Soups are humble and are endearingly so. I reckon that soup, given all its value both in pleasure and in health, is way under-esteemed.
Some venerable things about our old mate, soup:
- Soup are easy to digest (most people I talk to about health have a digestive-related complaint so, you know, I think that this is super important);
- Soup tends to be graciously satiating;
- Soup is rich with all sorts of vitamins and minerals. Because the structure of each of the soup's ingredients has been broken down, these nutrients tend to be more readily absorbed;
- Feeling taxed or need a nutrient boost, pronto? One word: soup.
- Soup is works as a snack, as an appetiser and as a meal;
- Soup can be made to suit hot weather (I'm looking at you, gazpacho!) or, most commonly, cold.
I like to make soup when I'm feeling run down or heavy from excess, and also to complement a heavy, meaty main (so that no one feels too bogged down at meal's end). If you've been following my blog you'd know that I also like to make soup when I want to use vegetables before they go to waste.
Cauliflower Leek Soup
I was missing cauliflower, recently, and so came up with this warming recipe.
- 1 head cauliflower, roughly cut into pieces*
- 1 cup of mirepoix**
- 1.25 litre of vegetable or chicken stock (and perhaps some extra on the side, just in case too much of your soup evaporates)
- 2 leeks, roughly sliced into 2cm discs
- 2 large potatoes, chopped to roughly the same size as the leeks
- 2 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
- a pinch of black peppercorns (or whatever form of pepper you have)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp of cumin seeds or cumin powder
- juice of half a lemon
- garnish options: coriander leaves, parsley leaves, cumin seeds or powder, almond slivers or a dollop of cream.
*For more bang, dress the cauliflower pieces in some salt and olive oil and roast them on a high sheld at 180 celsius for about 20 minutes, turning the pieces after the first ten minutes.
**Mirepoix is a flavour base that traditionally comprises of about 50% onion, 25% carrot and 25% celery. For this recipe, roughly chop the onion, carrot and celery so that they're about 1cm all over.
- In a saucepan, heat the oil and butter. Add the mirepoix, and cook on low heat for a few minutes (or longer, if you have the time). Essentially, you're looking for transparency and softness. Remove from heat.
- In a large pot add the mirepoix and all of the other ingredients, except for the garnish.
- Let the pot boil and then immediately reduce to low-medium heat.
- Half cover the pot and let it simmer for about an hour. You know the temperature is right when the liquid is steaming and bubbling gently.
- After the hour, and given that your vegetables are soft (they should be!), it's time to blend your soup. If you have an immersion blender (also known as a stick blender), like me, it should be fine to blend immediately. If you have a bench-top blender, you'll probably have to wait for the soup to cool a bit (I once shattered the glass jug of a housemate's blender because I didn't know to let the soup cool - don't do it!).
Level-Up Your Soup
- Try have your vegetables more or less uniform in size so that they cook at the same pace.
- Consider the size and density of your ingredients. Perhaps stagger the time when you add them (bigger, denser ingredients first, softer, smaller ones later, obviously).
- To prevent curdling, warm creams and milks before you add them.
- Want creamy soup but without the dairy? Throw in a potato or two. Once blended it will add the thickness you're looking for.
- Simmer, don't boil. Small bubbles and gentle wisps of steam are in, big bubbles and angry splutters are out.
- End result taste dull? Some acid will give your soup life. Try lemon juice, regular vinegar, apple cider vinegar or vinegar wine.
- Your soup might taste bland during the cooking process, but try not to add any additional salt until a few minutes before the soup is ready. It's just that if you're soup reduces you might end up with something a tad too salty!
- And if your soup is too salty? I haven't tried this, but apparently throwing a peeled potato in to your soup and letting it all cook for a while lessens the salt. Supposedly the potato absorbs the salt, and/or the starch neutralises the mix.
- Don't skip the flavour base, whether it be mirepoix, soffritto, or your own mix of aromatics. Always try add something sautéed, even some onion and a bit of garlic will do, to the soup. More about this soon.
- A neat way to use your cheese rinds: add your rinds to your soup! The cheese rind will infuse the soup with its flavour. Make sure to fish out any parts that haven't dissolved before blending (though I hear that some people will happily eat it!).