Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thinking About Soup

I almost feel like that is what this blog should likely be renamed at the moment! I have already staked my claim to being a soupaholic, with the continuing cold weather I can see this intensifying! I bought the book Soup Kitchen: The Ultimate Soup Collection from the Ultimate Chefs Including Jill Dupleix, Donna Hay, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver a in an effort to start making new and exciting soups instead of relying on my usual 4 or 5 favourites.
The recipe I made tonight is exactly the kind of soup I was looking for, something I had not tried before and a real hit as far as I am concerned! I found a lovely large (and cheap) cauliflower the other day and had decided it was destined for soup. I am not a real cauliflower lover, I will eat it only if it has been 'jazzed' up, as in swathed in cheese sauce, roasted (a la Laura) or with garlic and parmesan or in a fabulously flavoured soup! This soup has a gorgeous subtle and refined flavour, and the most amazing smooth texture. The texture of this soup is truly sublime when pureed, I am sooooo going to make this again.
However, what really makes it is the sprinkling on of blue cheese to serve. Delia's recipe calls for Roquefort, which of course I can never find around here, so it was standard blue cheese that I added. The cheese gets crumbled up and goes lovely and gooey, while still holding its shape so you get bursts of flavour while eating the soup.
Just an aside here - I have always used a stick blender to puree my soups, but it packed up on me a couple of weeks ago. I was going to hold out for a really expensive one but hate being without one so nearly caved, considering buying a cheapy yesterday. My husband sagely advised I could wait a little longer for a better one, and of course I cursed him when at the puree stage I was dragging out my food processor, which frankly doesn't do the job very well. I then realised that I have a perfectly good blender that would probably work just as well, and lo and behold, it is terrific at pureeing soup. So possibly I have just save myself the purchase of a stick blender -for now!:)

Cauliflower soup with blue cheese (Delia Smith)

1 medium, good-sized cauliflower (about 1lb 4 oz/570 g)
2 oz (50 g) Roquefort, (or blue cheese) crumbled into small pieces
2 bay leaves
1 oz (25 g) butter
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 large leek, trimmed, washed and chopped
4 oz (110 g) potato, peeled and chopped into dice
2 tablespoons half-fat crème fraîche, plus a little extra to serve (optional) – I just used cream here about ¼ cup
salt and freshly milled black pepper

To serve:

1 level tablespoon snipped fresh chives

The stock for this is very simply made with all the cauliflower trimmings. All you do is trim the cauliflower into small florets and then take the stalk bits, including the green stems, and place these trimmings in a medium-sized saucepan. Then add 2½ pints (1.5 litres) of water, the bay leaves and some salt, bring it up to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes with a lid.

Meanwhile, take another large saucepan with a well-fitting lid, melt the butter in it over a gentle heat, then add the onion, celery, leek and potato, cover and let the vegetables gently sweat for 15 minutes. Keep the heat very low, then, when the stock is ready, strain it into the pan to join the vegetables, adding the bay leaves as well but throwing out the rest. Now add the cauliflower florets, bring it all back up to simmering point and simmer very gently for 20-25 minutes, until the cauliflower is completely tender, this time without a lid.

After that, remove the bay leaves, then place the contents of the saucepan in a food processor or liquidiser and process until the soup is smooth and creamy. Next return it to the saucepan, stir in the crème fraîche and cheese and keep stirring until the cheese has melted and the soup is hot but not boiling. Check the seasoning, then serve in hot bowls, garnished with a little more crème fraîche, if you like, and the chives.

The other soup I made was none other than my trusty pumpkin, but this time with some tweaks! I liked the idea of Jilly, from Violets Pantry, who posted a recipe for the Pantry Challenge for spicy sweet potato soup. I decided to use that as inspiration and made something very similar, with pumpkin and kumara (sweet potato). As it always goes with my recipes for soup, the following is a guide as I am a 'bung it all in' kind of gal, precision is not my forte I am afraid. That is why I will never write a cookbook, I just can't be doing with all the 'exactness' involved!
So, I started by frying some onion and garlic in butter until quite soft, then adding a couple of teaspoons of curry powder. In went about 1/2 a pumpkin (chopped into chunks) and two large (peeled and chopped) kumara. Then I added about 2 litres of (homemade!) chicken stock and let it bubble away until it was all nice and tender. I then added about 1/2 a tin of coconut cream and 1/2 a tin of evaporated milk (approx 150 mls of each). I seasoned with salt and pepper and then used my new favourite blender to puree to a silky smooth soup.
I served this with wholemeal pita breads, made the usual way with dough made in the breadmaker, cut up into about 16 pieces then rolled out flat and popped onto a very hot tray (preheated) and baked at about 220C for 8-10 mins. The soup got a wee drizzle of coconut cream to make it look a bit prettier for serving!


JillyB said...

I love what you've done to my sweet potato soup. I'm going to try that soon.
Isn't the caulifower recipe good? I used this to introduce blue cheese to the kids!
You can't beat a soup, especially in this weather.

vonsachsen said...

I know it is supposed to be summer here, but actually 4 days a week we have soup weather:)
Linda, I love the sound of the cauliflower soup, esp as I love blue cheese.
The pumpkin sweet potato looks great too, but I have to wait until october to get some pumpkin. Thanks for the ideas!