Mushroom soup with fresh za’atar

Mushroom soup with fresh za’atar

New Feast
Alan Benson

Make this soup in season with any combination of wild mushrooms. For the rest of the year, it’s equally good with readily available cultivated mushrooms, such as Swiss browns or large portobellos, as even the relatively small quantity of dried porcinis add a fabulous earthy depth of flavour.

Za’atar is wild thyme from the Middle East and is a flavour Greg grew up with. It’s increasingly available elsewhere – especially if there is a Middle Eastern community – but if you can't find it use regular thyme or even oregano, both of which have a natural affinity with mushrooms.


Quantity Ingredient
25g dried porcini mushrooms
250ml water
50ml olive oil
40g butter
1 small leek, trimmed, well washed and sliced
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
40ml medium-sweet sherry
400g mixed fresh mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 litre Vegetable stock
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 generous tablespoons mascarpone
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 handful fresh za’atar leaves, roughly chopped


  1. Cover the porcini mushrooms with the water and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a medium saucepan. Add the leek, shallots, garlic and thyme and sweat gently for about 10 minutes, or until soft.
  3. Increase the heat, add the allspice and sherry and bubble vigorously for a few minutes to deglaze the pan. Add the fresh mushrooms and stir for a couple of minutes, until they start to release their liquid.
  4. Fish the porcini mushrooms out of their soaking liquid and add them to the pan. Strain the liquid to remove any grit and add it to the pan too. Stir well and continue cooking for 20 minutes or so, until most of the moisture has evaporated.
  5. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Season, to taste, then tip into a blender or food processor and blitz until quite smooth – although the soup will probably still retain some texture.
  6. Return the soup to the pan and stir in the mascarpone, lemon juice and adjust the seasonings if need be. Sprinkle with fresh za’atar or oregano and serve straight away.
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