It’s May…the middle of May to be exact, and it’s cold outside. Like October or early November cold. It seems Mother Nature is a bit confused these days. We’re done with winter. We’re done with fall. We’re done with rain and cold and wind and grey skies. But yet that has been our weather forecast for the first half of this month.
I should be posting summery pasta salads and fruity desserts and drool-worthy BBQ dishes, but here I am, writing another blog post about a stick-to-your-ribs, hug-in-a-bowl kind of soup. Because damn, I’m freezing again.
There’s an interesting story behind this soup. It’s a “copycat” recipe, which is to say, a homemade (and albeit healthier) version of a favorite grocery store or restaurant dish. I created this recipe for my dad, who is pretty handy in the kitchen by his own rights, but needed some help replacing a now-discontinued kitchen staple.
I’ll start off by saying my dad is not vegan by any stretch, but he enjoys plant-based foods (especially when I cook for him) and is open to steering away from traditional dairy and meat from time-to-time. (No joke, his favorite burger is Beyond Meat and he is hopelessly addicted to Gardein Chick’n Sliders.) Anyway, for years he has used Campbell’s Homestyle Creamy Gouda Bisque as a base for a couple of his stew recipes. However, Campbell’s recently discontinued it and he has exhausted the supply in the greater Boca Raton and Palm Beach areas of Florida, where he lives and works.
Jokingly, he said to me one night that he should try and recreate it, but he’s “not me” and couldn’t really do it. So I took it upon myself to do it for him. After having him send me pictures of the ingredient list from his last remaining can, I grabbed a pen and notebook and within 15 minutes, emailed him a recipe that provided a similar flavor profile, but using plant-based ingredients.
Now, I’ll admit that I have no idea what the canned version actually tasted like, because a) Campbell’s Homestyle brand is not available in Canada, and b) it’s not vegan so it wouldn’t be something I’d purchase anyway. But from my dad’s description of it, I had a feeling this one hit all the right notes: bright red pepper and onion, smoky, creamy gouda, a bit of heat from cajun seasoning, and thick creaminess thanks to some yukon gold potatoes.
A couple of weeks after I sent him the recipe, my stepmother tested it out and they both gave it two thumbs up. So clearly I hit the mark. What I love about this soup is that it’s velvety smooth, rich but not over-the-top indulgent, and it’s full of great flavor.
The canned version has chunks of chicken in it, and you could easily roast or saute up some Gardein or Beyond Meat lightly seasoned chick’n strips to toss into this soup once it’s cooked, but really, it works just as well without it.
So, until it warms up here in Toronto, I’ll be hunched over a steaming-hot bowl of this lusciously creamy, thick soup. Maybe someday soon I’ll get to post a summer recipe.
Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda Bisque
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 large white onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C all purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp tomato paste
4-5 medium size Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
2 tbsp cajun seasoning
1 cup daiya farmhouse block smoked gouda, shredded
½ cup daiya farmhouse block old cheddar, shredded
1. In a large stock pot, heat oil and butter on medium high heat. Add onions and peppers and cook until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
2. Add flour and cook for 2 min until all flour is absorbed in veggies. Add vegetable stock, coconut milk, tomato paste and potatoes and stir well to combine.
3.. Bring to an almost boil, then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10-15 min or until potatoes are soft.
4. Remove from heat; puree with a stick blender until soup is smooth. Return to heat and stir in cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, and both cheeses. Stir until cheese is completely melted. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.