Cauliflower soup with caramelised butter

Cauliflower has become such an on-trend ingredient it makes me wonder how long its popularity streak will last. I think it will eventually die down (perhaps it has already) but there are a few devout cauliflower fans out there. My mum was one, having always preferred it on the overcooked side; most-often simply steamed with Thai chilli dipping sauce or in a stir-fry of noodles laden with soy sauce. I have always been a bit ‘meh’ about the veg myself, being a bit prone to the side effects of crop dusting (who isn’t when it comes to cauli?!). But then I had it roasted with loads of spices and tossed with savoury, zingy herbs like tarragon and parsley … and there was no turning back.

This soup is pretty much a throw-it-in-the-pot dinners, and it does help to already have a jar of pre-made dukkah already lurking in your storecupboard. When I was in the coromandel in summer I went a bit mad and bought a lot of macadamia products (my favourite nut and also very commonly grown in the area). One of said delights was a bag of macadamia dukkah. Oh it’s just so good. And because dukkah doesn’t last forever, I had to generously sprinkle this soup with all that and then some. (Oh, and apparently the addition of a little turmeric in this soup will help with the smelly side effects mentioned earlier.)

Cauliflower soup with caramelised butter

Serves 2

1/2 head medium cauliflower, broken into small florets

knob of butter

1 teaspoon dukkah, plus extra to serve

large pinch ground turmeric

350–450ml unsweetened almond milk

pinch coconut sugar or brown sugar

lemon juice, for squeezing

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the caramelised butter

40g unsalted butter

First, get your butter caramelising. Heat the butter in a small pan over the lowest heat. The whey will begin to separate. Cook until the white solids start to turn golden brown, shaking the pan from side to side every now and then. It should take 10–15 minutes but keep your eye on the butter otherwise it might burn.

Meanwhile, make the soup. Melt the butter in a pan until foaming. Add the cauliflower pieces and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the dukkah and turmeric and let it fry for another 2 minutes over medium heat.

Pour in the almond milk to cover the cauliflower, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the cauliflower is nice and tender. Use a hand-held stick blender to blitz the soup until smooth (or if you like it chunky, then chunky). Add the sugar and season to taste, adding a bit more dukkah if you like. Just before serving, squeeze over a little lemon juice, sprinkle with plenty of dukkah and drizzle with the caramelised butter.

(Recipe adapted from Magic Soup, Orion, 2015)

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Some pumpkins do ‘ave ’em

As the weather turns full-on winter, I lean towards food that is richer (fattier) and sweeter (fattier again). Not to say that this recipe for pumpkin risotto is in fact ‘fatty’, but I do like to add a lot of butter to it even if it’s not altogether a ‘must’. This dish is definitely on my list of satisfying comfort food and can be made with pretty much any squash, or perhaps even sweet potato. I would recommend using pumpkin/squash that you absolutely love the taste of, and it needs to be fresh because it’s flavour and sweetness will impart to the whole dish. Unlike other pumpkin risotto recipes I’ve made before, this version calls for pumpkin that is simmered gently in milk until very tender. It is then mashed into a puree with bone broth (or vege broth). This milky pumpkin-enriched broth is then used to plump up the grains of rice. I am a real fan of this method because it makes the risotto rice all the more ‘pumpkinny’. And I do love a good pumpkin or squash. There are so many varieties and they are all quite subtle in taste and texture. I don’t like the pale-flesh ones such as the spaghetti squash or turk’s turban, which I find a bit too watery in texture. In the UK, I loved autumn because onion squash would appear in my weekly vege delivery box. Onion squash is similar to the infamous crown prince pumpkin but it has a unique nutty sweetness and is so lovely and smooth in texture. I’ve been trying to find it here, but I can’t seem to track it down! As I wait for my onion squash to find me, I am enjoying trying the different varieties that can be found at my local farmer’s market. IMG_3701 Pumpkin and sage risotto
Serves 4

200 g pumpkin/squash cut into wedges, plus 350 g pumpkin/squash flesh, diced
10 sage leaves
250 ml /8 fl oz whole milk salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
80 g butter
nutmeg
350 g risotto rice
80 ml vermouth
1 litre chicken stock or vegetable stock
50 g freshly grated parmesan

Put the pumpkin wedges on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt, scatter over the sage leaves, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven, while you make the risotto, for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and tender.

In a small pan cover the diced pumpkin with the milk.  Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. Using a slotted spoon, lift the pumpkin from the milk into a small bowl and set aside. Mash the pumpkin pieces with a fork into a puree. Add knob of butter, salt, black pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Add the stock or water to the leftover milk and set over a low flame.

In a large heavy-based pan, heat the oil and melt half of the remaining butter. Add the onion to the pan and sauté it gently over a medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the rice to the pan and stir well to coat in butter and oil. Add the vermouth to the pan and let it bubble away and absorb. Start adding the milk/stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring the risotto as you do so. Add a little more once the previous ladleful has been absorbed. The rice is cooked when it is tender and creamy but still firm to bite. Take the pan off the heat and then leave the risotto to sit, covered, for 1 minute. Beat in the remaining butter and the parmesan, taste, season with salt if necessary, and then serve with a slice or two of roasted pumpkin and sage.

(Recipe adapted from racheleats.wordpress.com)