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Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower is cheap and plentiful at the moment and I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the vegetable that’s up there with cabbage in the ‘things grandma used to cook badly’ stigma pile. Not my grandma though – she can do no wrong. But I digress. Anyway, while looking for cauliflower recipes, I stumbled on this one that was one of Neil Perry’s that had been served on a business class flight. I was skeptical at first, I mean really did I want to make airplane food at home? Not quite the standard I was going for, but after deep-frying a whole cauliflower I still had another left over – so it was worth a try.

Neil Perry has got to be one of the one of my favourite chefs. Ponytail aside, if you’ve read Balance & Harmony you’ll know exactly why. The book progresses from beginner techniques including steamed, stir-fried, braised to more challenging and intricate plates that build on established skills.

This is a restaurant quality recipe that I’m sure everyone will love. I’ve always loved the sweetness of cauliflower and it pairs brilliantly with mustard. I’ve made some little tweaks like adding fried cauliflower as a garnish – otherwise the texture is too much like baby food. I’ve also elected to halve the recipe and since I had my deep fryer on the counter I also flash fried the cauliflower before adding it to the soup, which gives the soup the a darker colour than it would otherwise be.

If you’re feeling fancy, serve it with parmesan crisps. Just shave some parmesan onto baking paper (you must use baking paper, or it won’t come off the tray), and bake at 180C until golden brown.

For my vegan friends, just use vegetable stock and leave out the butter, cream and cheese – it still a really great recipe.

Fried Cauliflower

Cream of Cauliflower with Mustard and Parmesan
from Neil Perry at his Rockpool site
serves 3-4 as a main, or 6 as entree

25g olive oil
25g unsalted butter
7g peeled fresh garlic cloves, finely diced
75g peeled brown onion, diced
6g sea salt, approximately
600g cauliflower florets, roughly chopped
600ml fresh vegetable or chicken stock
25g single (pouring) cream
7g Dijon mustard, approximately
25g parmesan cheese, finely grated

50g finely grated parmesan to make parmesan crisps (optional)

  1. Fry the cauliflower florets in batches until they are browned at the edges, either in a deep fryer or in a pan shallow filled with oil. Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil. Set aside 200g of cauliflower for garnish. You can skip this step if you like – browning the cauliflower adds flavour, but you can just brown it in the one pan as below.
  2. Heat oil and butter in heavy-based pan; add garlic, onion, salt and pepper, sauté for 10 minutes until the vegetables are translucent.

  3. Add cauliflower – if you haven’t pre-cooked it, sweat over low heat for about 10 minutes or until florets are soft and golden (the browning of the cauliflower is essential for the flavour of this soup).
  4. Add 450ml stock, bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for about 15 minutes or until cauliflower is very soft. It’s not necessary to simmer it any longer.

  5. Remove from heat, process soup until very smooth.
  6. Return to pan, place over low heat, stir in cream.

  7. Add mustard and cheese in batches tasting soup each time to judge whether more is needed. It depends on the strength of flavour of both products as to the amount required. Check seasoning. 
  8. Add more chicken stock if necessary to give the desired consistency – I added another 150ml.

  9. Top with the reserved fried cauliflower and a parmesan crisp if you’re feeling fancy.