Here’s my tribute to cream of mushroom soup. Nostalgia is a big part of comfort food, and almost everyone I’ve spoken to has that shared memory of tucking into a steaming bowl of this soup as a child, particularly when they were feeling poorly. I’ve taken it up a notch, while still giving you that old-school familiar flavor. It’s a total beauty in its own right, but I’ve also shown you how to turn the soup into a pasta bake, which was fashionable in the ’80s. —Jamie Oliver in his cookbook Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food.
In a small bowl, just cover the porcini mushrooms with boiling water and leave them to soak for 5 minutes. Peel the onion, trim the celery, and roughly chop both. Then, clean the button mushrooms and put it all into a large saucepan on a medium-high heat with some oil, the butter, the chili flakes, and the flour. Add the porcini, reserving the soaking water for later. Cook it all for around 25 minutes, or until soft, dark, and intense, stirring regularly.
Use the bouillon cubes to make 6 cups of broth. Gradually add the hot broth to the pan, stirring continuously, along with 90 percent of the reserved porcini liquid. Bring the pan back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the cream and grate in the Cheddar, then blend until smooth. Season to taste.
To turn the soup into a pasta bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cook the pasta in a saucepan of boiling salted water according to package instructions, until just al dente, then drain and return to the pan. Pour half the soup (eat the rest or save for another day) over the pasta and gently mix together. Put the pasta into a baking dish (8 x 12 inches) and top it with an extra grating of Cheddar.
To make it extra special, use a mandolin (use the guard!) to shave the mushrooms and garlic into a bowl, strip the thyme leaves from the stems and add them to the bowl, and then toss it all in a drizzle of oil before scattering it over the pasta. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until golden and starting to crisp up at the edges.