|Cream of Cauliflower soup
We've created a basic recipe for Cauliflower vegetable soup that you can dress up or dress down. We show you how to make this soup and how to change its complexion by adding dried porcini, Indian or Thai curry pastes, gorgonzola, pancetta, scallops, even truffle oil to enhance its creamy earthy characteristics.
Serves 4 (halves or doubles easily)
1 medium onion
2 medium potatoes (400g)
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 litre of water or stock
200ml (1 cup) milk
1. Trim the green stalks from the cauliflower and remove the tough stem at the end and discard. (You can use some of the good parts of the green stalks in the soup if you wish.) Cut the cauliflower body into thick slices, then chop roughly. Peel the onion and cut into rough dice. Peel the potatoes and cut into rough dice.
2. Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Add the vegetables and thyme leaves and toss well. Turn the heat to low. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables for up to 10 minutes, turning frequently so the vegetables don't burn or brown. If they start to stick, add a little water or stock and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook the vegetables less than ten minutes if you are not confident of them not sticking - if you burn them the taste will appear in the soup. (Listen to the pan and as soon as you hear a crackly, sticky noise, stir it well.)
3. Add the water or stock to the pan with the milk and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and cook until the vegetables are soft. Halfway through, check the seasoning and add a little more salt if you need to. It's better to season the soup during cooking then to add all the seasoning at the end.
3. Leave the soup to cool a little and liquidise in a blender in batches (being careful not to over fill) or in a food processor. Return to a clean pan and heat before serving.
To jazz up the basic cauliflower soup recipe
TO MAKE A CREAMIER CAULIFLOWER SOUP: Use half milk and half water or half milk and half stock to make an even creamier richer soup (though this recipe is very creamy already). You can also replace 100ml of the milk with fromage frais, single or double cream, sour cream or yogurt. Add it when you are blending the soup, then reheat the soup gently so it doesn't curdle.
SEASONING THE SOUP: If you use vegetable or chicken stock, be careful not to oversalt it as the stock will contain salt (stockcubes are nearly all salt, that's why it's listed as the first ingredient!).
USING DRIED MUSHROOMS: Soak about 5-6 dried porcini or cep mushrooms in hot water, drain them and chop roughly. Fry them for a minute with the vegetables just before you add the water or stock. Strain the soaking water (to remove any grit) and calculate the water as part of the litre of stock.
BLUE CHEESE AND CAULIFLOWER RECIPE: Add 1-2oz of crumbled gorgonzola or any salty blue cheese such as Stilton to the soup when reheating. Add more cheese if you like a stronger flavour. Garnish with cooked pancetta and crumbled blue cheese.
TRUFFLE AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP: Serve the soup with a good drizzle of decent olive oil or truffle oil. Shaving some fresh white or black truffle on top would be amazing.
PARMESAN CHEESE AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP: Add 1-2 ounces of parmesan at the end of cooking, before blending, and sprinkle grated parmesan on top of the soup before serving.
CURRIED CAULIFLOWER SOUP: Omit the thyme and instead fry a good tablespoon of Indian curry paste and a teaspoon of lightly toasted coriander or cumin seeds for a minute with the vegetables, just before adding the water or stock, to make curried cauliflower soup. You can also use Thai curry paste but instead of the thyme, coriander or cumin seeds, add a crushed chopped stem of lemongrass or a piece of finely chopped ginger or galangal instead. (To maximise the flavours, the curry oil in the paste should bubble in the pan before you add the water and it should smell fragrant.)
POTATO AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP - To add more texture to this soup, reserve one of the potatoes, peel and cut it into neat cubes and add it to the blended soup and cook until soft but still holding its shape.
PANCETTA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP - Cook strips of pancetta until crispy, cut into batons and use to garnish the cauliflower soup. You can also stir some into the soup. This is especially good if you also drizzle the soup with white truffle oil too.
CAULIFLOWER AND SCALLOP SOUP - Scallops are a dreamy combination with cauliflower soup. Reduce the milk by half so the soup is thicker and serve it in a shallow soup dish with a freshly seared scallop in the centre. Drizzle with excellent olive oil.
TORTELLINI AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP: Make the basic soup recipe above a looser by adding a little more water when blending it. When you are reheating the soup, add some tortellini or stuffed pasta to the soup, heat through according to the pack instructions and serve. You can buy stuffed pasta in the chilled compartment at most delis or supermarkets. The one stuffed with pancetta is particularly good with this soup.
HERB AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP: Use basil instead of the thyme but don't fry it as it is too soft a herb, instead add about 6 leaves when you are blending the soup. You can also add a half a teaspoon of fresh rosemary leaves or a teaspoon of oregano instead of the thyme.
GRIDDLE BREAD: Take slices of good country bread, brush with olive oil and griddle them on a ridged pan. Serve with any of the above soups.
FOOD FOR SENIORS This is a soup that is good for convalescers or someone elderly who needs to eat something nutritious but gentle. In that case, try to use more milk to include more goodness (or replace the milk in the recipe with water if they are not allowed dairy).