Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cheddar-Ale Soup

This soup is something to write home about. It's spicy, it's hearty, and it will make your kitchen feel a bit like a British pub, only without the stench of malt vinegar. It's the soup equivalent of Welsh Rarebit, for those of you who are familiar with pub food. Bottom line - it's delicious. And if you have British parents like I do, you're bound to feel a wave of nostalgia as you eat it, even if you can't quite imagine your mum making it.

Be warned that the ale can make the soup a bit bitter, so I wouldn't recommend putting any more than half a bottle. The sweetness of the sauteed veggies helps to offset the bitterness. You can always drink the other half of the bottle rather than let it go to waste!

Cheddar-Ale Soup
serves 3-4
adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 leek, white and green parts only, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups low sodium chicken or veggie broth
1/2 bottle (6 oz.) good quality ale, poured into a bowl
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the veggies and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Stir in flour and mustard until incorporated, cook for about 1 minute. Add the broth and beer and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking occasionally to break up lumps, until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

3. Add cheeses and whisk constantly for 3 minutes or so, until cheese is melted and well distributed. Do not let boil or the soup may develop a stringy texture. Stir in cayenne and Worcestershire. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with parsley.

Enjoy with some crusty bread for dunking. Yum!

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