Wild Mushroom and Walnut Soup
Walnuts are at their best at Christmas time and, together with some dried wild mushrooms, can be used to make an unusual soup for a dinner party or a warming lunch or supper snack with some good cheese to follow.
This recipe is from The Delia Collection: Soup. Serves 8 as a first course
First place the dried mushrooms in a jug with 10 fl oz (275 ml) boiling water and leave them to soak for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile in a very large saucepan melt the 2 oz (50 g) butter, then add all the prepared vegetables, herbs and garlic, stir well over a gentle heat until everything is glistening with a coating of butter, then pour in the dried mushrooms and their soaking water, followed by 3½ pints (2 litres) hot water. Add some salt, then bring up to a gentle simmer and, keeping the heat low, let the soup barely simmer for 1 hour.
After that, place a colander over a large bowl and strain the soup into it. Remove the bay leaves, and purée the vegetables with a little bit of the stock in a liquidiser or processor, then return this to the rest of the stock and whisk to a smooth consistency. Now wipe out the soup saucepan with some kitchen paper and return it to the heat with the 1 oz (25 g) butter. Lightly sauté the chopped mushrooms for about 5 minutes. After that, pour in the soup mixture, stir in the ground walnuts, season with salt and pepper, and let it continue cooking gently for 10 minutes.
While that's happening use your sharpest knife to slice the 4 reserved whole mushrooms into wafer-thin slices for a garnish. When you are ready to serve the soup, stir in the cream, sherry and lemon juice and serve piping hot with the slices of raw mushroom floating on top.