Soup is the salad of the winter for me. I could no more eat a bowl of salad leaves when it’s near freezing outside the Apple Chapel as run a marathon but I do need to get vegetable matter into my daily diet somehow. If I’ve just been the gym, I may be able to down a smoothie, even in the depths of December, whilst my post-exercise buzz and body temp are running high but really, a steaming hot bowl of thick and unctuous soup is where it’s at for me in cold weather. Slabs of sourdough bought fresh from the bakery down the road with a slathering of salty butter are indispensable accompaniments which turn a frequently thrifty bowl of soup into a real meal. My Instant Pot Broccoli & Bacon Soup is my latest lunch time obsession! 

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Like making gravy, making a really good soup took me a long time, longer than most I suspect! I never knew what the fuss was about but after I got the ratio of stock to ingredients right and seasoned it boldly, a real love affair began. It’s the perfect lunch whether you can make it fresh from the comfort of your own home or take it in a flask to tuck into at your desk. Broccoli and cheese go together just like cauliflower and cheese do, but add some smoked streaky bacon and man alive, is this another world good! Salty and savoury from adding a heel of Parmesan during cooking and served with crisp little lardons of bacon on top, you will be planning your second bowlful after your first spoonful.

The beauty of making this in the Instant Pot is that it takes a mere 5 minutes of cooking time (yes, you read that right!) which means your soup is a lovely vivid green (also helped along by the sneaky additions of a leek, rib of celery and some still frozen spinach too). My secret for making it extra thick and creamy without adding any unnecessary calories from cream is adding a small amount of white basmati rice. It takes 4 minutes to cook this usually in the IP so the extra minute of cooking time this soup needs means the rice is super tender but when blitzed up with your stick blender, it is undetectable beyond how thick the soup is. Another handy dandy secret of this recipe is we all know overcooked broccoli aint the most appetising smell to linger around your home – but crispy, smoked bacon? Oh my, that smell has me salivating every time so no more school dinner soup smells for you, just the delicious smells of a bacon sandwich and the taste of a luxuriously thick and creamy broccoli soup.  

Instant Pot Broccoli & Bacon Soup
Serves 6
Fast and fabulous, this broccoli sauce made with smoked bacon and Parmesan cheese will make you forget overcooked, school dinner broccoli forever!
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Ingredients
  1. 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  2. 1 tsp olive oil
  3. 1 large head or 2 small heads of broccoli, chopped (use the stalks too and chop them into 1/2 inch sized pieces)
  4. 1 skinny leek, roughly chopped and thoroughly washed*
  5. 1 rib of celery, roughly chopped
  6. 4 nuggets of frozen spinach (leaf or chopped)**
  7. 4 tbsp white basmati rice
  8. Heel of a wedge of Parmesan cheese plus extra to shave over when serving
  9. 1 litre of vegetable stock
  10. Lots of freshly cracked black pepper
  11. A judicious amount of sea salt!
Instructions
  1. Start by setting your Instant Pot to Sauté and add the oil. Chop or cut the bacon with scissors into small lardons then cook until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is crisp. Stir constantly to prevent sticking. When cooked, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate until ready to serve.
  2. If there is a lot of fat, pour most of it away then add all the vegetables and rice then stir very well to distribute everything then cover with stock and tuck the Parmesan rind in.
  3. Cancel Sauteé mode then pop the lid on, set to Manual for 5 minutes on high pressure.
  4. When cooked, remove lid, retrieve the rind of the Parmesan, scraping any melted cheese into the pot then use a stick blender to purée your soup.
  5. Taste for seasoning - add lots of black pepper but remember the cheese and bacon add salt so you will likely need a very small amount only.
  6. Serve ladled into bowls and garnished with a few small shavings of Parmesan and a few crisp pieces of the cooked bacon. Makes 6 large servings suitable for to serve as a meal with bread on the side to dunk.
Notes
  1. *= it goes without saying that you should wash all your veg but leeks are particularly sneaky and hide the soil which they grow in! I find it easiest to slice lengthways then chop roughly before washing very well in a sieve to get it all out.
  2. **= frozen spinach comes in the discs/nuggets in the UK which are about 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch in depth. I wouldn't use fresh spinach here.
Every Nook & Cranny http://www.everynookandcranny.net/
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