There aren’t enough curried soups out there in my opinion. There is of course, the infamous Mulligatawny soup, born out of the days of the British Empire and created, no doubt, as a result of some moustachioed General’s barking for some spice in his chicken soup. ‘Quick, grab the curry powder!’ But yes, soups that are imbued with aromatics and heat are thin on the ground.
Or so I thought, until I recently discovered upon the concept of shorba in my old faithful and comprehensive copy of ‘Asian Cookery’, which is one of the first cookbooks I ever bought. Of course, a quick search on the t’internet will tell you that there are shorbas aplenty out there, featuring in a vast array of different cultures and cuisines. From the Balkans, through the Middle East and down to North Africa, shorba or chorba is quite prevalent on the table. It’s just a shame that the Greeks haven’t taken it to their hearts. Shorba? Greek? Get it? I’ll get me coat.
Coming back to my original discovery for a second though, I distinctly remember feeling thrilled about the notion of a piquant broth. And all from a book. Can you believe that? A real, solid book; with pages and everything. Actually, there’s only one recipe for shorba in there, a simple lentil and spinach concoction, that is not too far removed from daal really. But it planted a seed that soups can indeed be curried. As such, I made a couple during the colder months, namely cauliflower and cumin, and a chicken-based one (not Mulligatawny though!).
There is no reason why you can’t enjoy soup during the summer time though and whilst at first glance, this mushroom shorba feels like it should be enjoyed in front of a fire, with brown leaves whittling down outside; an additional dollop of vibrant Piccolo tomato chutney really gives this dish a seasonal lift... After stirring through, the combination is ambrosial and fiery and very moreish. The chutney itself is a little bit rough and ready, insofar that it is good to go after a quick chopping of ingredients and then blasting in the saucepan. You could take some time to quickly blanch the tomatoes and then peel their skins beforehand but I find it easier to pluck them out afterwards. So there’s a tip for you. I have also added a handful of rice into the mix because that helps to thicken up the shorba just a touch. Useful advice I once garnered from a cookery lesson at school.
Also, don’t be afraid to dress the bowl with a few more slices of green chilli. After all, it’s well known that a touch of heat, high up on the Scoville scale, can help cool you down. I think I read that in a book too. Or maybe it was on the internet. That I can’t remember.