After a particularly hot summer, it seems that the season turned overnight. You can smell it in the morning, brown and yellow. Fallen leaves, curled into brittle crisps, have started to dot the sidewalks, and, as the sun creeps up later, I wake each morning a little closer to 07:00. With the fading light, it’s about now that Scots will start to say to each other “aye, the nights are fair drawin’ in…” It’s rather chilly too, and I’ve found myself in the mood for soup almost everyday. I’ll potter out to the grocery store without a particular recipe in mind, but return home with a bag brimming with vegetables. I always buy plenty of “flavour makers”—onions, carrots, potatoes, leeks—and then add another vegetable or two to be the star of the show. The other day, I stuffed a paper bag full of chestnut mushrooms and earmarked them for a hearty supper later in the week. There’s a lot of chopping to do for this soup, but after that, it largely makes itself. I recommend putting your favourite podcast on while you chop. The nutmeg might seem surprising here, but it lifts the whole thing out of its earthy depths. Make sure to use the spice grinder side of your grater for the whole nutmeg, or use a nutmeg mill if you have one.
650 g chestnut mushrooms, chopped into ½ cm dice
600 g waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½ cm dice
1 large onion, finely diced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 ¾ tsp salt
¼ whole nutmeg, finely grated
1 litre water
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
150 g crème fraiche + 1-2 tbsp to serve
Set a large pot over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms, potatoes, onion, 1 tsp of salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and the grated nutmeg. Stir everything so it’s evenly coated in oil and seasoning, then cover and allow to cook gently for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally in this time, if any of the veg is sticking to the bottom, reduce the heat.
Once the 15 minutes is up, your mixture should look nice and juicy. Add the water and the balsamic vingegar. Stir and taste the water. I would add another ¾ tsp of salt here, though you might be happy with only ½, or even a full tsp. After adding the salt and tasting again, bring everything to the boil, cover again, and reduce the heat to medium. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
Off the heat, use an immersion blender to blitz the soup until it’s nice and smooth. Add the crème fraiche and stir until it’s fully incorporated. Serve with an extra dollop of crème fraiche, a couple of grinds of black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. A warm crusty roll slathered with salted butter will be a very nice accompaniment.