have antioxidants and proteins offering a multitude of health benefits. But I merely like the richness and slight bitterness of the nut, which bring complexity to the pot.

For me, this is a soup to make again and again. As it is filling enough, it can even replace a meal on some days, which helps if you are counting your calories.

If you like a spot of green to liven up the looks, just throw in whatever baby greens you have - kale, water cress or spinach - and the soup will be nutritious and pretty enough to eat.

•Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous Eat To Live recipes can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.


WALNUT AND MUSHROOM SOUP

INGREDIENTS

2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 tbs olive oil or butter

1 cup walnuts

5 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 tsp salt

Black pepper to taste

A handful of greens (baby spinach, kale leaves or watercress) to garnish

Truffle-flavoured oil or quality olive oil to drizzle over (optional)

METHOD

• Heat olive oil (or butter) in a pot

Saute the chopped garlic till soft but not browned. Add the walnuts, with skin intact, as that holds much of its goodness.

• Add the sliced mushrooms and fry till they are softened and the juices are released. Add a splash of white wine, if desired.

• Add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

• Using a stab blender, blend the soup till creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning.

• Garnish with fresh baby greens and a drizzle of oil, either a truffle-flavoured one or an extra-virgin olive oil, and serve with crusty bread on the side.

SERVES FOUR TO SIX

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2016, with the headline 'Thick soup full of nutty goodness'. Print Edition | Subscribe