This soup was inspired a few years back by Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good collection of clean, good-for-you recipes.
Our version incorporates local spices that add warming, Middle Eastern flavors, and we use the broccoli stem as well as the florets to achieve a more substantial, filling soup without adding any potatoes or cream. One of the flavorings we use here is mastic, which may be unfamiliar to some. It’s a gum collected from a species of tree in the cashew family that is sold as small, translucent granules often called pearls. The flavor is distinctive: resiny, almost piney and redolent of sunbaked hillsides. It’s very strong, so use it sparingly.
Creamy Broccoli and Arugula Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 granules mastic
1.25 liters (5–6 cups) hot water
1 medium head broccoli
2 pods cardamom
2 bay leaves
2 handfuls arugula
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flax seeds (optional)
Cut the florets from the broccoli head, and then chop the stem, discarding any woody part at the base.
In a large pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic and mastic for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.
Stir in the broccoli florets and chopped stem, then add the hot water, bay leaves and cardamom. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the broccoli is softened. Add the arugula and stir for a couple more minutes, then take the pan off the heat.
Remove the cardamom and bay leaves, then blend the soup to a creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a dry skillet, toast the flax seeds over medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan continuously. Serve the soup hot, with a sprinkling of flax seeds on top for some crunch.
Reprinted with permission from Bilhana: Wholefood Recipes From Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco
Yasmine Elgharably and Shewekar Elgharably, 2020, AUC Press, aucpress.com
Yasmine Elgharably is a self-taught home cook with a business background and a huge passion for Middle Eastern food. She is the founder of a partner in cairocooking.com, a recipe sharing platform helping cooks across the Middle East. She is also based in Cairo.
Sheweker Elgharably is a certified holistic health coach and culinary nutrition expert based in Cairo, Egypt. She completed the Integrative Nutrition Program and the Culinary Nutritional Program at the US-based Academy of Culinary Nutrition. Originally an established interior designer, after seeing how small food and lifestyle changes have a huge impact on health, she wanted to help people strive to live healthier and happier lives. Shewekar is also the founder of #HealthyRocks.