I’ve just been in England on an incredible trip. I joined Cheese Journeys, a remarkable travel company that specializes in taking Cheese aficionados on in-depth Cheese Tours (www.cheesejourneys.com). We went from London to Devon and Somerset, seeing Cheese being made and much, much more in the glorious English countryside. And the first thing I did when I got home was to re-create one of the extraordinary dishes we were treated to.
Created by one of the two private chefs who accompany its Cheese travelers, this soup was a huge hit. All my fellow Cheese Heads were clamoring for the recipe. I took it upon myself to sit down with the chef and get it. This is a lovely rich, creamy soup. Broccoli and a slew of supporting vegetables create a broth to which Cream and Blue Cheese are added at the last moment. While I went out and bought England’s most famous Blue Cheese, Stilton, specifically to make the soup, you could easily use any leftover Blue from your next Cheese Board.
Our Cheese Journey menus were all the work of two incredibly talented London Chefs who accompanied us to the Country House estates where we stayed in Devon and Somerset. Led by Sylvain Jamois, chef and food stylist, the two chefs worked tirelessly to make memorable meals. I was particularly impressed by their use of ‘leftovers’. A good example is this soup. While I went out and bought England’s most famous Blue Cheese, Stilton, specifically to make the soup, you could easily use any leftover Blue from your next Cheese Board. That’s what the author of this recipe did.
The Chef in question was Musa Francis. Half Indian, half English, “with a touch of French thrown in”, Musa is a private chef in London. And believe it or not, he has a very specific clientele: Architects. He counts some very famous names among his patrons. And this soup makes it easy to taste why. Take your time cooking it. Let the leeks, onion and garlic melt into the butter before adding the celery, carrots and broccoli stalks and cook them down before adding the Chicken Stock and water. Cook that for a good half hour or more. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. (If you don’t have one, use a blender and purée the soup in batches.). Add the florets for a further 15 minutes, puree again. Then add the cream and the cheese, use a heavy hand with the salt and taste as you go along.
Any blue cheese will work here. We sampled raw milk cheeses in Britain. Stichelton, in particular, is a raw milk cheese that gives Stilton a run for its money.
1. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, onion and garlic and cook them until softened and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
2. Add the celery, carrots and broccoli stalks and cook a further 15 minutes until they are softened.
3. Add the Chicken stock and water. Bring the soup to a rolling boil then turn the heat down and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
4. Use the immersion blender to thoroughly blend the vegetables into a smooth purée.
5. Add the broccoli florets and cook for about 15 minutes more.
6. Use the immersion blender again to puree the florets. Add the cream and stir. Then add the Stilton (or other blue cheese) in chunks pureeing and tasting as you go. Use salt liberally until the taste is just right.
7. Using a Microplane, liberally dust the top of each bowl of soup with lemon zest. Serve, preferably with some crusty bread and salted butter.