2013 ended with busy upward momentum and just these first few days of 2014 have already featured a series of things to look forward to both in terms of freelance writing work and the fact that I’ll be going to Maui for a week with Ian for our honeymoon at the end of January which I am really, really excited about. I hope that the transition to the new year has been a positive one for you and that your holidays were relaxing and full of good company and delicious food. I took the train to Seattle on December 24th and spent 3 low key days with Ian, my in-laws, and friends before returning to work until New Year’s Eve which was spent eating steak and colouring in Ian’s new colouring books on our living room floor until 2 in the morning.
I have been day dreaming about roasted cauliflower soup lately, especially on a rainy Thursday night when there is something to be said for a pale bowl of creamy roasted cauliflower, sharp white cheddar, and silken creme fraiche soup. The cheese doesn’t have to be cheddar, it could be gruyere, Swiss raclette, young Asiago, or a medium aged goat or sheep gouda if cow dairy bothers you. If you do use cheddar make sure it isn’t too old, anything over 3 years old begins to lose its capacity for even melting. When I first made this soup I was lucky to have on hand enough duck stock for the recipe which produced a luxurious mouth feel due the richness of the duck. However, I realize most people don’t have easy access to duck stock, I only had some because I made it from a duck I had recently roasted (which produced very little meat but left me with 2 cups of rendered fat and 8 litres of stock) and I would suggest vegetable stock in its place. The croutons aren’t required but add some heft to the soup and can be made quickly in your still-hot oven from roasting the cauliflower and garlic. Add an astringent leafy green salad by going heavy on the fresh parsley and lemon juice, finishing with elegant shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and cracked pepper.
roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup:
1 medium sized head of cauliflower, chopped into florets about 1-inch across
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 head of garlic, papers left on but separated into individual cloves
1 bunch of scallions, whites and greens finely chopped
3-4 cups of duck or vegetable stock (depending on how much cauliflower you use and how thick you prefer your soup)
2 cups/250 g of sharp white cheddar, or melting cheese of your choice
200 mL creme fraiche
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of nutmeg
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Parsley, finely chopped for garnishing
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the cauliflower florets and garlic cloves in their paper over a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and top with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 30-40 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice to ensure even browning.
2. Once the cauliflower is close to being done begin to cook the scallions in the remaining olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower, garlic cloves (squeezed out from their papers, stock, and lemon juice before bringing to a simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Using an immersion blender, or a stand up blender in very small batches with a protective tea towel draped over the top, blitz the scallions, cauliflower, and stock until smooth.
4. Over medium heat stir in the nutmeg, shredded cheese, and creme fraiche until all the cheese has melted and the soup becomes fully emulsified. Serve strewn with parsley, garlic parmesan croutons, and a lemony green salad on the side.
garlic parmesan croutons:
1/2 baguette, sliced diagonally into 2 cm discs
Olive oil for brushing
Good quality garlic powder
About 1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan
Brush the baguette slices with olive oil and top with garlic powder, kosher salt, and freshly grated parmesan. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 7-10 minutes, checking frequently that they don’t burn. Serve immediately in the cauliflower soup or store for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature.
I listen to music that makes me happy while I’m making food will also hopefully make me happy, as if I’m hoping for an especially uplifting Like Water For Chocolate scenario – no tears and sorrow for the recipients of my cooking! I went through a phase (an ongoing one) where I was obsessed with the 4AD record label and this song remains one of my all time favourites. New Wave and boppy, dreamy and bouncy, effortless and seamless; these are all definitive adjectives that come to mind when experiencing Modern English.
Modern English – Someone’s Calling