English Broccoli and Stilton Soup

 

This broccoli soup is maybe my favourite soup in the whole world. It’s simple and healthy, but it just has such a great flavour! The trick to getting a really nice broccoli soup is to use homemade stock and to not overcook the broccoli. Don’t let it lose its vibrant green colour, otherwise the flavours will become muted and lose their freshness.

 

INGREDIENTS

Broccoli actually comes from the cabbage family, and when you eat broccoli you are eating the flower buds of the plant, along with a bit of stalk. It was cultivated in Roman times. The first noted reference of the vegetable came from Pliny the Elder, but it only started appearing in English dishes around 1720. The Calabrese broccoli that we think of when you say the word ‘broccoli’ is one of three edible varieties, the other two being tenderstem broccoli and purple sprouting broccoli. Broccoli is a cold weather crop, so it’s best eaten in the cooler months of the year. If growing it, be sure to pick the flower buds when they are dark green, before they start to open up into yellow flowers. This is the time when broccoli will have the freshest taste.

Stilton is known as ‘The King of English Cheeses’, and was referred to by Daniel Defoe as the ‘English Parmesan’. It’s a slightly crumbly marbled blue cheese with a creamy taste that has strong, tangy overtones. As stilton is an open-textured cheese (meaning that it’s not produced by pressing), it can be easily frozen for up to 3 months without losing taste or texture. If freezing, make sure to defrost in the fridge overnight. If you can’t find stilton, any crumbly blue cheese makes for a decent substitute. I recently made this dish with extra mature cheddar because I didn’t have any stilton and the car had broken down, and that made a surprisingly nice variation on this soup too!

 

HISTORY

From research, it seems that broccoli soup is, quite surprisingly, a relatively new invention. Notably, Campbell’s Soup (the manufacturer that Andy Warhol immortalised with his tinned Cream of Tomato Soup screen prints) started mass producing Cream of Broccoli Soup in 1990. One of the earliest written references for this soup seems to be Louis P de Guy’s ‘The Soup Book’, an epic tome of 800 soup recipes that was published in 1949. De Guy was a french born culinary genius who moved from France, to England, to Spain and finally to the US. He is little known outside of chef circles and revered by those within them, having published definitive recipe books providing almost infinite variants of the most staple and comforting of foods: soups, pies, sandwiches, burgers and desserts.

 

WHAT YOU NEED

Where possible, try to buy local, seasonal and grass fed/ organic/free range ingredients. Apart from it being better to support local businesses and high welfare farming practises, it does make a huge difference to the taste of your food! 

chunk of butter

2 celery stalks, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 white onion, diced

Splash of white wine

500g broccoli

700ml homemade veg or chicken stock, heated

100g stilton

50ml single cream (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cooking Time: 15 mins

Serves: 4

 

METHOD

  1. Put a cast iron pan on the hob on a medium heat, and melt enough butter in the pan to fully cover the bottom. Mix a small splash of olive oil into the butter to stop it from browning or burning (it lowers the burning point). Once the butter is hot, throw in the onions, carrot and celery and cook down with a large pinch of salt, until most of the liquid is released.
  2. Add a splash of white wine and cook it off. Chop up the broccoli into even chunks. Peel and thinly slice the potato. Pour in the hot stock and add the turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  3.  Add in the broccoli and simmer for another 3-5 minutes, or until the broccoli is cooked through but still retains its bright green colour.
  4. Take off the heat and blend with a hand blender. Crumble in the stilton and stir through until it’s all melted, pour in and stir the cream. Season to taste and serve with buttered crusty white bread. Nom!

 

ADAPTATIONS

LF – use a lactose free cream and cheese. Stilton has a very low lactose content anyway as it’s an aged cheese, the processing naturally breaks the lactose down so you may find a substitute isn’t needed for this.

GF – this is naturally gluten free, you can eat it without bread

V – use vegetable stock

Ve –  use olive oil instead of butter, omit the cream and cheese, use vegetable stock.

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