Forkful's easy suppers: Nutty broccoli soup
You might think it's nutty to give broccoli the starring role in any soup but, believe me, this is a really satisfying supper that takes hardly any time and barely any effort.
But I have a confession to make. I have held a bit of a grudge against broccoli soup for over a decade. I thought of it as such a measly soup, a flavour vacuum, a depressing affair with a dull colour.
Why make broccoli soup when you can have rosemary roasted tomato soup made with fresh tomatoes bursting with sunshine? Or a comforting potato and leek soup, served with a swirl of fresh cream? Surely these soups will always be superior.
The source of this unfair dislike of broccoli soup, I think, is my dalliance with fad diets as a younger woman.
I've made bowls of broccoli "soup" that were nothing more than florets of broccoli boiled in stock, eaten in misery in my early twenties when I went through an unhealthy phase with food and became obsessed with the idea of "skinny" foods.
Broccoli soup seems to have been paired with hunger and unhappiness in my mind since then. Time to put an end to that type of thinking once and for all, and give broccoli a chance!
Before Christmas, I visited the newly-opened La Cucina Centro in Limerick City, run by Lorraine Fanneran and Bruno Coppola. On a wet wintery day, I was charmed by a bowl of broccoli soup done right, laced with the nutty taste of Parmesan cheese.
This week, I'm recreating La Cucina's broccoli soup, and mine is also generously laced with Parmesan cheese, which is really the secret to its success. I've also used the stalks in this soup, which usually end up in the bin even though they're perfectly edible.
This soup is a long way off from the sad florets boiled in stock - and that's a very good thing.
Serves 2 to 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
1 small potato
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil, for frying
1 large head of broccoli (or 2 smaller heads)
1 litre of vegetable stock
2 large handfuls of finely grated Parmesan
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 handful of hazelnuts, finely chopped
Pinch of chilli flakes METHOD 1. Peel and roughly chop the onion, potato and garlic into small chunks. 2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil (a couple of tablespoons will do) to a deep heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Fry the onion and potato chunks for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onion is starting to look translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes. 3. Chop the broccoli head into small florets. Chop the stalk into small pieces and add the whole lot, florets and stalk, into the pot. Cover with about 1 litre of vegetable stock, or so that the broccoli is almost covered. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the broccoli, is very tender. 4. Remove the soup from the heat and use a hand-held blender to blitz the soup until smooth. Now stir through most of the Parmesan cheese, holding back a little to sprinkle on the top when serving the soup. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. You won't need too much salt because of the delicious Parmesan. 5. Serve the soup hot in bowls, with a sprinkling of finely chopped hazelnuts and a pinch of chilli flakes on top, finishing with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese for good measure. Serve with good bread, generously buttered, on the side.
This week's storecupboard essential:
Parmesan: Parmesan is an essential part of my kitchen. I usually have a supermarket wedge of Parmesan in my fridge, on standby for soups and pastas. But occasionally I splash out on an artisanally-produced wedge from Sheridan's Cheesemongers. The difference in taste and quality is enormous. Treat yourself!