Strolling around a local supermarket last week I found myself unconsciously drawn to the vegetable aisle.
Perusing the various alliums, root veg and asparagus spears tasting of air-miles, I happened to say the word, “soup” aloud to my shopping partner at the time, Number One Daughter. It was contained in the sentence, “What kind of soup should I make?”
No sooner had this question slipped from my lips sotto voce than a passing member of the shop’s staff stopped and pointed towards the far end of the aisle.
“The soup mixes are down that way,” he said. “But we’ve none left at the minute. We’re expecting some back in tomorrow.”
Momentarily discomposed, I gathered myself and replied, “That’s OK, I was just looking at the veg and wondering what kind of soup we will make.”
“Ah,” said the staff member. “When I head the word ‘soup’ I assumed you were going to ask about the soup mix. I’ve lost count how many people have asked me about soup mix today. It must be the season for making soup.”
“I suppose it is.” And, pleasantries completed, we slowly backed away from the over-worked staffer.
Still, this brief interaction gave me an idea for this week’s theme. If it’s the season for soup, then soup it will be.
Warming and filling and nutritionally fantastic, soup is a regular visitor to my kitchen and it is especially welcome as a cheap delight in these times of fiscal farce.
“What kind of soup should I make?” I repeated to Number One Daughter, glancing around to see who else might latch on to the wrong end of the proverbial.
“Dunno,” came the response – or some other non-committal affirmation of apathy.
That meant I could make whatever took my fancy and in this case the decision was arrived at when I encountered a glorious white crown of a near-perfect cauliflower.
“Cauliflower and cheese?”
I remember writing a recipe for this oddly apt winter soup some years ago after a short holiday to Scotland. Cheddar and cauliflower had seemed to me at first like a strange soup combination. And then I remembered that vintage classic of cauliflower cheese and all became suddenly clear.
This is my new cauli-cheese soup recipe and it’s one which, despite the hitherto non-committal affirmations of apathy, went down a bomb at home. Some of the little humans even asked for more – Oliver Twist style!
Served up with home-made sourdough croutons and cubes of mature cheddar (as in the picture), this soup would work as the perfect starter for a festive feast and I suggested as much half way through that night’s supper.
As common as this may sound, but I’ve also discovered that cauliflower and cheese soup goes down especially well with Tayto Cheese and Onion crisp sandwiches, although I doubt those additions will make it onto the Christmas menu. But you never know!
knob of butter (large or small it’s up to you)
1 large white onion, finely diced
1 large clove of garlic, sliced
1 large head of cauliflower, leaves removed, washed and florets dismantled
2 or 3 floury potatoes (depending on size), peeled and quartered
800ml of vegetable stock
300ml of full fat milk
salt and pepper
croutons and diced mature cheddar to serve
Add the butter to a large-ish sauce pan over a medium heat and when melted add the onions, stir for five or six minutes (making sure not to burn the butter), until the onions are beginning to soften and then add the garlic. Stir fry for another minute or three and then add the cauli florets and quartered spuds. Stir everything about and then add the stock and milk.
Bring to a simmer and let it bubble away gently, stirring from time to time for about 40 minutes until the cauli and spuds are tender.
Blitz with a hand blender or mash with a potato masher and then check the seasoning and adjust. It will take a goodly grind of pepper.
Ladle into bowls and then top with the cheddar and croutons and if you’re feeling particularly fancy, a drizzle of cream and some more pepper. Don’t forget the Tayto sandwiches!
You can also roast the cauliflower before making this soup and omit the cheese. I have only done this once and admittedly, it gives the soup an added smoky depth.
However I like the clean, almost refreshing nature of this soup. Plus cheese is always a winner.
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