Mountain Cheese Soup with Blueberry-Taleggio Dumplings and Wild Garlic Pesto

Mountain-Cheese-Soup-Blueberry-Taleggio-Dumplings-Wild-Garlic-Pesto-2Walking through the bustling passages winding though the Farmer’s Market on Saturday made several very delicious things blatantly obvious in one fell swoop: It’s Spring! It’s Herb Season! And Blueberry Season is nosing it’s way in along with Asparagus and Strawberry Season!

And it’s April, so the weather is changing faster than anyone can open or close an umbrella. Rainy days are a good thing around these parts this time of the year though, and not so much a thing to be annoyed about even if they cluster up on weekends, literally raining on any and all outdoorsy-plan parades… our asparagus needs them, so we’re used to making the best of them, even celebrating them a little bit~ For example by cooking up something delicious using the other signature ingredients of the season, grab a plate or bowl, comfortably settle down in front of the window and watch the leaves of the trees in front of the house grow larger and greener by the minute. One of my favorite dishes perfectly fitting that particular job description is this yumtastic hug-in-a-bowl~
This, by the way, is a wonderful prep-in-advance kind of deal, each and every component can/should be prepped up to a certain stage until all that’s left to do for dinner is heating up the whole shebang and dig in~

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The Mountain Cheese Soup
1 Brown Onion, finely diced
1 Clove of Garlic, finely diced
1 Tbsp Clarified Butter
1 Tbsp Brown Butter – clicky here for my version of a pantry-jar of Brown Butter, you’ll find the instructions below the list of ingredients, at the head of the Harira recipe
2 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
200ml Dry White Wine
50ml White Port Wine
500ml Vegetable or Light Chicken Stock –
150ml Skimmed Milk
Opt: 1 Tbsp Crème Légère – in case you overdosed on the cheese
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg to taste
250g Mountain Cheese, freshly grated – we used our favorite cave cheese, a kind-of Gruyere’ish number, firm but creamy and quite punchy on the palate…

1) Place a large pot on medium-high heat and add the onion dice, garlic and clarified butter.
2) Sauté the lot of them, stirring occasionally to keep things from sticking, for 4-5 mins until the onions turn translucent.
3) Once that’s done, sift in the flour and add the brown butter.
4) As soon as the butter has melted, grab a wooden spoon and slowly stir the mixture for 2-3 mins.
5) Deglaze the pot with the wine and port and, after making sure nothing’s sticking to the bottom, allow the liquids to bubble up.
6) Stir in the stock of your choice along with the skimmed milk, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the soup to simmer away for 10 mins.
7) This is the perfect opportunity to take care of the dumplings if you haven’t done so already~
8) Once the time’s up, turn the heat to high for a couple of blinks, allow the liquid to bubble up before taking the pot off the heat.
9) Transfer the proto-soup into the jug of your blender or a stick-blender friendly container and give it a good whizz.
10) Strain the soup through a sieve back into the pot.
11) Generously season it with pepper and nutmeg – hold back on he salt until the cheese has made its way in. At this point you could take a break in case you’re preparing this a bit earlier in the day.
12) Once dinnertime draws near, heat the soup on medium heat and stir in the crème and freshly grated cheese in batches – stir each addition until it’s completely dissolved before adding the next.
13) Allow the soup to thicken up a bit into creamy deliciousness – add a bit of stock if gets too thick for your liking down the line.
14) Go through a quick taste-and-adjust routine just before serving – don’t forget to include a drop of the pesto (if you’re going with it) in that taste-test~

The Optional Wild Garlic Pesto
Now, whenever I can, I make this perfectly matching pesto to go along with the soup, but sadly wild garlic has a very limited season in our parts, and it’s not the best candidate for long-time-preservation measures. I tried going with basil and regular garlic instead of the wild garlic but it’s really not the same, so I simply skip the pesto altogether when this soup hits our dinner table outside of wild garlic season. Hence the “optional”~

3 Tbsp Pine Nuts, lightly salted and toasted
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Bunch of Wild Garlic – roundabout 80-100g
½ Unwaxed Lemon, Juice and Zest
3 Oreserved Green Peppercorns
Fleur de Sel & Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

1) Place everything in a food processor, press play, taste, adjust and chill the pesto in a covered container until it’s time to serve~
2) Adjust the consistency to your liking with cold water, lemon juice or more oil.

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The Blueberry-Taleggio Dumplings
1 Shallot, finely diced
1 Tbsp Butter
175g 1 Day-old Ciabatta Bread, cut into ~1cm cubes
Alt: Coarse Panko Breadcrumbs
50g Taleggio Cheese – make sure it’s a young, non-oozy one. Use Raclette or Manchego instead if the only Taleggio you can find is the ripe, oozy one that’s best enjoyed with a slice of bread the second you buy it~
125g Low Fat Milk
2 Medium-sized Eggs
2 Tbsp Fresh Thyme, leaves picked
2 Leaves of Sage, finely chopped
½ Lemon, Zest only
70g All-Purpose or Type 00 Pasta Flour
75g Fresh Blueberries
25g Dried Blueberries, roughly chopped
Sea Salt and freshly ground Pepper

1) Place a wide pan on medium heat, pop in the butter, shallot dice and sage ribbons and allow them to sweat until the onions turn translucent and tender.
2) Add the chopped up dried blueberries, give everything a snazzy swirl and leave them to their own devices in the heat for for 1-2 mins.
3) Add the grated cheese to a large mixing bowl.
4) Transfer the contents of your pan into the same mixing bowl and add the milk, bread dice/-crumbs, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.
5) Crack in the eggs on the tail of the spices and stir the lot with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.
6) Gently fold in the fresh blueberries and get ready to roll~
7) Line a large plate or tray with a sheet of non-stick paper or baking parchment and place it in easy reach.
8) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water up to a gentle simmer.
9) Lightly wet your hands with a bit of water and roll the mixture up into 12-16 dumplings.
10) Try to keep the fresh berries on the inside by nudging them into the soft’ish balls while molding the dough closed around them. This will prevent the berries from bursting in the hot water, taking chunks of the dumplings along with them.
11) Place the dumplings on the tray as you go and pop it into the fridge for the next 2-3 mins.
12) Turn the heat beneath your pot to low once the water is simmering away and add the dumplings – do this in batches if your pot isn’t large enough to hold all of them with a comfortable personal space for each dumpling.
13) Leave them to enjoy their swim for 12 mins – just check up on them from time to time to make sure none are sticking to the bottom or sides of the pot or to each other.
14) While you’re on checkup duty anyways, make sure the water doesn’t bubble up, the dumplings will fall apart if they’re being bounced around by boiling water.
15) Take them out of the water with a slotted spoon and place them on a cooling rack or something like it to drip and cool off.

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Assembling the Dish
The Mountain Cheese Soup
The Optional Wild Garlic Pesto
The Blueberry-Taleggio Dumplings
4 Tbsp of Pine Nuts
Blueberries

1) As the soup is heating up and slowly turning irresistibly cheesy – see Step 12) of the Soup Prep – you could fry the dumplings crispy and golden with a bit of butter and honey if you’d like, or just keep them as they are. I recommend giving the crispy version a go at least once~
2) Once everything is ready, ladle the soup into warmed bowls, add a few drops of the pesto and top them off with the dumplings, toasted pinenuts and a couple of stray blueberries!
3) A slice of hearty dark bread makes this the ultimate “lock out the world” comfort soup on an icky day

Enjoy~!

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