Soup

Do as the Brits Do: Eat This When the Weather Starts to Turn

September  9, 2015

A vegetable soup that's British pub fare done right. 

As an American living in England, there are many things that I find romantic: the deep history of the island, the ancient castles, the royal family, the tiny streets, the marvelous monuments, and the venerable museums. 

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Last week, on a trip to the Royal Academy of Arts, we stumbled across an adjacent exhibit of The Magna Carta containing documents dating from the 13th century. Literally stumbled across it; we didn’t even know it was there. There was a well-dressed man standing at the entrance to a side building who said, “Hi, um, excuse me, um would you like to see the Magna Carta?” That’s how serious the history is on this island.  

Even my daily routine is romantic. It involves walking my children, in their school-issued blazers with my daughter in a straw boaters cap, down Victorian houses to their school, where they enter an edifice built sometime in the 1700s. I then return home to work, stopping along the way at local organic shops for produce, passing by the street vendors on Portobello Road, ducking and weaving through packs of tourists with cameras drawn.

Even the weather is something to behold. In the summer, the days last forever. Sun-up happens when at 4 A.M. and sundown can be well past 9 P.M. Runners are out in the parks well before the park staff wake up.

More: Be like a Brit and make crumpets.

After work, buildings in London expel their contents onto grassy squares, royal parks, and river banks while friends gather, with bottles of rosé and picnic baskets, soaking up the daylight as if to store if for later in the year. The winter contrasts deeply with the summer. In the winter, sun-up is at a lazy 8 A.M. and sundown rushes along at 4 P.M. On those days, the city takes on a different vibe: Commuters rush by with their collars turned up against the damp with colorful scarves neatly tucked into city-sensible black wool coats. The young, the elderly, and families take shelter in their local pubs for the comfort of warmth, conversation, and shelter from the damp.

  

This is one of the most magical things about living in England: Pubs here are not solely drinking dens. They are gathering places for families, they are community hubs, and they are escapes from work and from home. They serve as family and social gathering places and they serve to strengthen social networks, support the community, foster tradition, and provide a meeting ground.

Many pubs, in fulfilling their role as community hub, serve food, as well. Some serve food that is better than others but one staple of pub food, at any level, is soup. It is easy to prepare, simple to fancy-up with a bit of garnish, can be served quickly, and during the majority of the year, when cool weather and damp skies abound, it is particularly appealing. A few recurring soups are Minted Pea or Roasted Cauliflower and there are always creative options served at the gastro-est of pubs, like Parsnip and Cumin Soup with Orange Sour Cream. Every so often, however, regardless of how upmarket a pub is, they pull out an old favorite from the archives. They look for a soup that is a perfect antidote to damp, dismal weather and something that will fill you with warmth and comfort. This is when you see Broccoli and Stilton Soup go up on the chalkboard menu.

  

Simplicity is essential here. Whether a disinterested kitchen employee or Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, when Broccoli and Stilton Soup makes it to the menu, it is offering up comfort, ease, and consistency. There will be no bells and whistles on this one—that is not what diners are looking for when they pull into your pub, out of the cold, wet rain and take up a corner seat with a half-pint of Guinness and a warm bowl for lunch. Pub owners know this.

What makes this particular soup different than others is the roasting of the broccoli, potatoes, and onion before blending. Roasting concentrates the flavors of the vegetables and creates a nuttiness that compliments the Stilton cheese’s buttery, rich, and peppery aroma and flavor. Despite the extra step, the simplicity remains: Even though vegetables are roasted in the oven, they are all cooked together, and then the roasting pan itself is deglazed on the stove.

Not much is more comforting on a blustery, cold day in Britain than a hot, velvety soup in front of you, the steam fogging up your glasses as you wait impatiently to dive in and warm yourself from the inside out.   

This. This is romance.

Broccoli & Stilton Soup

Serves 4

325 grams new potatoes
450 grams broccoli florets (about 2 heads)
medium yellow onions (about 85 grams)
Salt and pepper, to taste
60 milliliters olive oil
liter low sodium chicken broth, divided
stalks broccoli rapini, for garnish
100 grams crumbled Stilton blue cheese (plus some for garnish)
tablespoon crème fraîche

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

What is your "go-to pub soup"? Tell us in the comments below!

With a little digging, we're sometimes lucky enough to unearth Heirloom Recipes, dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next. 

Photos by Jessica Bride

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20 Comments

Tina M. October 1, 2016
The disinterested cook at the pub you refer to is probably an uninterested cook. Disinterested means impartial.
 
Laura H. October 23, 2015
Okay, so you definitely are living my dream! After living in South Bank for 5 months for uni study abroad program, I'm hell bent on getting back to that magical city! Just reading your words brings me back to those super chilly winter nights when I was rushing home from the library and indeed stopped right into the pub to join my flatmates. There you go making me feel all nostalgic. Definitely will be making this soup on the next rainy day Seattle brings (shouldn't be too long, ha!)!
 
Andreas D. September 12, 2015
I used to drive old cars, specifically Land Rovers, during my time in the UK. There were three consecutive years where I could not leave the canvas top home when going for a drive. It rained at least once a day. I loved London, but I am so glad to have warm summers now - and even our cold, but sunny and dry, winters don't bother me as much as the varying degrees of grey drizzle from October to May that make a UK winter.
 
Author Comment
Belle A. September 12, 2015
I am originally from New Orleans and have lived in London off-and-on for the past 8 years. I survive by spending a ton of time in my native New Orleans and visiting "the continent" as much as possible. Check in with me in January though....we'll see if I'm still so positive.
 
Andreas D. September 12, 2015
Nice. I lived in London for all of my twenties, and a couple of these years just off the Portobello Road. It was scruffier, and way more affordable, than it is now but broccoli and stilton soup was a reliable winter favourite in most any pub.
 
Author Comment
Belle A. September 12, 2015
That's where I live now :-)
 
Nigel B. September 11, 2015
I read your comments on life living in the uk<br />If u think its so great now u should have been in london 30 yes ago!<br />The fact is that its being changed out of all recognition. And not for the better!<br />The pubs are closing by the week.cos folk are not allowed to smoke and its cheaper to buy drink and consume at home <br />I'm afraid u paint a lovely picture but its all changing fast!
 
Author Comment
Belle A. September 12, 2015
Unfortately as a non smoker I'm thrilled about smoking being banned from pubs. I did a lot of research on pubs for another article and saw that statistically they have been on the decline since the early 1900s so while it is sad to see cornerstones of communities shuttering their windows it isn't *solely* because of smoke and cheap booze in supermarkets. On a positive note a lot are turning to food to help make up for lost revenue. I don't doubt that London is changing -- and that the UK is changing but hopefully the romance will remain.
 
kimberly.godwin September 10, 2015
I love roasting veggies, so this sounds delightful. It happens to be almost 100 degrees out in California right now, so I think I'll save this to my try later pile.
 
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Belle A. September 12, 2015
Yeah, Kim, that's what my friends in New Orleans are saying too! You might want to give this a shot in the winter. Let me know when you do though :-)
 
walkie74 September 10, 2015
I would be all over this... if it weren't 80 degrees right now... at 10:31 at night... do Brits have a cold soup?
 
Author Comment
Belle A. September 12, 2015
They love gazpacho....
 
Bella B. September 9, 2015
Oh yum! great recipe<br /><br />http://xoxobella.com
 
Author Comment
Belle A. September 12, 2015
Thanks Bella! I hope you try it and love it!<br />
 
Amanda S. September 9, 2015
Nothing but this story (straw boaters caps! upturned collars! pubs for families!) could make me want hot, velvety soup—but now it's all I'm craving. Thank you!
 
Author Comment
Belle A. September 12, 2015
You are so sweet Amanda! Thank you. I hope you try it and enjoy it. Wish I could send over jar of it to you....once the temp drops.
 
Moira September 9, 2015
Yumm! I love Broccoli & Stilton soup! My family lived in England for 2 years when I was younger, so your article made me very nostalgic! Maybe not for the ridiculousness that is a English winter. It's so dark and wet! When we lived there it was the wettest winter they'd had on record (350+ years!). But this soup sounds amazing and I will definitely have to make it!
 
Author Comment
Belle A. September 12, 2015
Oh no! I hope that remains the wettest winter! I'm a bit nervous.... Let me know if you make the soup. I'd love to hear what you think.
 
ChefJune September 9, 2015
What a lovely article and appetizing soup that I am now looking forward to making when the temperature (and humidity) dip.
 
Author Comment
Belle A. September 12, 2015
Thanks June! Let me know what you think!