Monday, October 22, 2007

Broccoli soup

The garden is full of broccoli. It seems to be flourishing with cooler weather and this makes me feel like something a little more warming than the broccoli dishes of summer.

So, when I was thinking about what to do with this latest harvest, a creamy broccoli soup was definitely in order. It gets a nice thick texture from the russet potatoes and blended broccoli stalks. The option to add waxy potatoes (that maintain their shape in liquid) along with the broccoli florets later in the cooking process, makes for an even heartier, chunky and creamy combination.

For 4 servings:

Olive oil
1 large white onion - diced medium fine
1 large leek - cleaned of dirt and sliced
2-3 cloves garlic - smashed (roasted garlic is also nice)
1 medium green capsicum - diced
4 celery stalks - roughly chopped
4 large potatoes - a mix of waxy and mealy potatoes if available, diced
white wine
1 kg fresh broccoli - stalks trimmed, sliced and florettes separate
1500mL stock (beef, chicken or vegetable)
2 good handfuls grated cheese - gruyére, cheddar..
250ml full cream milk
1 Tablespoon flour
more olive oil

Heat a heavy bottomed casserole and, in a liberal amount of olive oil, sauté the onion, leek, garlic, capsicum, celery, the trimmed broccoli stems and half the potatoes (the mealy ones) with gentle seasoning (s&p). You don't have to be terribly particular about the slicing and dicing as everything will get blended in the end but do try to keep it relatively uncomplicated, complicating matters only enough to allow for even cooking times.

Keep this mixture moving as the potatoes might stick as they begin to break down. When everything is soft and fragrant, add a splash of wine to remove any possible stuck bits, scrape them up and add approximately half the stock.

A stick blender is useful here to purée the broccoli stems and other vegetables right in the pot or the mixture can be processed in a blender. If using a blender (or either for that matter) be careful as this is quite warm, hold the blender cover with a teatowel to avoid getting spattered in soup, hot or otherwise.

When at your desired consistency, return the soup to the casserole. Now is also a good time to add a wee bundle of your favourite herbs. I opt for a simple sprig of fresh thyme and a bay leaf that can be removed before the serving. Add remaining stock, remaining potatoes, bring to the boil, then lower to a simmer. Depending on the size of the broccoli (I keep everything bite-sized) , I add the florets when the potatoes are nearly cooked but they could be added together. When all vegetables are cooked to your liking, remove from heat (remove herbs, if using) and stir in the pre-mixed cheese, milk and flour. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and apply a drizzle of your best olive oil. I used La Selvotta Olio Extravergine Monovarietale Nebbio on this occasion. The I-77 Monovarietale is also excellent. If you've got a local oil, all the better to accompany your local produce.

Mangia!

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