Vegan Clam-less Chowder (Creamy Potato and Mushroom Chowder)
2 cups raw cashews
14 ounces king oyster mushrooms, chopped into bite sized (or clam sized) pieces
4 tablespoons vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance), divided
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke or 2 slices vegan bacon, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1. For cashew cream, put cashews in a large bowl (non metallic) and cover with cold water. Cover with lid/foil/whatever and place in fridge. Allow to soak overnight or at least 8 hours. Rinse off and drain cashews. Place in blender and cover with water, making sure it is about 1" or 2 above the cashews. For thicker cream, use less water. Puree/blend for several minutes, if necessary (really well). Strain through a fine mesh sieve for smooth, creamy, cruelty-free bliss.
2. Preparing the mushrooms: In a skillet, over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons vegan margarine and mushrooms. If using bacon, saute along with mushrooms. Saute for 5-7 minutes until tender and cooked through. Place in a bowl and set aside. Making the stock: In a large pot, over medium-high heat, add a pinch of salt and allow to heat for 1 minute. This creates a non-stick effect. Add 2 tablespoons vegan margarine, onions and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until slightly translucent.
3. Add celery, bay leaves and thyme, cook for an additional 6 minutes. Stir constantly to prevent any browning. Add in the vegetable broth and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Ladle in the hot vegetable broth mix to a blender (be sure to remove bay leaves and set aside) and puree. Always have a towel handy when blending up anything super hot. The heat will blow the top off, so cover with a towel and hold on tight!
4. Now, add 1 cup cashew cream to blender and puree until creamy smooth. Pour soup mixture back into stock pot, adding the remaining 1 cup cashew cream, bay leaves, and potatoes. Simmer on low/medium-low heat until potatoes are tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on potato size and texture. Now is a good time to add salt and pepper. Use white pepper if you wanna get fancy. The soup will continue to thicken as the starch is released from the potatoes and the cashew cream reduces.
5. Be sure to stir the pot occasionally to scrape up any bits of soup stuck to the bottom of the pot. If you prepped the pot with salt and butter as suggested in the beginning of this recipe, there should be minimal sticking. Lastly, stir in mushrooms and liquid smoke or bacon. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until mushrooms have heated through. Serve piping hot. Extra points for serving this in a bread bowl. Garnish with fresh parsley or something mild and green, like fresh green onion tops or chives. Enjoy the carb overload!
Source of recipe: I wrote this recipe, but the cashew cream recipe belongs to vegan chef Tal Ronnen.