20 October 2010

Spicy Broccoli Cheese Soup

Have you ever had one of those days? When getting out of bed is a struggle, when you have a bad commute, when nothing seems to go quite the way you want at work...and you spend the whole day in a generally blah mood. Today was one of those days for me. There was no particular reason why, other than the onset of chilly, dreary weather here in Paris and the continuation of the general strikes that are currenly plaguing France. The combination of these two things seems to have everyone here in a sour mood lately, and I was certainly no exception today.

So when I got home, I knew that we had to have something warm and comforting for dinner. A hot bowl of soup was the first thing that came to mind. Looking around the kitchen, I saw that we had plenty of frozen broccoli florets that needed to be used up as well as a good hunk of cheddar cheese, brought recently by a friend visiting from the U.S. (yes, cheddar is an expensive rarity here in France...I normally would have used comté). Broccoli cheese soup, I thought immediately! But not just any broccoli cheese soup. Mine needed a little kick, a subtle bolt of spice to rock our palates and banish my blues. Opening the fridge, I found one lone green chili pepper from my last trip to the Indian grocery store. And the rest, as they say, was history!

Makes 2 main course servings or 4 soup servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic paste or garlic confit
1 green chili pepper (such as a serrano), chopped
3 1/2 cups (750 grams) frozen broccoli florets, defrosted
2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 cups water and 1 vegetable bouillon cube)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons garlic & herb cheese (such as Boursin...in a pinch, garlic & herb cream cheese will do)
1 tablespoon crème fraîche
2 tablespoons grated cheddar (or comté) cheese
Salt to taste, if desired

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the bay leaf, onion, garlic paste or confit (I used a wonderful garlic confit with mint and fresh chillies by Les Confits d'Amaury that I found at a gourmet market featuring artisanal products from around France at the Commerce Metro station here in Paris) and green chili pepper and saute until the onions are translucent.

2. Add defrosted broccoli, vegetable broth (or water and vegetable bouillon cube) and the sprig of rosemary. Bring to a boil. Remove the bay leaf.

3. Puree the soup in two batches in a blender.

4. Return to stove and stir over low heat. Add the garlic & herb cheese, crème fraîche and grated cheddar (or comté). Season with additional salt to taste, if desired.

5. Once you have poured the soup into serving bowls, use garnishes of your choice to make it pretty! A dollop of crème fraîche, additional grated cheddar/comté, red pepper flakes, fried onions...any or all of these would add a nice touch!


  1. Hard to believe that cheddar is an expensive cheese in France since you have lots of cheeses.
    I love the chili twist you gave to the soup, I'll keep that in mind and chop one for my next broccoli cheddar soup. Thanks

  2. I know, it seems crazy, but cheddar is indeed hard to come by here! That's why we stock up whenever we are in or have friends visiting from the States or the UK (much closer). I have found that both French comte and mimolette make acceptable substitutes for most dishes calling for cheddar though. Hope you do drop in that chili pepper the next time you do broccoli cheddar!

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  4. Gorgeous color and presentation! Hope you're feeling a bit better now :)

  5. Your soup looks beautiful and sounds like just the thing to brighten any day..hope it worked for you. I'm excited to try your recipe :)

  6. Wow! What a fantastic broccoli cheese soup...not a standard recipe! I love the spice of the chili and the herb flavors. Sounds like a very comforting and yummy dinner!