Saturday, July 23, 2016

Nella's Creamy Mushroom Soup

Here's another older recipe that I'm re-typing from my not-really-a-cookbook.  It's worth sharing since I've already told you about Not-So-Stuffy-Mushrooms, and those leftover stems will want using up.  Enjoy!

July 27, 2014

This recipe was inspired by the book Nella Last's War--a true story, the diary of an ordinary middle-aged English housewife detailing stories of her daily life during WW2, often mentioning the tempting small meals she created resourcefully using up all of the little bits and pieces she could find when there really wasn't much food or any variety at all to be had.  While reading, I very much wished to be a guest at Nella's table.  This recipe is my homage to Nella's WW2 Barrow-on-Furness home.  Thanks, Nella!

Finely chop the stems only leftover from 1/2 pound of mushrooms (use the caps for other meals).  Saute in 2 tablespoons butter.  (Nella wouldn't have had that much extra butter to use, bless her, but I do.)  Mash the pieces a bit with the spoon* while sauteeing.

When the mushroom bits are nicely browned and soft, add 2 tablespoons flour, stirring thoroughly until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency,  Add 1/2 teaspoon of poultry seasoning (or simply use sage if you haven't got poultry seasoning), stirring well.  Add 1 cup boiling water a little at a time, stirring to keep all smooth.  Add 1 cup of warmed milk, pouring it slowly over the back of the mixing spoon so that it won't curdle, stirring well.  Add a dash of sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

If you prefer a thinner soup or if the soup grows thicker through standing, add a bit more water or milk as you wish.  On the other hand, if you elect to leave the soup quite thick indeed, it will do wonderfully instead as a gravy over rice or potatoes.

You may also, as I did, pour the soup through a wire mesh sieve so that the soup is a creamier consistency with no tiny chunky pieces.

Serve warm in a small wide pretty bowl with homemade croutons, just a few.  And if you wish to be a bit fancy (Nella herself always adored dainty food and a beautifully set table), a little dollop of sour cream on top.  Serve with a small crispy salad and tiny tomato sandwiches for a wonderful teatime meal.

.....Just a note:  the reason I specify mushroom stems particularly is that my mother always threw the stems away when cooking mushrooms
so that's what I learned to do, too. 
I don't know why we did that. 
It was only through reading about Nella using every tiny little bit of anything at all that I realized what a dreadfully wasteful thing I had been brought up to do, and I wanted to honor the decision to do better with the resources I have available.


There's a Post-It note stuck to the recipe that is dated nearly a year after I wrote the recipe:
A trend?  This weekend I saw a soup recipe featured online for mushroom stems.  Copycats!  06/15/15

If you decide to search for copies of Nella Last's books (there are three:  Nella Last's War, Nella Last's Peace, and Nella Last in the 1950's), I suggest eBay or where you can find good used copies for as little as 77 cents.   Nella would approve of that economy. 

Nella Last has been an inspiration to me--she worked hard to do good for everyone around her while she was under incredible stress from the war and with serious family issues; and all the while, she was also dealing with debilitating illness but she did everything with a smile on her face and hope in her heart.  Her courage and determination were precious and hard-won.  Her kindness and creativity were laudable and vast.

My recipe homage to her is a small token of admiration.   She has inspired me to be much more careful with scraps of all sorts.  That is a very good thing indeed.

*The reason I mention a mixing moon specifically is that I was thinking seriously of how Nella might have made such a soup.  A wisk of any sort would very likely have been unavailable to her.  Cooks at the time would have used a simple metal spoon, so that's what I did, too.

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