Brussels Sprout and Fennel Chowder. Hmmmm. Intriguing, no? There’s cabbage soup, so why not Brussels sprouts, in liquid form. Well, folks, it works and it works well. This soup is vegetarian, even vegan, if you omit the cheese (but why would you?). It’s filling, without being heavy. And most importantly, it just tastes really, really delicious. Brussels sprouts are absolutely the star of this soup and all the other ingredients are just bit players. But, they play their bit well. I wanted it to be pretty chunky, so I sliced the Brussels sprouts into about thirds or fourths, depending on their size; mine were medium-sized (whatever that really means!). However, I think it might work puréed. I wanted a broth-based soup rather than a creamy chowder. To make our soup, get our your favorite soup pot and let’s begin…I used a powdered vegetable base and water, as I really wanted the vegetable flavors to shine. I had some leeks, which I love to add to soup, along with fresh fennel bulb. For seasoning, a couple of tablespoons of dried sliced garlic, a bay leaf, a bit of thyme leaves and just a smidgen of curry powder. Yes, curry powder. If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know it’s there…but it is there. And the soup (and many other things, too) are better with it, than without it. Add cold water to cover by about 1 inch and simmer until the sprouts are a little more than half cooked. I wanted to add potato, but I didn’t want this to be a “potato soup”. I wanted carrots, for their sweetness, but not their orange color. So, a white carrot and then a parsnip. I wanted the sprouts to still have some “tooth”, so I decided to par-boil the potatoes, carrot and parsnip, until almost done. Then, I dumped them (including some of their liquid) into the Brussels sprout mixture and simmered for about 6-8 minutes or so. Taste and correct the seasoning…always remember to do that. Just before serving, a large handful of baby spinach leaves get tossed in. Grated Asiago cheese and good bread, and that’s dinner! I did add just a bit of cornstarch to just bring it together, but not really thicken it much…this wasn’t gravy-like. This is almost an eat-with-a-fork soup. And if you are inclined to stray from the vegetarian path, bacon or prosciutto would be a lovely addition.
Oh yes, a word about leeks. Make certain you slit them lengthwise and run enough cold water down the leeks, to remove any trace of sandy grit. When leeks are raised they are planted in a trench, usually in somewhat sandy soil. Slowly, as they grow, the trench is filled in. This is why the base remains white. As you might imagine, some of that sand gets into the leaves, which then grown, hanging onto that sand. So clean your leeks well. A sad note, Trader Joe’s™ no longer sells bags of frozen, sliced leeks (or frozen pearl onions, it turns out). I’m really bummed about that, as I always had at least a couple of bags in the freezer…oh, well. Such is life.
I’ve listed the quantities I used, but you can alter these to your heart’s desire. But, please do not omit the curry powder.
Brussels Sprout, Fennel and Leek Soup
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned and sliced lengthwise
- 1/2 fresh fennel bulb, cored removed and chopped
- 2 small leeks, cleaned very well, chopped (include the tender green parts)
- 2-3 tablespoons dried sliced garlic (or 5-6 fresh garlic cloves, sliced)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon good-quality curry powder
- 2-3 tablespoons dry vegetable base
- 6-8 cups water
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large white carrot, peeled and sliced (see NOTE)
- 1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced (see NOTE)
- Cornstarch slurry (to thicken, optional)
- 1 large handful baby spinach leaves (about 1 1/2 cups)
- Freshly grated Asiago cheese
You’ll need a good sized stock pot. Slice the Brussels sprouts into about thirds or fourths, depending on their size; mine were medium-sized (whatever that really means!). Place the sprouts, fennel, leeks, dried garlic, bay leaf, thyme leaves, curry powder, and vegetable base into the pot. Add cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer gently, partially covered for about 8-10 minutes. Add the potato, carrot and parsnip; continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the parsnip and potato are tender. You may need to add additional water. Thicken, just slightly, with a cornstarch slurry, if desired. Stir in the spinach leaves; let stand for 2 minutes. Stir and taste; add salt, if needed. Serve piping hot, with Asiago cheese grated over the top, if desired. This reheats well and may even be better the reheated.
NOTE: If you have the parsnip and carrot are large, you may wish to cook the separately. I did that, then when tender, poured them, cooking water and all into the pot. Do Not omit the curry powder, but don’t add more, unless you want a distinctively curry flavor. This would be equally delicious with toasted caraway or cumin seeds (slightly crushed) added. This is what I did, but don’t be confined by the amounts I used. If you wish, add 1 cup of heavy cream…then you have a chowder!
Brussels Sprout, Fennel and Leek Soup Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2020. All rights reserved.