Its very cold outside and I am thinking of comfort food and old holiday songs. This soup falls in the category of comfort food and will warm you from the inside out. It will make you want to lick every spoonful clean before you dip the spoon back in the soup.
I was inspired by the broccoli cheddar soup that you might get in an old fashioned diner. Creamy and rich, with bits of broccoli still intact and a thin film of unctuousness from the heavy cream. At times like those, you don’t count calories and just indulge in the goodness at the other end of the spoon.
But this time of the year – circa Christmas time – when the use of butter, sugar, and flour is prolific; I am thinking of a healthier option. Most creamy soups get that nice texture from the use of heavy cream, and a thickener based on all-purpose flour or corn flour. My version here uses no cream, and is gluten-free and corn-free.
This recipe makes use of a bit of potato and old fashioned rolled oats as the thickening agents. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about using oats at one time, but trust me, they thicken the soup beautifully. In addition, you don’t need the extra step of making white sauce or a roux. Leeks, onions, garlic, carrots add extra flavor and body to the soup. In addition, carrots tint the soup an appetizing orange color. Use a good vegetable stock for the liquid component in this soup. Water is okay too, but I’ve noticed that a good stock makes for a more flavorful soup.
The addition of grated sharp cheddar cheese and dijon mustard take this soup to an entirely new level. If you are looking for a vegan option, hold the cheddar cheese; but please, add the mustard. Your soup will become so much more sophisticated and carry adult-appeal.
One note about broccoli. You might be inclined to chop off the tough-looking stems of the broccoli heads when you are cooking with broccoli. However, they are very usable if you peel off the top fibrous layer using a sharp paring knife or a sturdy vegetable peeler. Once peeled, the inside is tender and cooks beautifully. It actually tastes better than the florets.
Cooking time: 45 minutes Serves: 4-6 servings Ingredients: 2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp olive oil (3 tbsp olive oil if vegan) 1/2 cup diced onion, about 1/2 an onion 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly crushed 1 carrot, sliced into rounds 2 cups leeks - 1 stalk 3/4 cup peeled and diced potatoes - 2 small 1/4 cup old fashioned oats 4 cups broccoli florets - about 2 small heads 4 cups vegetable stock plus roughly 1 cup water 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (leave out if vegan) 1/2 - 1 tsp dijon mustard salt to taste Method: In a heavy bottomed pan, heat olive oil and butter (if using) on medium heat. Add the diced onions, crushed garlic cloves, sliced carrots and leeks, and diced potatoes. Season lightly with salt and let cook until the leeks have softened and lightly caramelized; about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and 4 cups vegetable stock.After 8 - 10 minutes of cooking uncovered, remove about 1/2 cup of florets and set aside. Now lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an extra 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the oats have softened. Add 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese if using, to the soup. Let the soup cool a bit and puree using an immersion blender or a counter-top blender. Thin the soup with about a cup of extra water if you need to adjust the consistency. Stir in a tsp of dijon mustard and mix well. Chop reserved broccoli into small pieces and incorporate into the creamed soup. Bring the soup back to a boil and turn the heat off. Taste for salt and adjust as necessary. Serve hot.