For Rain and Zebra Days, Sweet Potato Soup with Lime Leaves, Beech Mushrooms, Basil, Peanuts by Becky Selengut

In a mushroom state of mind?

Try this soup recipe from ShroomMind-Bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms (Andrews McMeel, September 2014) by Becky Selengut.

Sweet Potato Soup with Lime Leaves, Beech Mushrooms, Basil, and Peanuts

Serves: 4

Pairing: French Riesling

The beech mushrooms are less the star here and more of a textural element used as a garnish. Because of this, it’s extra important to use homemade mushroom stock (page xxiii) to highlight the mushroom flavor.
This soup started in my mind’s eye somewhere in Thailand (lime leaves, basil) and then—somewhat inexplicably— migrated to West Africa (sweet potatoes, peanuts). This is the perfect kind of soup to serve when it’s raining, you’re snuggled up on the couch with a blanket, a fire is lit, Thai music is playing, and a zebra is running through your living room.

3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small yellow onion, small diced (about 1 cup)
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and large diced
5 lime leaves (substitute 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest)
¼ cup white wine
5 cups Mushroom Stock (below)
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon fish sauce
7 ounces beech mushrooms, base trimmed and broken apart into bite-size clumps
½ cup lightly packed fresh Thai basil
¹ ³ cup roasted, salted peanuts, chopped ⁄
Chili oil (below) or store-bought Asian chili oil, for garnish


In a soup pot over medium-high heat, melt 1½ tablespoons of the coconut oil. After a moment, add the onion and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and sauté for 10 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the sweet potatoes and lime leaves. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn the heat to high, add the wine, and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

Cook until the sweet potato cubes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the vinegar. Remove the lime leaves. Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth, or puree in the pan using an immersion blender. Season with the fish sauce, another ¼ teaspoon salt, and more rice vinegar. If you feel it needs more salt, add more fish sauce (a little at a time). Keep tasting until it’s right for you.

Meanwhile, prepare the beech mushroom mixture. In a large sauté pan over high heat, melt the remaining 1 and ½ tablespoons of coconut oil. After a moment, add the mushrooms and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.

Toss the mushrooms around in the oil, and then spread them out. The idea is to get them to release their liquid and brown quickly. When they brown, stir in the basil and peanuts and transfer to a small bowl.

Serve the soup in wide bowls, garnished with the mushroom mixture and drizzled with some chili oil.

Mushroom Stock:

You will not be sorry you took the time to make your own. As you cook and are busy prepping vegetables and such, e.g., carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, parsley, and thyme, rather than toss or compost the carrot tops and peels, celery ends and leaves, onion ends and cores, shiitake and button stems, thyme and parsley stems, and any other produce bits you collect, save them. (Skip vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, or anything with a dominating flavor or color that you wouldn’t want in a mushroom stock—no beets!)

To make the stock, add these vegetable scraps to a quart-size resealable plastic bag that lives in the freezer. When the bag is full, you are ready to make your stock. At the market, pick up a small onion, some dried porcini, and a handful of fresh shiitake mushrooms. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Drizzle a little high-heat oil on a rimmed baking pan. Throw the shiitakes, along with the chopped-up onion, onto the pan, and toss with the oil. Roast until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a little wine or water, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the pan. Dump the mushrooms and onions, along with the liquid, into a stockpot along with the contents of that freezer bag (no need to thaw) and a few rehydrated pieces of dried porcini (along with the strained soaking liquid). Cover with 3 quarts water, chuck in about 5 peppercorns, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Pour the contents of the pot through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. You should end up with about 2 quarts mushroom stock. Want to make vegetable stock? Do the same thing, but just use fewer mushrooms and more vegetables (and a big flavor bonus if you roast some of the vegetables as you would the shiitake and onion). If you want to make mushroom stock but don’t have a full bag of trimmings in the freezer, just use an assortment of vegetables and mushrooms (equaling roughly 1 quart) and follow the same general procedure. See Video on making mushroom stock...

Chili Peanut Oil:

You can find many varieties of bottled chili oil in Asian markets or online, but it’s ridiculously easy to make a batch from scratch and store it in your fridge. Plus, your homemade oil contains none of the additives and preservatives that are commonly added to the bottled versions.

To make your own, in a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine 1 cup peanut or coconut oil, along with 3 to 5 tablespoons red pepper flakes (see Note). (The quantity will depend on how hot you want the oil to be.) Heat the oil to 300°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and try not to breathe in the fumes!

Let the oil cool to 250°F, and then add 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil and 2 tablespoons minced roasted unsalted peanuts. Transfer to a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Seal the jar, shake it a few times to distribute the ingredients, and leave at room temperature for 2 days. Refrigerate. It will keep for at least 1 month, if not longer, in the fridge.

Note: You can purchase whole dried chiles, toast them in a dry pan until flexible and fragrant, and then buzz them in the food processor, or just use regular bottled red pepper flakes.

(* Recipe reproduced with permission, from Shroom, Mind-Bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms -Andrews McMeel, September 2014- by Becky Selengut, Photograph, Clare Barboza)

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