A lot of of recipes for vegan cream of mushroom soup use cashew as a thickener. I immediately searched for an alternative because the thought of crunching on a piece of stray, unblended cashew makes me shudder. That, and I just think having nut paste in a soup is a bit weird.
Cream of mushroom soup is usually made with button mushrooms; finely chopped and sweated down with and almost dissolved in a mixture of broth and cream. In this one I’m using dried shiitake for two reasons; the first is that they’re unbelievably cheap. The second is that when you steep them in water, you also get a very deep, earthy mushroom stock that is simply delicious. If you want to thin the soup you can use almond milk or mushroom broth, the latter is a bit strong so use sparingly. A little bit goes a long way.
CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP:
[ 1 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushroom + 2 cups cauliflower florets + 1 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1 teaspoon olive oil + 1/2 yellow onion, diced + 2 cloves of garlic + 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano + salt and pepper, to taste + a small bunch of parsley ]
Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in 4 cups of warm water for at least 1 hour. Reserve the liquid and drain the mushroom. Set aside.
Bring cauliflower, milk and 3/4 cup of the reserved mushroom liquid to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it boils, put the lid on and reduce heat to low and simmer for 7-8 minutes, until cauliflower is softened.
Take off the heat and puree the cauliflower mixture using a blender or food processor. Return back to the pot.
Thinly slice the shiitake mushroom. Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and onions and sautee over medium heat until the onion begins to brown. Add in the mushroom and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the dried oregano and season to taste.
Add half of the sauteed mushroom mixture to the pureed cauliflower. Bring to a boil over medium heat, adding more almond milk to get the consistency you want (you can add the mushroom liquid instead, or a mixture of both. Almond milk will give it a creamier taste, mushroom both a more earthy flavor. Your call). Season to taste.
Pour warm soup into serving bowls and garnish with leftover sauteed mushrooms and freshly chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve immediately with some crusty bread.