Eric Akis: Broccoli and aged cheddar a magic combo

Eric Akis

Two foods that work marvelously together are broccoli and aged cheddar cheese. The flavour of mildly mustardy, earthy tasting broccoli is always brought to a finer place when combined in some way with that rich and tangy cheese.

I sometimes do that by steaming broccoli florets and smothering them with cheddar cheese sauce. Other times I’ll make a quiche filled with bits of broccoli and grated cheddar. Most often, though, as I did in today’s recipe, I’ll a make a hearty soup that combines the two.

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To make it chopped broccoli is simmered in thickened stock with flavourings until tender. The soup is then puréed, returned to a simmer, small, thumbnail-sized broccoli florets are added, and they are cooked a few minutes, until tender. The next step is to mix in some milk or cream and grated aged white cheddar cheese. When the latter is melted, you season the soup with salt and pepper and it’s ready for the bowl.

The soup will make a nice lunch or dinner when served with some type of bread, such as today’s other recipe: biscuits with oats, walnuts and rosemary.

Broccoli Soup with Aged White Cheddar

Here’s a hearty soup perfect for fall that combines two ingredients that always work well together — broccoli and aged cheddar cheese. If you have any soup leftover after enjoying some, once cooled, it will freeze well.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About 35 minutes

Makes: four generous servings

1 lb. broccoli crowns (about 3, depending on size; see Note 1)

3 Tbsp butter or vegetable oil

1/2 cup diced onion

1 large garlic clove, chopped

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp dried sage leaves (see Note 2)

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

3 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth (see Note 3)

3/4 cup grated aged white cheddar cheese, plus some for sprinkling (about 100 grams)

2/3 cup milk, light cream or whipping cream

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

Pull off any small leaves attached to the broccoli crowns and set aside.

Cut off 24 small, thumbnail-sized, florets from some of the broccoli crowns and set in a bowl. Coarsely chop remaining broccoli and leave on the cutting board.

Melt butter or heat oil in a medium-sized pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook three to four minutes, until softened. Add flour, sage and paprika and cook and stir two minutes more.

While stirring, slowly mix in 1/2 cup of the stock (or broth). When mixture is very thick, slowly mix in remaining stock (or broth). Add chopped broccoli on the cutting board, bring soup to a gentle simmer, lowering the heat as needed to maintain that simmer. Simmer soup until broccoli is very tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the reserved broccoli leaves to the pot, if there were any. Puree the soup in a food processor or blender, or in the pot with a hand (immersion) blender. Add the thumbnail-sized broccoli florets to the soup, return the soup to a simmer, and cook until they are tender, about three minutes.

Mix in the 3/4 cup cheese and milk (or cream), and stir until that cheese is melted. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with a little more grated cheddar, if desired, and serve.

Note 1: Broccoli crowns are the trimmed, top part of the plant sold that way at supermarkets and farm markets.

Note 2: Dried sage leaves are available in the bottled herb aisle of supermarkets. It’s made from crumbled sage leaves; don’t confuse it with powder-like ground sage.

Note 3: If using store-bought stock (or broth), a 900 mL container will yield the amount needed here.

Biscuits with Oats, Walnuts and Rosemary

Large biscuits, rich with nutritious oats, crunchy walnuts and aromatic rosemary, you can serve with the broccoli soup.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 16 to 17 minutes

Makes: seven large biscuits

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for shaping

1/2 cup large flake rolled oats

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into tiny cubes

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (see Eric’s options)

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the 1 1/2 cups flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

With your fingers, a pastry cutter or with two forks, work butter into the flour mixture until thoroughly distributed. Mix in walnuts and rosemary.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour buttermilk into it. Use a spoon or spatula to combine the two and form loose, fairly wet dough.

Lightly flour a work surface and your hands.Turn the dough onto the floured surface.Form the dough into a ball.As you do, lightly flour the work surface and your hands again, if needed.

Press the dough into a one-inch thick disc.Use a three-inch-round cutter to cut dough into biscuits and set them on the baking sheet. Gather up the scraps of dough and press and cut them into biscuits, too. You should have seven biscuits.

Bake biscuits in the middle of the oven 16 to 17 minutes, until puffed and light golden. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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