For the majority of our meals I try to serve as much raw food as I can, but sometimes it is just nice to have a hot satisfying meal. I often slake this craving with soup. I love soup, it is so versatile and it goes a long way.
One challenge that I struggled with when I first became vegan was how to make a decent pot of soup. Most soups require stock, as a foundation of flavor. I have not found the vegetable bouillon available in the supermarket to be very tasty or healthy for that matter, and water with no flavor base isn't acceptable either. So I cast around for an alternative. I began experimenting with different vegetable combinations to make my own stock, and came up with several that I really enjoy making. But today the stock that I want to talk about is one of my most recent creations, a savory mushroom stock. This stock has a woodsy, rich flavor that works well for things like French onion soup, vegetable barley soup, borscht and other soups that would normally use a beef stock as the base.
We are fortunate enough to live near a city that has several very well stocked ethnic markets, one of which is an Oriental market that carries a variety of fresh mushrooms. For this stock I use fresh Shitaki, Enoki, Oyster, Trumpet, light and dark Beech, and Portabello mushrooms. But if you don't have access to a large variety of mushrooms, then use what you can find. Dried Shitaki mushrooms can take the place of fresh, and Cremini or Button mushrooms and Portabello mushrooms will make a flavorful stock and are pretty commonly found in most markets.
Savory Mushroom Stock
A variety of fresh and dried mushrooms, like Shitaki, Enoki, Trumpet, Oyster, Beech and Portabello mushrooms to equal 3 to 4 pounds of mushrooms.
2-3 large yellow onions quartered, skins left on
4-5 whole heads of garlic, cut into two pieces through the center
5 large bay leaves
3-4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
several springs of fresh thyme
2-3 Tbsp. salt
In a large stock pot, (mine is 20 quart), place all the mushrooms, onions, garlic, bay leaves, fresh herbs and salt in stock pot. Add water to cover mushrooms and fill the pot about 3/4 full, (amount of water would vary according to the size of the mushrooms). Place lid on pot and set heat at medium high until the water is boiling. Reduce heat to medium or even medium low depending on your stove. You want the stock to be at a slow simmer. Simmer for several hours, until the mushrooms are reduced to mush and the stock pot is about 1/2 full. Taste and adjust salt to taste. Strain the broth off into another pot and let it cool. You should have enough stock to fill between 6 and 8 quart-sized freezer bags. Place bags stacked two deep on a tray and freeze. Freezing them on a tray will make them easier to store when you take them off the tray. I usually return the mushrooms to the pot, add more onions and garlic, herbs and salt, and water to cover. Then I put it in the crock pot and cook for several hours. This usually gives me a few quarts more of stock to freeze. I sometimes throw in some dried shitaki just to make sure there is plenty of mushroomy goodness in the second batch.
French Onion Soup
2-3 large red onions, sliced thinly
1 quart bag of mushroom stock, plus 4 cups of water
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. olive oil or coconut oil
Dash of vegan Worchestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. barley miso
salt to taste
If you have an open bottle of red wine on hand that needs to be used, ( or you want to serve wine with dinner), 1/2 cup of red wine makes a very nice addition.
Place all the ingredients in a pot and simmer until the onions are soft. Remove bay leaf and serve hot. If desired you can spread a piece of French bread with a very thin layer of garlic-infused coconut oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, some freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of nutritional yeast. Place under the broiler until golden, then top the soup with the bread. Yum!
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