Mushroom shorba with Piccolo tomato chutney

Danny shares this luscious mushroom shorba recipe. Also known as chorba, this beautiful spiced soup is found all over the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa. The soup is topped off with a simple and quick Piccolo tomato chutney to add a flourish of summery brightness to this heady dish.

First published in 2016

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.




Mushroom shorba

Tomato chutney


To begin, place a saucepan on the hob over a high heat and add half of the rapeseed oil. Add the mustard seeds
Once they start to pop, turn the heat down to medium and add the onion, stirring through for 5–7 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and green chilli and cook for another 2–3 minutes
While the onions are cooking, place a dry frying pan over a medium heat and add the cumin and coriander seeds to toast. Keep an eye on them though as they can catch easily
Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a minute or so abefore grinding in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar
When the onions, garlic and chilli have softened and are smelling fragrant, add the ground spices and stir through for another minute
Next, add the sliced mushrooms, the rice and the rest of the oil to coat. Fry off and then add the vegetable stock, bringing it to the boil then turning down to simmer for 10 minutes
As the shorba is cooking away, quickly make the tomato chutney by placing a small saucepan on the hob over a medium heat with a small splash of oil. Throw in the red onion and stir for 5 minutes or so until soft, then add the garlic and chilli, cooking off for another minute
Add the garam masala and stir through for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, vinegar, salt and sugar. Cook down until the tomatoes just begin to collapse a little then take off the heat. Once cooled to room temperature, you can pluck those skins out if you want to
When the shorba is ready, remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly before blending. If serving straight away, reheat it a touch in another pan and check for seasoning. You could also place in a bowl and keep in the fridge for later
To serve, ladle into bowls and then spoon a healthy amount of the chutney in the centre. Dress with some slices of green chilli and drizzle over the rapeseed oil. Serve with warmed naan breads

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Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

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