~Chinese 5-spice Broccoli Cheddar Soup~ 

“Soups are cozy” (A.D.Posey) and its true, Soups are amazing and the very best friend of winters. Nothing makes your appetite churn more than the wafting aromas of a simmering soup just bubbling away. I love soups for so many reasons; they are easy, quick and extremely healthy. Furthermore, they are a world of discoveries and exploration of flavour blends and as Suzzane Collins says, “since soup mainly involves tossing everything in a pot and waiting, it’s one of my better dishes” (the Hunger Games). Growing up, there were only a few soups I was familiar with that were a staple every winter in my home i.e. Hot and Sour Soup, Chicken Corn Soup and Chicken Stock soup. If you ever visit Pakistan, our cuisine was very limited in terms of soup, that is up until recently when the gastronomic world universalized on a macro level thanks to technology, the Pakistani cuisine has expanded in soup category over the past ten years. So, growing up in a Pakistani household, the chicken corn soup and hot and Sour Soup are almost as if our national soup dishes. There is no gatherings in winters without them and there is no household unfamiliar to them.

Broccoli has a very special place in my life and I will tell you why; believe it or not, growing up I never knew what broccoli was because it was something that was never part of a meal in my mom’s kitchen. See! my mom was an Asian cuisine lover and she was very limited to that cookbook. If you would ask her anything Indo-Pak cuisine related, she’ll bounce off exceptional ideas on you and give you so many innovative ideas but any farther from that, you are on your own. Also, in countries like Pakistan and India vegetables like broccoli are not very common due to geographical conditions. We just don’t get an ample supply of broccoli and hence, it is very sleekily used. That is why, when I came to Britain, I started to explore flavours of the British Cuisine, which has an impressively wide array of soup selection. The very first time I had broccoli in my life, was in 2008, for lunch, whilst I was in the hospital. My son was born that day. I remember I was served a broccoli and Cheddar quiche and it was love in first bite. I fell in love with so many things that day, becoming a mother, holding my child, his cries, his little fingers and toes, I even fell in love with that morning, I fell in love with my husband again, I fell in love with this new world around me and then came broccoli and made me fall in love with it too. That was the very first I had experienced it just like everything else that day. After that, just as I have loved being a mom, I have loved broccoli just as much; another reason being, my son loves broccoli too. How that makes my love of food whole, explains a lot.

This Broccoli soup is exactly all that, falling in love. The recipe is so easy, you can actually make it with your eyes closed. It’s quick and simple and it’s loaded with cheesy goodness. Now, if you are very health conscious, use a lighter version of the cheese and stick to one bowl. Although, I have to warn you, you can’t stop yourself from having more than one, it is quite addictive.

I would like to add that I tweeked the recipe a little to infuse a little Asian flavours. Don’t worry! the spices gave it a little kick of flavour without disturbing the authenticity of the flavours. It was a beautiful fusion of East and West flavours. The Roasted Red Peppers are elongated pointy red peppers that are a tad sweet in flavour and do not offer much heat. I owe my love of them to Jamie Oliver. He made me fall in love with these gorgeous Peppers that provide amazing delectable flavours. The roasted peppers come in a jar preserved in oils and vinegars, that are roasted giving them depth of flavour. These are the absolute thing in any sauce or gravy, believe you me. This is what they look like;

The other ingredient that gave an umph to the soup was the addition of the Chinese 5 spice, which if you have a smell of, gives off a fragrant, floral and warm spiced tang and added to the soup, it accentuates the savour of the soup. This is a blend of star anis, cinnamon, coriander powder, mixed peppercorns and clove powder, which together are a gorgeous friendship of spices.

Finally, let’s talk about the cheese in the soup. I highly recommend that the cheese you add to the soup is a Cheddar in a block and not pre-shredded. The reason being, the pre-shredded cheese lacks in authentic flavours because they are preserved in a bag with other preserving ingredients to keep it fresh and prolongate it’s shelf life, whereas, the original cut block cheddar has a lot more flavour because it doesn’t have any other ingredient added to it and it results in a smooth, creamy and extremely luscious sauce once melted. That is why when you look at a lot of soup recipes which require cheese, they ask for “freshly grated cheese”.

This soup is extremely palatable and the seeded crispy thins were an absolute perfect pair with the soup. It is fulfilling, hearty, flavoursome and a complete meal in itself.

I loved it so much, I shared it with my neighbours, who just went all ga-ga for it because “preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but to our spirits”. So, share and dispense happiness.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients~

1. Broccoli — 2 bunches
2. Carrots medium size — 2
3. Onion — 1
4. Butter — 4 tbso
5. Flour — 4 tbsp
6. Bay leaf — 2
7. Roasted Red Pepper — 2
8. Salt — 1 tsp
9. Black pepper — 1 tsp
10. Mustard powder — 1 tsp
11. Nutmeg — ½ tsp
12. Cayenne pepper — 1 tsp
13. Chicken/vegetable stock cube –1
14. Chinese Five Spice — 1 tsp
15. Milk — 1 cup
16. Cheddar block — 300g
17. Water — 5 cups
18. Garlic cloves crushed — 4

Method~

a. Cut the broccoli into small florets and set aside.

b. Grate the cheddar cheese and set aside. Shave some strips off of it and save for garnish later.

c. Chop the onions and very finely chop the carrots and set aside and blend the roasted Red pepper into a fine paste and set aside.

d. In a deep cooking pot, heat the butter with a little oil.

e. Add the chopped onions and bay leaf and sauté until the onions turn translucent.

f. Add in the crushed garlic and fry for 30 seconds.

g. Add in the chopped carrots and fry for 2-3 minutes.

h. Add in the flour and stock cube and all the spices, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Chinese five spice, nutmeg, roasted red peppers paste and mustard powder and stir to mix for a minute.

i. Add in the milk and let it come to a boil.

j. Add in the water and cover and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.

k. After 20 minutes, add the broccoli florets and let it simmer for 6-8 minutes.

l. Now add in the grated cheddar cheese and mix to combine.

m. Taste test for salt and pepper.

n. If you think the sauce is very runny, dissolve flour in water and add to the soup to thicken to your liking. The soup texture is semi-runny and should be slightly thicker.

o. Serve with crispy thins of breads or any soup condiment.

p. Sprinkle on a little cayenne pepper and shaved cheddar for garnish.

~Happy Foodieating~

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