Back when I was in early primary school, I remember both my parents were away from Sydney at one point and The Sister had taken me to the supermarket to stock up on groceries. We were in the soups aisle, looking at the neat and orderly rows of canned soup and dehydrated packet soup and discussing what took our fancy. A middle-aged lady, bending down to take one of the lentil soup mixes, smiled at us kindly and said “You should really try making your own; it’s lovely.”
We smiled politely and nodded as she wheeled her trolley around and left the aisle.
“Make soup”, snorted my sister. “Honestly. What a hippie! Who has time for that?”
I look back at that moment with a certain sense of hilarity. Of course I was too young then to be able to cook anything myself, and the Sister at that stage hadn’t yet developed much of an appreciation for good food – still seeing it as more of a means of sustenance more than anything. Learning to cook, and discovering the incredible flavours that can be reaped over a longer, slower period of time, has made me appreciate the heartiness and aromas coming from a large stock-pot of soup in winter. My classic Chicken Soup is one of my favourites, but when presented with a perfectly beautiful, unmarred head of cauliflower by the Sister, I decided to take advantage of its sweet flavour and comforting properties by turning it into a large vat of soup.
It’s even better with a few drops of truffle oil or a cheddar and truffle toastie 😉 It’s the most amazing winter comfort food.
To serve four, you will need:
- Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle;
- 1 onion, finely chopped;
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped;
- 2 potatoes (about 400g), chopped;
- 1.5L (6 cups) chicken stock;
- 1 bay leaf;
- 1 large (approx 1 kilo) cauliflower, cut into florets;
- 1/2 cup (125ml) thickened cream;
- 1 cup (80g) finely grated Parmesan;
- 3 bacon rashers, chopped.
Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Add the onion and garlic, then cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the potato, chicken stock, bay leaf and three-quarters of the cauliflower, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the cauliflower and potatoes are both tender.
Remove from heat, cool slightly and then either insert a stick blender or pour into a blender and blend until smooth. Stir through the cream and the Parmesan. Season to taste.
Heat the last tablespoon of oil in a shallow frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the bacon and cook until crispy, remove and drain on a piece of paper towel. Slice the remaining quarter of cauliflower thinly with either a knife or mandolin and gently pan-fry on either side until golden.
Serve the soup hot, topped with crispy cauliflower and bacon pieces. Drizzle with oil and serve – best with a cheddar and truffle toastie 😉