Have you ever convinced yourself that something is delicious so you can actually handle eating it? Let me count out a few of my least favourite-tasting healthy things that I consume with disdain: spirulina, chlorella, most sea vegetables, flax seed oil, and wheatgrass juice. I have also been like this with broccoli, probably my entire life. Especially after studying nutrition and learning just how incredibly good this veggie is for us, I’ve really forced myself to eat more of it, regardless of how yucky it tastes to me.
The challenge lives on. Although I have found suitable homes for most of the aforementioned foods in smoothies (thank goodness for smoothies), broccoli just doesn’t work all that well blended up with banana. Call me crazy.
My first introduction to broccoli was cream of broccoli soup, of the canned variety: salty white mire with infinitesimal flecks of green, which I suppose was supposed to make whoever is eating feel a little healthier. But the broccoli? Is it even in there? All I remember is a hot bowl of thick, sulfur-flavoured cream, and the only indication of broccoli being the putrid fart-y stench. My five-year-old self was put off to say the least, and broccoli quickly made it to the top of my ick list.
Although I’ve made it a habit to cover up the taste of broccoli more often than letting its true flavour shine through, this soup is different. First of all, it’s mostly broccoli. And it’s scrumptious. It doesn’t hide underneath crazy cheese sauce or dressing because it doesn’t need to! It’s earthy and delightful. It’s shockingly green and decidedly not fart-y because the broccoli isn’t overcooked. It’s rich and creamy with a hint of spice that you can dial up or down depending on whom you’re cooking for.
I used cashews to deliver that unctuous richness, and nutritional yeast to mimic the cheese-y taste of dairy. Not only does this really take the soup to a whole other level, swirling that velvety cream through the bowl of green creates a beguilingly beautiful result. I mean, just look at it. This is satisfying and stick-to-your-ribs kind of fare, which is perfect as the autumn wind begins to blow. I am proud of this soup. It marks a grown-up kind of shift in my palette and my diet. A soup to celebrate not just health, but deliciousness.
How to make Broccoli not a bummer
Brassica vegetables! Repulsing children since the beginning of time!
Okay, why do kids hate this group of veggies so darn much? Even adults tend to shy away from them in many cases. I believe sulfur is to blame – that uber-healthy, yet stinky and gas-producing compound naturally found in broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and the like.
There is a very important trick to remember when cooking these beauties up, and that is to not cook them very much at all! Broccoli contains good amounts of chlorophyll, the “life blood” of plants, which actually helps counteract the sulfuric taste, smell and wind-making properties. Chlorophyll, however, is very sensitive to heat and once it’s gone, that rotten egg scent which would otherwise be neutralized, will likely spoil all hope of your munchkins munching the veg. Five minutes is all it takes to lightly cook most brassicas, while maintaining their high levels of chlorophyll and vitamin C. This will also reduce gas, and that makes everyone happy.
Steaming is the healthiest way to enjoy broccoli, especially if you consume the steaming water as well. In this case of this soup, the water in which the broccoli is cooked, gets blended up into the final dish, making this a mineral-rich soup where very little nutrition is lost.
If you are going to cook the stems of broccoli (waste not want not!), steam them 2-3 minutes before adding the florets, as they take a little longer. Remember that the broccoli leaves are completely edible as well and loaded with nutrients.
Cream of Broccoli Cashew Soup
1 lb / 500g onions, chopped
1 knob coconut oil
½ tsp. sea salt
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs / 1kg broccoli, chopped into florets
6 cups vegetable broth
fresh green chili, minced (enough to suit your taste)
½ cup nutritional yeast
1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender stems only
2 tsp. lemon juice
sea salt to taste
chili flakes for garnish, if desired
1 cup / 150g raw cashews
1 ¼ cups / 300ml water
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. sea salt
1. Place cashews in a large bowl and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt, stir and let soak at room temperature for about 4 hours (overnight is fine). Drain and rinse.
2. Place cashews in a blender, add all other cashew cream ingredients and blend on the highest setting until completely smooth. Season to taste. Set aside.
3. Heat a knob of coconut oil in a large stockpot. When melted, add onions and a few pinches of sea salt, stir, and cook until the onions have softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and chili, stir, cook for 2 minutes. Next add the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and simmer for just five minutes – do not overcook! The broccoli should be bright green and slightly al dente.
4. Remove about half of the cashew cream from the blender and set aside. Add the stockpot contents to the blender (you may need to do this in batches) and blend on the highest setting until smooth. Add the nutritional yeast, parsley, and lemon juice. Blend on high until smooth. Season to taste.
5. To serve, pour the soup into bowls. Add a few spoonfuls of the leftover cashew cream and swirl into the soup. Sprinkle with chili flakes and a couple parsley leaves. Enjoy hot.
By the way, thank you all SO much for an absolutely fabulous time in Amsterdam! The cooking classes, lectures, cookbook event, and Restaurant De Kas dinner were tons of fun for me and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. I have plenty of beautiful photos so stay tuned to Facebook where I will share them very soon!
With gratitude and broccoli,
Show me your soup on Instagram: #MNRbroccolisoup