Friday, June 29, 2007

Broccoli soup

What to cook when you arrive home at 9 p.m., with a few glasses of wine inside you? Nothing that involves much time and effort. Last night, I did not want to order a pizza, because there was plenty of food in the house; and I did not want anything wheat-based (pasta, bread and hummus), because I had eaten toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. I wanted vegetables.

I am a little wary of broccoli or cauliflower soups. You have to soften the vegetables; like all brassicas, they acquire a rank quality if overcooked. But this one worked well. It might have served 2; I consumed it all, in two mugfuls with a spoon for the thicker bits, in front of a tape of Timbo's sad Wimbledon exit.

3 ladles chicken stock
I head broccoli, divided into small florets
I spring onion (head and all but toughest of green parts), chopped
Knob of butter
Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
2 tbsp double cream

Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan, with a little salt. Throw in the broccoli and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until tender. The broccoli will not be completely submerged; that does not matter, if you stir the contents of the pan from time to time. I leave the pan uncovered for two reasons: to concentrate the flavour of the stock; and because of my theory, never properly tested, that vegetable soups have a fresher flavour if cooked in this way.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan and over a gentle heat, soften the spring onion in the butter. (You use two pans simply to save time.) Tip in the broccoli and stock, and blend with a hand blender; or blend the soup by passing it through a vegetable mill, or by whizzing it in a blender. (I prefer the rougher texture that the hand blender gives.) Add the cream, more salt if necessary, and as much of the pepper or two types of pepper as you like. Warm the soup gently, and serve.

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