Brrrrrr…. Baby it's cold outside!
Winter is always soup season and when it is particularly dipping icy low, nothing warms the belly as much as soups, broths and stews. I typically lean towards stews because they are heartier and chunkier but for lunch, I like something lighter, like vegetable soups. I have a few favorites - carrot-ginger, leek-potato, wild-mushroom and cream of broccoli.
Cream of broccoli soup has a particular special place in my heart. I did not grow up eating soups and my first soup like dish was a ramen, which, is not the same as the creamy soups of the Western half of the world. The first time I had ‘soup’ soup was when I moved to NYC, in the company cafeteria, on a cold Winter day. It was cream of broccoli. It was delicious. Mass-made and self-served with packet oyster crackers, yet delicious! And, I distinctly remember wondering how they got cream from broccoli! LOL. The vegetable itself was new to me and the soup seemed just exotic and super fancy. Of course, I realised much later that it was not cream of broccoli but rather creamed broccoli! Even so, it has forever held its place in my memory as a luscious, silken, hug of love…
Now, I suspect the cafeteria version was ‘creamed’ with roux to add body and creaminess. When I make it at home, I add real cream and a starchy root for the body, as you can well imagine, broccoli by itself has little heft. That has been the staple for years - potato and broccoli cooked and pureed, generously doused in heavy cream and voila! a divine concoction to sate the belly and warm the throat.
This time, I wanted something different. I decided to go with sweet potato (a root I 💕). And, for the cream, I used sour cream to balance the sweetness of the sweet potato. The only thing to mind when using sour cream in soups is to add it in the end and not let the soup boil after as the sour cream tends to curdle at high heat. Finally, to add more texture to the soup, I crisped the stalks of the broccoli and made a parsley gremolata with chopped almonds, and sprinkled both on top while serving. Swirled into the soup, each bite has a crunch as well crisp freshness coursing through it! And, not to forget lots of cheese running through it!
Broccoli and Sweet Potato Soup
with Cheddar Sour Cream
Crisped stalks and parsley almond gremolata
1 head of broccoli, head and stalks coarsely chopped
1 large sweet potato, diced into chunks
1 small white/yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 cups of stock
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 -1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 T almond slivers, crushed
1/4 tsp fine chilli flakes
salt, pepper, olive oil as needed
Steam the sweet potatoes till soft. Add the broccoli to the same steamer and continue for 3 more minutes until the broccoli stalks are tender.
Peel the skin off the sweet potato chunks. Chop he broccoli stalks into fine slices and reserve for the garnish.
In a pot, heat olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic cloves till soft.
Add the chunks of sweet potato and broccoli head. Season with salt and generous amount of pepper. Add the stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce to simmer and cook for five more minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Transfer to a food processor and whiz to a smooth puree. Bring back to heat and stir in cheese, melting it into the soup.
While the soup cooks in a shallow pan, heat enough oil to fry the broccoli stalk pieces. Crisp them, drain from oil and reserve. In a small bowl, stir together the chopped parsley, crushed almonds, a little salt, chilli flakes and enough olive oil to cover the mixture. Set aside as second garnish.
Five minutes before serving, stir in the sour cream. Gently heat the soup, if needed, taking care to not let it boil. Serve topped with the crisped broccoli, parsley relish and swirls of olive oil.