Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Vegan baked potato soup with mushroom bacon

May 16, 2015

We had a spare Saturday afternoon and thus decided we finally had the time to commit to one of the overly complicated recipes that Serious Eats put up during their recent vegan month. I'm pretty keen to have a crack at the mapo tofu or the creamy ramen, but they both required fancier ingredients than we could lay our hands on at short notice. Instead, we went for this wintery roasted potato and cauliflower soup, with the added bonus of some mushroom bacon.

This is still a time-consuming and complicated recipe - I'd guess that we spent more than two hours putting everything together and we dramatically simplified the original (no stove-top smoking, lots of stick-blending and no soup straining). The mushroom bacon could be made well ahead of time, although you've got a good hour to do the laborious mushroom slicing while the veggies are roasting, and the oven's already on so you can pop them straight in. 

I'd say the pay-off was just about worth it - the potato and cauliflower soup was rich and had a cheesy texture thanks to the blended up cashews and cauliflower. It was quite mildly flavoured - you could boost the chipotle/adobo levels if you wanted more of a kick, but otherwise just season it heavily to make sure it doesn't turn out bland.

The mushroom bacon really kicks things up a notch too. I'd probably up the liquid smoke in the marinade next time and try to find bigger mushrooms to avoid the fiddliness of chopping and flipping hundreds of little mushroom slices, but the recipe in general is a winner. Keep in mind that the mushrooms shrink an awful lot, so you might as well do a big batch - we started with three full oven trays and wound up able to squeeze everything onto a single tray for the final roast.

I was very impressed by this recipe - we'll definitely be going through the Serious Eats vegan archives again when we've got an afternoon spare.

Crispy mushroom bacon 
(based on this recipe from Serious Eats)

500g Swiss brown mushrooms
spray oil
salt and pepper
4 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Slice the mushrooms really finely, just a couple of millimetres thick.

Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper and grease it up with spray oil. Lay out the mushrooms (we had to do things in a couple of batches - there was too much for even two full trays). 

Generously season with salt and pepper and pop them in the oven. After 20-25 minutes, take them out and flip each mushroom piece over. Give them another light spray with oil and some more salt and pepper and put them back in for another 25 minutes. You want them to dry out and crisp up - don't be afraid to go for longer than 25 minutes if you need to.

While the mushrooms are cooking, mix together the syrup, garlic powder, paprika and liquid smoke in a big bowl. Once the mushrooms are ready, stir them all through to coat them with the marinade and lay them back out on a baking tray (they'll have shrunk such that 3 tray loads will now fit on one!). 

Give them another 5-10 minutes in the oven to caramelise the sugars in the marinade and pull them out when they're a bit crunchy and a bit chewy.

Fully loaded vegan baked potato soup
(based on this recipe from Serious Eats)

1 head of cauliflower, halved
2 large floury potatoes, scrubbed and with a few holes poked in them with a skewer
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large leek, sliced finely
2 ribs celery, sliced finely
6 green onions, sliced finely with white and green parts kept separately
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, plus a bonus teaspoon of the adobo sauce
1 cup roasted cashews
1 litre almond milk
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 small bunch chives, sliced finely
1 head broccoli, cut into florets and steamed (for serving)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C and roast the potatoes and cauliflower for about an hour, until they're very soft but not burnt (the cauliflower will brown up a lot, but that's okay). Set aside to cool.

In the meantime, heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan and add in the leek, celery, garlic and the white parts of the green onions. Cook over low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until everything is nice and soft but nothing is browning up. Stir through the paprika.

Combine the cashews with about 1 cup of the almond milk, and the chipotle and adobo sauce, in the spice grinder attachment of your food processor (or a blender if that's your preference). Give it a good whizz, you want it as smooth as possible.

Pour the rest of the almond milk and the liquid smoke into the saucepan and scoop in the cashew paste, stirring everything together thoroughly. Whizz the soup mix up with a stick blender - you want the leek and onion bits to blend into the soup as much as possible.

Peel and dice the potatoes and cut the cauliflower into bite-sized chunks, discarding the stem. Throw the veggies into the soup mix in batches, stick-blending as you go. Add some water along the way to keep things at the texture you want - we added about a cup. 

Once you've blended everything together as smoothly as possible, stir through the chives, season with salt and pepper and add in about a third of your mushroom bacon. 

Serve, garnishing with some more mushroom bacon, the broccoli and a sprinkling of the green parts of the green onions.


  1. looks like a great soup - I really like the idea of the mushroom bacon - might be trying that out some time - imagine it is great on many soups

    1. Hi Johanna! The mushroom bacon is great, and I'd recommend using it as a garnish rather than stirring it through - it's spiciness can get a bit diluted.