Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lucy in the Soup with Mushrooms

Back when we lived in Manchester, England, in the late 1990s I used to travel to our client's office in Liverpool once a week. Sometimes Nancy would go with me and explore the city. She loved Liverpool - took in the culture and history of an old port town - and enjoyed shopping and wandering around the charming Albert Dock (complete with floating weather map, as used by Fred from the "This Morning" show - what a character he was!!!). Some of her favorite places were the Beatles museum, the Liverpool Tate and the Merseyside Maritime museum (which was also my favorite).

Sometimes we'd meet up for lunch and explore the coffee shops around the marina. Our favorite haunt was Lucy's - they served a wonderful lunch special of turkey breast sandwich with cream cheese and avocado alongside a cream of mushroom soup and the quintessential British cup of tea. The absolute highlight of lunch was the soup - it was wonderfully rustic, comforting, flavorful and warming - especially welcome on those winter days when the cold winds blew in off the Mersey, chilling you to the bone.

Ever since we moved back to the US I've been trying in vain to recreate that dish. I've tried and failed many times.....until tonight. I finally found a base recipe that looked promising, tweaked it in several places, and suddenly the memories came flooding back.

So after countless failed attempts here's (drum roll please) my take on.......

Lucy's Liverpool Cream of Mushroom Soup
(serves 8-10)
5 Tbsp butter
1/2 yellow onion
2 celery stalks
1 small leek
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
7 cups skimmed milk
12 to 16 oz button mushrooms
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1. Wash the leeks and celery. Chop the green top off the leek, leaving the base. Dice the leek, onion and celery - this combination is your white mirepox and forms the base of the soup

2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot over low heat. Once melted, add the onions, leeks and celery to the butter

3. Keeping the heat at medium-low, sweat the mirepox, stirring occassionally until the onions are translucent. This should take about 5 minutes.

4. Add the flour to the pot and mix well. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes then slowly add the chicken stock. Continue to stir until there are no lumps.

5. Slowly add the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps forming. Bring the soup to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes.

6. While the soup is simmering, finely dice the mushrooms

7. After 45 minutes, throw the sage and mushrooms into the pot. Stir until they are well mixed in, then simmer for another 10 minutes.

8. Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper (to taste).

Serve with some crusty bread and (if you really want to recreate the experience) a good old British cup of tea!!!

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