Thursday, January 26, 2012
Last week, as the snow started to fall, I stocked up on just about everything that looked good to me, without a particular plan for most of it. Like a cook for a battalion heading off to war, I suppose - I don't know exactly what we'll be dealing with, so I'll take some of everything, please. One subsequent snowy afternoon, I looked through my vegetable bible, searching for something to do with the head of cauliflower I had at hand. I came across a recipe for soup. I tend to stay away from garden-variety cauliflower soups, with their combinations of butter/cheddar/flour/cream in varying proportions. I just don't like them. What caught my eye in this recipe was the addition of mustard and creme fraiche, and cheese other than cheddar.
We've moved on from last week, thankfully. Cabin fever started to set in. I've restocked the pantry; the leftovers are gone; the sun is shining and the temperatures have warmed. But I don't want to forget about this soup, and I don't think you should, either. I'm writing it up now, so I don't lose track of it. The flavor is complex and well balanced, and everyone liked it. No small accomplishment in a house with kids.
In the words of Mr. Slater: 'I do believe in the power of soup to restore our spirits and to strengthen and protect us.' Sing it, Nigel.
A soup of cauliflower and cheese
from Tender Volume 1, by Nigel Slater
50 g (3.5 tablespoons) butter
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
one head of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 bay leaves
200ml creme fraiche
1 heaped tablespoon grain mustard
120 g (1 1/2 cups) Gruyere or strong Cheddar
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 slices dark rye bread
1 heaped tablespoon grated Gruyere
In a heavy large pot or dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion and crushed garlic, and cook until soft, stirring often. Add the bay leaves, and remove from heat.
Boil the cauliflower florets in about 850 ml water over medium heat until tender to the point that a fork will slide in easily, 8-10 minutes. Add the cauliflower and its cooking water to the onion mixture. Bring everything to a boil; add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for fifteen minutes, until the vegetables are 'truly soft'. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the bay leaves and allow the soup to cool slightly.
In two batches, puree the soup in a blender. Pour the mixture back into the pan and stir in the creme fraiche, mustard, and grated cheese. Bring the soup slowly back to a simmer, and serve. Or, if you like, finish with toasted bread, as described below.
To finish, toast the bread on both sides, cover with the grated cheese and let it melt under a broiler. Cut into triangles and float them on the soup.
Yield: 4-6 servings