Saturday, 9 November 2013

Ham & Cheese Soup

See that bread?  Link at end of this post...

I seem to be on a real soup faze lately.   Just like how in the summer I could eat salad-with-meat for all 60 days of summer, and when it starts to get cold, I could eat pumpkin in every single meal and beverage for 60 days straight, I have now slid over into soup season.

Yea, I say there's a soup season.  It comes after pumpkin season and it may stick around for a while because around here winter can last from November to April.

So it is that I have an entire Pinterest Board dedicated to soups.  Not just MY soups, of course, but all kinds of hearty, filling paleo/primal friendly stick-to-your-ribs soups.  And if that isn't alone enough to satisfy you, I also have several paleo biscuit recipes throughout the boards.

This soup idea came after I'd boiled down a ham bone into a crazy-thickly jelled broth, then asked my helpful husband (cough, cough) to pour it into ice cube trays to freeze.  He did that, and when he ran out of ice cube trays, he poured a whopping 3-4 cups into a giant tupperware container and froze that, too.   What the heck does one do with such a large container of ham broth?  I mean, the ham cubes make great flavour-boosters, but several cups of it?  Ham soup, I say!

Now, typical ham and cheese soup is full of potatoes--and I'm not totally against potatoes, and you can totally use potatoes, but it just so happened that I had a bag full of sunchokes in my fridge (ever tried sunchokes?  See my note after the recipe).  I'm still using up all the odds and ends that came in my final CSA boxes.  I think I have enough radishes and beets to last an entire year now...

The creamy part of this cheese soup is a simple roux that gets thinned back down, it's so easy-peasy and yes, I DID use real cheese.  Not a lot.  But no milk or cream (you could totally use cream if you wanted to).  And you could probably get away with chicken stock if you needed to, too (but you'd have to add seasonings because it has a lot less flavour than ham broth)--but I wanted to use up some of my ham broth (which is the tastiest, I must insist) and leftover ham.  Because soup is all about using up leftovers, and basically making something from nothing.

Do not skip the roux.  Do not just add tapioca to the coconut milk to thicken this soup.  Browning the butter first makes a HUGE taste difference.  You CAN, however, skip the cheese and still have a pretty nice soup, just saying, but real cheese totally makes it awesome.  Imagine Swiss, or Gruyere cheese, even.

Alright, so here goes...


2 cups ham broth
2 cups water
1 cup leftover ham, chopped
1/2 leek, rinsed and chopped -white part only- (or 1 medium onion)
2 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 sunchokes (peeled and cubed) or 1 medium potato
3 Tbs butter, divided
1/2 can full fat coconut milk (or full-fat real cream)
1 Tbs tapioca starch
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese, or cheese of choice


First, pull out a heavy-bottomed soup pot or dutch oven.  Heat to medium.  While it's heating, chop your leek, celery and ham, and peel and chop your sunchokes.  In pot, melt 1 Tbs butter and saute leek and celery until tender and leek is growing translucent.  Add your broth, water and sunchokes and bring to a boil.  Let it simmer until sunchokes are tender.

While that's simmering, make your roux--Heat a frypan over medium heat and add butter.  (Measure out coconut milk, cheese and tapioca, have it ready since this part goes fast) Let the butter sit in the pan, stirring occasionally, until it just barely begins to turn amber-brown.  Then, stirring constantly, sprinkle your tapioca starch in, and keep it moving in the pan.  It will immediately begin to thicken.  Be ready to thin i back down with the coconut milk, still stirring.  It will thicken A LOT.  You may want to remove it from heat halfway through to slow it down while you keep mixing it.  Remove from heat if you haven't already, and stir in your cheese.

When sunchokes are tender, stir in your ham and cheese sauce.  Don't worry, as you stir it will mix in and become thick and smooth.  Do not boil at this point.


Honestly, ham broth is so flavourful (and often salty) that I didn't need any spices whatsoever.  It was perfect.  I kid you not.

**So, what are sunchokes AKA Jerusalem Artichokes?...  They are not even related to artichokes.  The somewhat ginger-root-like knobby beige tubers, sometimes with a slightly pink tinge, have stark white flesh inside.  They are very low in starch, almost flavourless, and incredibly versatile.  Sunchokes can be eaten raw, something like jiicama--but where they really excel is boiled and mashed as a potato replacement--or at least, as an addition to potato to reduce the amount of starch.  Because sunchokes are VERY high in inulin--that "pre" biotic that they put in yogurt these days (and pretty much everything else) this high-fiber food can cause some (ahem) gas and bloating when your body isn't used to it.   Introduce it slowly to your diet (this soup is a relatively small amount).

Sunchokes can be grown right here in Ontario--and in fact, all over North America, even though most of us have never heard of them before.  They are not only rich in inulin, but also iron, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin C.  So don't be afraid of them.  I think you'll learn to love them.

And the bread?  That's a paleo sweet potato bread from Wholefood Simply.  She's got some great stuff on her site, so check her out!

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