Smokey Mushroom Soup

As winter approaches, we start looking for warmer foods and smokey mushroom soup fits that bill. It is always fun when you can find ways to incorporate your favorite drink into warming food. The Chinese have used Lapsang Souchong tea for years to add smokey flavor to all sorts of dishes. So I figured mushroom soup would be a good candidate for this treatment.

Below is the recipe that swaps out the traditional stock with Lapsang Souchong tea, adding a nice smokey flavor to an already earthy soup.

Cooking up smokey mushroom soup

Smokey Mushroom Soup

Smokey Mushroom Soup

Serves six to seven

  • 6 grams Lapsang Souchong Tea
  • 4 1/3 cups water
  • 1 lbs mixed mushrooms – Shitake, Baby Portobello, White, King Oyster
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsps of red wine vinegar
  • Pepper
  • Crusty bread for croutons
  • 2 ½ tbsps. Olive oil
  • 6 slices Mozzerella cheese
  • Fresh tarragon

Start by bringing 2 cups of water to a boil and steeping the tea in the boiling water for 5 minutes. While you are waiting for the tea, chop up the mushrooms into even bite sized pieces and remove any hard stems. Remove the tea strainer with the leaves and transfer the tea to a 1 -2 quarter pot. Put the mushrooms into the tea and set the heat to medium, put a lid on the pot and allow to cook for 15 minutes. While the mushrooms cook, chop up the onions into small pieces and the garlic. In a small saute pan, heat up ½ tbsp. of the oil and saute the onions until almost translucent, introduce the garlic and then remove from heat about 2mintues later (You do not want to burn the garlic.). At the end of the 15 minutes, put the onions, garlic, remaining 2 1/3 cups of water and the red wine vinegar into the pot with the mushrooms and leave on medium heat while you make the toppings.

Smokey mushroom soup with bread, cheese, and taragon.

Smokey Mushroom Soup with Bread, Mozzarella, and Fresh Tarragon Just Out of the Oven

To make the topping for the soup, slice the crusty bread into thin pieces. Cut enough pieces to roughly fill 2/3 of the fop of your bowl that you will be putting the soup in for each person. Brush the front and back of each piece with olive oil and put on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top and put the cookie sheet in the oven under the broiler set to high for 3-5 minutes. I set the rack in the middle of the oven to lessen the likelihood of burning the bread. When you pull the bread out, do not turn off the oven as you will be using it in a moment to melt the cheese.

When you pull the bread out, taste the soup and add pepper to your liking. Slice enough mozzarella cheese to make the number of bowls of soup you are going to serve. Ladle the soup into the bowls, put the croutons on top and put the piece of mozzarella balancing on the croutons. Put the bowls onto the cookie sheet you just pulled out and put the soups back into the oven under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese (about 2-3 minutes). Chop the fresh tarragon. Pull out the bowls of soup, sprinkle the tarragon on top and serve.

Note:  You can adjust up or down the level of smokiness by brewing more tea and using less plain water.

 

 

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Lapsang Souchong – Smoky Tea

Lapsang Souchong was developed under Prince Regent Dorgon

Prince Regent Dorgon of the Qing Dynasty, China (Public Domain)

Lapsang Souchong is a smoked tea that originated in Wuyi Mountains in the Fujian province of China. Today it is made in various tea producing countries. The story of its creation has a few different versions but they generally agree that the tea was created during the early part ofi the Qing Dynasty out of necessity to either save the tea from impending bad weather or to hide it from invading troops that had entered the region as part of the effort to unify China under Prince Regent Dorgon. Either way, the tea leaves where smoked over pine wood to speed the drying process and then packed in barrels to store in mountain caves. Eventually it was shared with Western tea merchants who bought the tea and found that the Europeans loved it. So the following year, the merchants asked for more of the tea and offered a higher price for it than the traditional teas and a new product was born. Sometimes you will find references to Lapsang Souchong as “Westerner’s Tea” and while that may have been true to begin with, it is also consumed in China.

Lapsang Souchong is often enjoyed on its own but is also found in blends of  Russian Caravan. By the end of the 1600’s Russia had trade agreements with China that included exchanging thousands of pounds of tea for furs. Included in those teas where Pu-erh and Lapsang Souchong, as both teas weathered the thousands of miles of travel on horseback well.

Lapsang Souchong Production

Lapsang Souchong is made from the 4th and 5th tea leaves on the stem, the same ones used in some oolong and pu-erh teas. These are bigger leaves, allowing them to withstand the pine smoke for drying without losing their shape or their tea flavor. Some people suggest that these tea leaves somehow are of lower quality because they are not as delicate in flavor as the bud and first two leaves, but they neglect to give credit to these leaves for having a more consistent brisk flavor and the capability to hold their form under long travel.

The leaves are withered over pine wood fires (cypress is also used but pine is the original wood for this tea). The leaves are then pan fried and rolled. The rolled leaves are then packed into barrels and left to oxidize. Once they have hit the desired oxidation level, they are pulled out of the barrels, pan fried and rolled into long strips. Finally they are put into bamboo baskets and hung over the pine fire to absorb the flavors of the pine smoke.

Steeping Lapsang Souchong

Lapsang Souchong Infused Leaf

Infused Leaf of Lapsang Souchong

Steep this tea just like a black tea. It should be steeped for 4-5 minutes in boiling water. If the taste is a little strong for you, cut back on the initial steeping time by a minute or so. This tea produces a reddish brown liquor with a smoky smell and smooth full mouth feel. Due to the strong smoky taste, it can be steeped anywhere from 3-6 times before becoming weak.

While Lapsang Souchong tea has a tendency to produce very strong responses of either love or hate from tea drinkers (I love it, but David is not a fan), it is worth acknowledging its place in tea culture and giving it a try.

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