Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cauliflower Soup

This is a good time of year for cauliflower. Piles of their creamy woolly heads are on all the vegetable stalls at Borough, enticing you to buy. They are incredibly versatile - chopped raw in salads and as crudité for dips, steamed as a side veg with grills or roasts, or they can be dipped in batter for fritters, theBritish classic cauliflower cheese is always welcome, they make wonderful soups and curries and spicy things - they are a great starting point for dinner. You have a cauliflower you have possibilities.

I think cauliflower are a very elegant vegetable - their paleness offset by a wrapping of light green leaves, the dense heads supported by webs of thin ribbing. They need milk in the cooking water to keep them white and a bayleaf to add a hint of that mysterious bay flavour and to sweeten the aroma as it cooks. The nutty, slightly smoky flavour and the densely curled texture make it ideal with little else done to it though it really is at its best with either added dairy or added spices and aromatics, depending on your mood.

This soup goes for added dairy - butter particularly - to add a lush richness to the finished dish. The recipe comes from John Burton-Race French Leave - and is gloriously decadent.

Cauliflower Soup with truffle oil

1kg fresh cauliflower
150g unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bayleaf
800ml milk
800ml chicken stock
Salt and white pepper
75ml truffle oil

Trim, wash and break the cauliflower into pieces or small florets. In a large, lidded saucepan, melt the butter and add the cauliflower, stirring to coat each piece with melted butter. Cover the pot and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, thyme and bayleaf, stir, then cover again and cook for five minutes longer.

In another pan, heat together the milk and chicken stock. As soon as they have come to the boil, pour them over the cauliflower. Turn up the heat and cook the soup on a rapid simmer for half an hour, or until the cauliflower is soft.

Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste, then pour the soup into a liquidiser and blend until smooth. Pour back into a saucepan and return to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the truffle oil. Whisk the soup (use a hand blender if you have one) until it froths. Ladle it into lightly warmed soup bowls and serve immediately.

With some crusty bread it's a great lunch, or brilliant as a starter for a dinner party. This recipe serves 8 - treat yourself to leftovers the next day or freeze the soup you won't use - it reheats very well indeed.


Barbara said...

I love this soup. The ingredients are really simple, as is the recipe. But the taste is full and deep.

bron said...

Me too Barbara - it's one I come back to, especially for the first dish of a special dinner.

Have you tried the pumpkin soup from the end of October? Another one that is simple but incredibly complex when you eat it.