Formidable Fungus: why the simple cep deserves a round of applause!

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I am at the tail end of a debilitating chest infection; first time in six years to feel catastrophically unwell! My boyfriend Scott, (who is quite partial to an illness or two), picked up something rare and affecting at work. He was remarkably unscathed by the virus where as I started coughing one day and didn’t stop for ten!

It’s truly interesting what notions we have about our constitutional well-being; I had notions that I was disease proof,  feared by all pathogen, all viral and bacterial agents……not even the dreaded delirium tremens got their hands on me after a few drinks! YET, there I was, lying on the couch, weak as a kitten and needy for hugs and hot tea………how the mighty had fallen.

Sometimes Mutter Nature likes to remind us of our fragility; a welcome and necessary reminder for somebody like me. I may not have mentioned this, but I was actually climbing the 5 Highest Peaks in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales when the virus got down to its serious work….I was pretty traumatized on return; very sore and very sad.

BUT….the infection allowed me to stop moving for a while and slowly recover my natural vigour and lust for life. It allowed me to curl up on my couch, in front of an open fire, eat Piping Hot Wild Mushroom Soup and get my feet rubbed by my wonderful boyfriend Scott….I can think of worse ways to spend a few days!

A bit more about the where’s and whys of this wonderful soup; firstly, I LOVE mushrooms, they’re creamy without cream and smooth without butter; all the combinations of a vegetarian wet dream. Secondly, mushrooms are a Superfood; they are a power house of natural anti biotic anti viral compounds. They contain an awesome antioxidant called ergothioneine, this little beauty is very effective in giving protection from free radicals as well as boosting our immunity to nasty pathogens. Even though the Shiitake is an expensive addition to the dish, the health benefits of this mushroom are immeasurable; the Chinese have been cultivating it for well over 1000 years, and consider it a medical mushroom and a symbol of longevity, this and the fact that it photographs beautifully were reason enough to include them in the dish!

But fear not if your budget doesn’t stretch as far as the asian variety; The portobello mushroom is far cheaper and equally brilliant. Its jam-packed full of B complex vitamins, selenium, lysine, protein, zinc, copper, manganese and iron. So if you want to simply replace all the posh fungi for 350g of theses beauties; be my guest.

♥ Piping Hot Wild Mushroom Soup

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray

Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray

Prep/cooking time: 50 minutes

Serves: 6

  • 75g (3oz) shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 30g (1.5oz) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 30g (1.5oz) dried cep mushrooms
  • 50g (2oz) fresh Shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 150gm (5oz) fresh portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 100gm (3.5oz) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 dessert spoons plain flour
  • 275ml (1/2 pint) warm water
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 2 dessert spoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 150ml (1/4 pint) single cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Garnish

  • 1 desert spoon of cream, drizzled over the top
  • 100g (3.5oz) of crushed hazelnuts

TIP: Wild mushrooms, by nature, are delicate and must be cleaned gently with a brush before adding to food, no specialist equipment required, an unused paint brush is perfectly adequate.


  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes, reserving the soaking liquid for cooking.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped garlic and shallots and sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes without colouring.
  3. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms and soaked dried mushrooms to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the flour, mix well for cook for 2 minutes.
  5. If using fresh stock; gradually pour 275ml the liquid into the pan, stirring continuously until the liquid has create a smooth finish. If using dried or jellied shop bough stock; add it to 275ml of boiling water, let it dissolve, and add as suggested above.
  6. Bring soup to the boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
  7. After you have allowed the soup to cool for 10 minutes, add the chopped parsley then pour the soup into the food processor. Blitz until smooth or if prefer, leave a bit of a bite in it.
  8. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and add the cream and gently heat.
  9. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and garnish with a little cream and chopped hazelnuts

My advice to the sick; eat this soup, it is life-giving!


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