Broccoli and Cheddar Chowder

*Broccoli and Cheddar Chowder*
Serves 6

A healthy and satisfyingly delicious winter chowder recipe using up bits from the vegetable bin.  

1 TBS light olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large stalk of celery, trimmed and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 TBS plain flour
1 tsp dry mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 pound fresh broccoli, stems peeled and chopped,
florets, separated and cut into bite sized pieces
900ml of vegetable stock (3 1/2cups)
120g strong cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup)
(Lower fat cheese works fine)
(plus a bit extra to sprinkle on the finished soup when you serve it)
125ml of cream (1/2 cup) (you can also use low fat evaporated milk, undiluted.  This is what I use.)
fine sea salt and black pepper to taste 

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.   Add the onion, shallot, carrot and celery.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and celery have softened, without browning.  Add the potato and garlic. Cook, stirring until the garlic becomes fragrant.   Add the flour, mustard and cayenne, stirring it in well and allowing it to cook for a couple minutes.   Stir in the vegetable stock along with the broccoli stems.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Uncover and stir in the broccoli florets.  Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and mash it a bit with a potato masher.  Don't mash it too much, as you want a coarse texture.  Stir in the cheddar and cream.   Taste and adjust seasoning as desired with salt and pepper.  Ladle into heated bowls.  Top with some grated cheese and serve.

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