Let’s cut straight to it. You should really make this soup.
I made it almost by accident yesterday afternoon. It happened for two reasons: First, I had too many mushrooms in the fridge. Second, I’ve been perusing Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij’s book, Vij’s At Home, religiously over the last week.
It’s such a lovely book, and while every recipe was a snap to make, the results were complex flavours and a full variety of curries on the table.
But this mushroom soup stands out. It’s like alchemy. It’s mostly water, really, but heavily spiced and thickened with potatoes, it becomes the absolute best vehicle for a large handfuls of mixed mushrooms.
Dhalwala and Vij call for buttermilk, but I had to substitute for every kind of dairy I had in the fridge (mostly milk, a bit of cream, and dollop of yoghurt), which I soured with a drop of vinegar. Go for buttermilk if you have, though.
As for mushrooms, any combination will do, but shitakes are just so nice. If you can include them, do.
This will serve six people for a light meal, with a little something on the side (some rice, or a salad, say).
Another tip: Once you get the oil going, everything starts to happen quickly. So make sure you’ve prepped and measured everything, before you get going.
Indian Mushroom Soup
Adapted from Vij’s At Home, by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij
1 ½ lbs potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
½ cup sunflower or other high-heat cooking oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt (or up to a tablespoon, depending on taste)
2 ½ tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon crushed hot chilies
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
5 cups water
2 ½ cups buttermilk
A few large handfuls (6 to 8 ounces) of mixed mushrooms (shitake/cremini/oyster, or anything you fancy), sliced quite thickly.
First boil the potatoes. But them in a large pot with plenty of water, and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain and leave to cool. Then peel the skins and discard (when they are cooked, you can even do this with your fingers). Roughly mash the potatoes, making sure to leave some larger, bite sized pieces.
In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium-high, and add the cumin seeds. Allow them to sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so, until just golden. Then add the ginger, and continue to stir, for 30 seconds more. Now add the dry spices: salt, coriander, chilies, and turmeric. Stir for a minute, reduce the heat, and add the potatoes. Give them a good mix to combine, and add the water. Bring up to a boil, then down to a simmer. Leave those flavours to marry for 5 minutes or so.
Before adding the dairy, spoon some of the hot curry into the cold milk, to prevent curdling. Then, carefully pour the milk in, stirring as you pour. Bring it slowing up to a gentle boil, still stirring. Add the mushrooms and cook them until they are just soft. This will only take two minutes or so. Take off the heat, and serve.