Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mushroom Broth

My friends and family give me cookbooks - for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmases; I'm very happy about that, no complaints at all and by now I have an interesting collection that I like to browse, read or get inspiration from. I still remember the very first cookbook I ever bought, when I was sixteen and had just returned home from some time spent as an exchange student at  The George School in Newtown, near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. While I was there I had developed a serious liking for sweet things like brownies, pancakes and chocolate chip cookies and once home I fully intended to keep eating them, which meant making them myself and since I had no idea about cooking or baking (which wasn't on the top of my to-do list at that time), I needed a cookbook when buying cookbooks was still uncool and knowledge of american cuisine virtually nonexistent. The book I bought, by the way, is about as tall as my hand is high and about as thick as my index finger and it doesn't sport a single picture. But it did the trick, anyway. You might say, you can blame it all on the brownies....


Another book, much cooler this one, that my friend Pia gave me a long time ago about irish cooking introduced me to the concept of stock making from vegetable peelings - the stuff that usually ends in the trash, yes. Once a necessity I'm sure, it produces a surprisingly flavorful broth and that's where the mushrooms come in, it being autumn - still; I did a little side-by-side experiment with two broths, one from actual mushrooms and vegetables and one from the (clean!) trimmings and peels to see if it tasted of anything at all. I realize that one carrot might be enough floating around in a pot with other veggies, but that the peel of one carrot isn't enough to flavor anything much at all; so, if you have lunchbox-eligible children like me, it's a no-brainer; carrots are high in beta-carotine and good for you (...and they can stand up to roughing it in a lunchbox and still look pretty when it's time to eat them...) and I have plenty of peel for my broth. The rest of the vegetable peel can be collected in a freezer bag and added on to as you go (or peel, that is) and kept frozen in the meanwhile until there is enough - I guess most kids will object to onions, mushrooms, potatoes and (too much) celery, sorry.


One broth-making session later, there are two tasty broths sitting on the kitchen counter; the one with the veggie peel (the purple bowl) has a prettier color than the one with the "real" vegetables in it, owing to the onion peel, I'm sure, a natural dye that turns out beautiful yellow and orange hues - and pretty looking mushroom broth. The all-veggie broth is a little duller in color, but in the flavor department for mushroomy-ness it wins, hands down. It has a pronounced mushroom flavor, where the peel and trimmings broth tastes earthy and has some shroom flavor to it, but does taste primarily of veggies. Both are well worth the effort, but if you want to prepare a mushroom dish and want an extra kick of flavor or make mushroom soup and need a lot of broth, go for the mushrooms and leave the thrifty broth for other occasions. They're both good; please be bothered to collect and freeze you're veggie peel, it's well worth the effort!

Note: I made the broths with regular brown and white button mushrooms, in order not to break the bank - I left the fancy stuff for another time. I recommend using at least half brown mushrooms, though, they have somewhat more flavor.

Another note: the mushrooms that I can buy where I'm living have about a pound of dirt stuck to their root ends - makes you feel all natural, I guess...So, I trim my trimmings - no dirt in the peel bag!

Mushroom Broth, The Whole Shroom

Makes about 2.5 l (6 cups) of broth

2 tblsp olive oil
500 g (1 lb) mushrooms
1 stick of  celery
1 carrot
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 handful of parsley, stilks and all
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tblsp tamari soy sauce
8 cups of water

1. Clean and roughly chop the vegetables.
2. Heat the olive oil in a big pot and saute the celery, onion, carrot and garlic for 5 min. Add the mushrooms, parsley, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns.
3. Add the water and tamari and bring to a boil.
4. Cover, turn down the heat and cook for 1 hour.
5. Strain and press on the solids to get most of the broth out of the mushrooms.
6. At this point, the broth is undersalted for most tastebuds; salt to taste now, or use as is in whatever you feel like.


Mushroom Broth, Peel Only

Makes about 2.5 l (6 cups) of broth

2 tblsp olive oil
2 cups of mushroom trimmings
2 cups of veggie peel: ends and trimmings of carrots, celery and onions
1 clove of garlic
1 handful of parsley, stilks and all
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tblsp tamari soy sauce
8 cups of water

1. Clean the mushroom trimmings and chop the garlic.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and saute the veggie peels / trimmings / onion ends for a couple of minutes. Add the mushroom trimmings, parsley, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns.
3. Add the water and tamari and bring to a boil.
4. Cover, turn down the heat and cook for 1 hour.
5. Strain and press on the solids to get most of the broth out of the mushrooms.
6. At this point, the broth is undersalted for most tastebuds; salt to taste now, or use as is in whatever you feel like.

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