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Here’s a recipe for a January mushroom soup that’s bolstering and delicious, but is admittedly no great beauty [‘it would take a mother to love it’ according to my mum, muttering darkly as she watched me ladle it out into even uglier bowls, attempting to gussy it up with little florets of pickled cauliflower and daubs of sour cream].

Sometimes, however, ugly is what you need and want. This is a rich, velvety, comforting recipe for a winter’s day which will quickly become an essential and much-loved addition to your Saturday lunchtime soup repertoire. It’s quick and easy to make, tastes great and will leave you feeling nourished and cared for, which is all a winter soup should be doing anyway.

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MUSHROOM & THYME SOUP

Serves 4; freezes well

500g mushrooms

2-3 cloves of garlic

Fresh thyme and parsley

25g butter

1 long stick of celery

1 white onion, peeled and diced

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1.5l chicken or vegetable stock

Dash soy sauce

100ml milk (or 75ml cream + 25 ml milk)

To serve

Diced herbs

Pickled cauliflower florets

Olive oil

Sour cream

Melt the butter in a large saucepan with a little vegetable oil. Peel and dice the onion and start frying gently. Trim and dice the celery and add to the onion and cook along with the fresh herbs until the celery has softened. Clean the mushrooms with a piece of damp kitchen paper and cut off the last cm of stalk and discard. Dice the mushrooms and remaining stalks and add to the pan. Cook the mushrooms until they have shrunk a little and have changed from matte white to a deeper grey. Add the stock and cook for about ten minutes, then blitz with a hand blender, pointing it away from you. Add a tiny dash of soy sauce and the milk (or cream) and serve with whatever garnishes you feel like, or little parmesan toasts.

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