from ennui to delight: ottolenghi's hot and sour mushroom soup

Yotam Ottolenghi's hot and sour
mushroom soup
I associate a loss of appetite with Victorian invalid food. Blimey, a diet of bread and milk, beef tea and calves foot jelly would have been less likely to allow me to develop an "interesting" condition and more likely to have me fighting fit in a trice; anything to avoid having to eat such nastiness. That's not to say that I don't agree with Mrs Beeton's assertion that "gruel served in a tumbler is more appetising than when served in a basin or cup and saucer". What she fails to mention is that the tumbler should be empty and the gruel should be nowhere in sight!

However, what do you do for a loss of appetite when nothing seems very attractive, not even my favourite chilli noodles? It hasn't been that I have been ill, just suffering a sense of food ennui . . . which is frankly a bit disconcerting. For several weeks, every time I found myself in the kitchen, unless I was making myself a pot of tea, I wondered what on earth I am doing there. Everything felt a little out-of-kilter. I am finding it quite difficult to explain how I was feeling, since I wasn't ill. It was just as if a switch had been flicked inside my brain - the bit that operated "food" was in the "off" position. A bit like blowing a fuse really.

Fortunately a few days I ago I awoke with a raging appetite and was restored to normal good humour with a rather indulgent sausage sandwich. But I can't live off sausage sandwiches, sadly, and felt in desperate need of some vegetables and perhaps a hint of chilli.

Months ago I had booked marked a hot and sour mushroom soup recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, one of my favourite food writers, cook and, dare I say it, TV chef. Everything that lovely chap touches seems to be food gold; his recipes always sound and look delicious. (They always work too, which sadly isn't always the case with some television cooks . . .)

While Ottolenghi tends to focus on dishes with a strong Mediterranean and middle eastern influence, he is not hide-bound by this and has over the years published some rather lovely south east Asian ones. This hot and sour soup hit all the right buttons for me - mushrooms for a start, limes, chilli, lemongrass and star anise. I was also intrigued by his use of prunes in the braising liquid, which I have to admit was a first for me.

my little 7 Spot ladybird

I didn't have the oriental mushrooms listed in the recipe (enoki or shimeji) but I did have some meaty chestnut mushrooms which all added flavour. I used a mushroom stock cube for yet more mushroom flavour and also added some red chard from my garden, almost drowning one of the first ladybirds of spring in my mushroom broth, which had until then, been happily sunning itself on one of my chard leaves, until I liberated it back into the garden. (Yes, fly away home, little Coccinella Septempunctata, my gardening friend!)

The recipe is described as "an intoxicatingly heady take on the classic Asian soup: central heating for body and soul" and I can only agree. It has certainly made my taste buds rather happy and put a bit of a spring in my step!

And because this recipe is awash with lovely lemongrass and fresh coriander, I thought it would make a good entry into Karen at Lavender and Lovage's Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, It is a beautifully fragrant blog challenge and I always look forward to seeing all the other entries. (Of course, I would be lying if I said I didn't want to win - a gorgeous book on cooking with edible flowers. Fingers crossed!) 


Unknown said...

is it Ottolenghi day on the blog world today... there's so many recipes around!... this soup looks stunning and so packed with flavour too... gorgeous stuff!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

I have been so busy today Dom that I haven't had a chance to look around - must do it tomorrow. I am not surprised as I think YO is rather wonderful, never had a duff recipe yet. His always seemed pack full of gorgeous flavours! :) Although . . . if I have any complaint about this one is possibly not enough chilli!

Karen S Booth said...

Better late than never Rachel!! Stunning entry thanks,and thanks for being such a wonderful supporter of Herbs on Saturday! Karen

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Karen - thank you so much. You know that Herbs on Saturday is one of my favourite challenges and hard too - I always want to make sure that I am up to the quality of all the entries :)