Porcini mushroom soup with walnut and parsley pesto

I was going to blog these (pesto / soup) as separate recipes, with just a suggestion to serve the pesto swirled in at the end as I tried for lunch today, but it is so damn gorgeous that I really would like you, if I’m being honest, to make them together. Pushy? Me? There’s something wonderful about the rich muskiness of all the flavours. It just tastes so natural. 
The soup is sooo mushroomy. I know that sounds very stupid, but the addition of dried porcini gives it such depth. Sure, leave them out if you don’t have any in, it’d still be good. But if you have to the chance to get them (they’re readily available nowadays) then go for it. My daughter went wild for this soup which was so nice to see, as it’s very healthy. Mushies are one of the only food sources that contain vitamin D, did you know? It is a bit of a sludgy colour, but once you get over that (there’s no way to change it) you’ll love this soup’s earthy charms. 
The pesto is pretty much the easiest thing I’ve ever made – seriously. I whizzed it up in my ‘jamas at 7am so that should tell you something. I just managed to fit it all into my Micro food processor, but use a normal sized one if that’s all you’ve got. You might want to double quantities and save some in jars if using a large processor; it keeps well for a week with a slick of oil on top, but trust me, it’ll get used up before then. Me and my daughter were eating it with a spoon on its own!
It’s the nicest pesto I’ve ever made; I think I prefer it to the classic Genovese (basil, pine nuts, parmesan). It’s certainly cheaper, pine nuts are so expensive nowadays. A generous amount (a couple of tablespoons of pesto per person) stirred through penne pasta, with nothing else but a splash of pasta cooking water, made for a ridiculously quick dinner that went down insanely well with the kids – they literally raced each other to finish their portions. I have decided to make a fresh pesto every week just so I can experience the bliss that accompanies making such an easy and popular dinner weekly! It’s also really healthy, which people don’t probably think of pesto as – walnuts are a good source of vitamin E and omega 3 fats. Parsley is also crazily high in vitamin K and also vitamin C. So don’t feel guilty when you ‘just’ give the kids pasta and pesto. When it’s so easy to make your own, it’s hardly worth buying it. 
I’ve listed each recipe separately below…
Walnut and parsley pesto
Serves: depends what you use it for – makes 1 1/2 jam jars’ worth, which is more than enough to go over pasta for 6 people
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 0
Total time: 5 minutes

Ingredients: 

Large bunch of parsley, about 60g in weight
50g parmesan, freshly grated
50g walnuts
10 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil – plus more for preserving in a jar
Instructions:
  1. Simply grate the cheese and cut stalks of parsley. 
  2. Whizz up in a processor. You may wish to add more oil and this makes quite a thick pesto. Keep in a jar and plop onto cooked pasta with a good splash of pasta cooking water to prevent clagginess. 
Mushroom soup
Serves: 4/6 people
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients: 
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of butter 
1 tablespoon of olive oil 
25g dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
500g mushrooms – I used half field and half chestnut, roughly chopped into a dice
300ml water 
600ml stock (the mushroom stock from the porcinis topped up with boiling water – if not using porcinis then simply veg or chicken stock)
2 tablespoons of plain flour
4-5 tablespoons of creme fraiche
Salt and pepper
  1. First start by sweating the onions and garlic, over a lowish heat, in butter and oil for about 10 minutes. 
  2. Cover the porcinis into boiling water to reconstitute. Do no throw this water away, it’s your stock!
  3. Add the mushrooms and increase the heat to full blast. Stir around for about 10 more minutes. 
  4. Drain and chop the porcinis and add to the mushrooms in the pan. Top up the mushroom stock to make 600ml. 
  5. Stir in some flour to thicken the soup. Cook out the flour for a few minutes to prevent the taste of raw flour. 
  6. Pour in milk, and also the mushroom stock (be careful at the end, as the porcinis often have a grainy residue so leave the last drop in the jug, which will contain the grit). 
  7. Add the creme fraiche and let it come to the boil. Take off heat. 
  8. Whizz until smoother than smooth. Enjoy on it’s own or with the pesto – oh, and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
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