Sunday, August 28, 2011

Recipe - Broccoli Cheddar Soup

The weather around here has been massively weird to say the least. Here the whole summer as pretty much passed with little rain and like 1 thunderstorm, then come this last week. We've had so much rain in so little time that the sewers couldn't keep up, there was flooding all over the place... some places even had SO much rain in such a little time that there was water up the the first mail slot of some apartment buildings. I'm happy to say that I live outside the hardest hit areas but you can see some of the damage in the videos below.

As you watch the video below, notice how nice the weather was in the beginning of the day. This storm that hit went out as fast as they came in and left such destruction in it's path. It left a few dead and almost 100 injured. It hit with such force that it closed the feast down entirely for the remainder of it.

With those storms came for what is for Belgium a hot front... 80+ for a few days in a row (hence the storms) and in the last week even out where I live we even had an entire night that had lightening and storms going on all throughout the night and even saw my husband off to work after one. Then fast forward about a week, some more rain and another storm or 2 and we have a high today of according to my current weather report, 60F (15.5C). And to top it all off we're looking at only highs for the 10day forecast of between 60F (15.5C) and 70F (21C). I mean geees.... can the weather get any more weird? Last week I was making creamy potato salad, cutting seedless watermelon and having an at home BBQ with my folks because it was so warm and only yesterday I was making a big pot of soup!

SOUP! Oh god how I love soup and any excuse to make it! This time I decided to go about making a wonderfully thick and creamy broccoli cheddar soup that is still on the light side... well at least I cut the fat/calories where I could and I'm sure many of my American GF comrades can make it even less in fat because of the abundance of fat-free items such as cheeses. Anyhow, I made it, I liked it, I added home-made meatballs to it and then we ate it.... big 4-5quart soup pot filled to the top and now all that is left is a couple of bowls, enough for hubby to warm in the microwave and have dinner from.... mind you we've already been into it heavy today for lunch because we both went to bed late last night and for a change slept in... perfect 'wake up at lunch time' meal! First though.... TIP TIME and right off the top you will need a large 5 quart soup pot for this recipe before we even get started.

Tip #1 - Use a sharp cheddar for this recipe and don't skimp on this fact. You will need the sharpness of it to cut through all the butter, stock and cream that is in this dish.

Tip #2 - All the veggies in this recipe with exception of the 'reserved broccoli' will end up being pureed in the end so just cut them up enough to be able to cook the onions, garlic and leek til tender. There is no needed measurements on what size to cut things just as long as you remember to make it smallish and not stew style chunky. The garlic I even cheated on and used a pure garlic puree.

Tip #3 - Do NOT add more salt to this... wait until the complete pot is done and I mean done as in you are ready to stick you ladle in it and dish it up before adding any of the seasonings I've recommended or any more salt. Remember there is a lot of salt in the stock and in the cheese already.

Tip #4 - I cheat, I can't stand cutting broccoli or cauliflower... something about the little bits that get all over my kitchen annoys me so if I don't have to cut these, I simply don't. In this case, frozen broccoli works just as well. I tend to buy a large kilo bag or 2 (2.2 to 5.4pounds) of what ever store brand broccoli that has stems and all plus 1 smaller bag of more expensive name brand florets. Since the bigger bags are going to be cooked, boiled to death and then pureed any how, these are of no worry, they are for flavour not looks. The florets though are the finishing touch so to speak and should be of good quality since they will be added right at the last 10 minutes or so and left whole.

Tip #5 - If you are looking to make this a 'light' version then instead of the full litre of heavy cream that the original recipes I found call for then either use a reduced or fat free version of cream or if you want to also reduce the lactose in it, use a product by Alpro that is a 5% fat variation of cream but made entirely of soya. I'm also a bit lactose intolerant on top of all of this so I love these little cup size containers for my soups and sauces.

P.S. Quarts and litres when it comes to making soup are pretty much equal so no need to go converting the 2 when it comes to the stock!

 4 to 6 tbs olive oil
2 to 3 tbs minced garlic
1 medium Spanish onion (about 1 1/2 cups), diced
 1 cup leek, cut 1/2inch or so thick
 6 to 8 cups broccoli pieces + 2 cups broccoli florets  (see tip #4)
 3 to 4 quarts chicken or veggie stock
 1 to 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
 2 to 3 cups reduced fat cream (see tip #5)
 1 cup GF flour
 1/2 cup butter (1 stick/125grams)
 suggested seasonings of worchestire sauce, tabasco and nutmeg

In a large 5 quart soup pot, heat olive oil over a medium heat. Add onions, leek and garlic. Saute until tender and starting to turn see-through. Add the 6 to 8 cups broccoli but do not add the broccoli florets as these are reserved for the end of the dish. Just cook a few more minutes until the broccoli takes on a bit of warmth.

Add 3 to 4 quarts chicken or veggie stock (I personally used chicken) and bring to a slow boil and let it boil until the broccoli is basically falling apart even as you just look at it. There is no 'over cooking' this part of the soup as right after, you're going to puree it any how.

While I was waiting for this part of my soup to run it's course, it started to rain again. Typical for this week and made it even more perfect for making soup but I noticed that one side of the window it was raining while the other was VERY sunny so while I had my camera out any how, I managed to catch the picture below too while I was cooking this. I mean the weather couldn't be more perfect for soup this weekend. 

Once broccoli is cooked, remove from heat but leave the heat on and then, yep you guessed it, grab your stick blender, stand blender, food processor or what ever else you might use in order to make something into a puree, for me it's a stick blender attachment to my hand mixer. Puree and be patient... you want to make sure there are no thick pieces left and you have a smoothness going on.

Before discarding the blender, grab your cream or cream substitute, add it to the blended soup and give it a few more pulses. If your using a stand blender then simply do this step by hand in the soup pot with a wooden spoon before placing back on the stove.

Before placing soup back on the heat, make a large variation of roux (creamy thickening agent basically... see roux cooking tip in my blog, use the 5 quart liquid version).

Place soup back on the heat and let come back to a slow boil. Add the entire recipe of roux and stir it in carefully but thoroughly because this is your thickening agent. I used a whisk for this part just to ensure it was mixed well. Once mixed well, add 1 to 2 cups sharp cheddar and mix again well until cheese is melted and you no longer see the orange colour streaking throughout but that the dish has turned slightly more orange coloured then before. Return to using a wooden spoon after this step.

Once every thing is mixed well and you are happy with the results, taste it. Be careful as it'll be REALLY hot now. This is now the time to judge if you want to add any of the seasonings to it at all. If you do, I suggest about 1/2tsp ground nutmeg (if using any of the suggested seasonings, this is the one to use), a splash or 2 of the worchestire sauce and a few shakes of the tabasco sauce. This part of the soup is very much personal preference so season a bit, taste, adjust seasonings if wanted. I found the above just right for me.

Now by request of the dear husband, I also made some little meat balls and added them to it also.

I have now decided that it really is not needed and personally think the 'meat' flavour in the dish puts it a bit over board so next time that is the only thing I'll adjust, leaving it totally a veggie soup. Add some bread, garlic cheese bread or sandwich with and this becomes a very filling meal.

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