The poor old cauliflower, a much maligned and misunderstood vegetable but one with so much to offer.
Its chameleon-like characteristics see it work well with robust, spicy flavours as well as more delicate and refined ones - and getting it right (when it can be got so very wrong) doesn't really need much skill, just a bit of imagination.
I got the idea for this dish from Tastespotting just at the right time, I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge that really needed eating but wasn't sure what to do with it.
It reminded me that it works very well as a soup - the cauliflower is magic in that when it's pureed it thickens beautifully so you barely need anything to enrich it, plus it seems to help link all the different flavours together, a carrier if you like.
It's the first time I've roasted a cauliflower on it's own for a dish, and it was great to discover how fantastic it tastes when its edges are browned and crisp, it's opened up more possibilities and ideas for how to use it so I'll definitely be roasting it again soon.
Soup for 2:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 bulb of garlic, kept whole but with the root end just sliced off, lightly oiled all over with groundnut oil
6 rashers smoked streaky bacon or smoked pancetta
750mls light vegetable stock
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
100g grated Parmesan
2 handful of fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
A couple of ends of flat leaf parsley
- Preheat the oven to 150degrees and when at temperature, place the oiled garlic bulb in for an hour
- Turn the oven up to 200degrees
- Put the florets into a roasting tin and drizzle all over with olive oil, generously grind black pepper and sea salt over them, shake the tin so all the florets are covered, then put them into the oven
- Cook for 30 minutes then remove the garlic and leave to cool, shake the cauliflower as you want it to brown on all sides, then put it back in for about another 20 minutes
- Lay the pancetta/streaky bacon onto a roasting tin and place in the oven, cook until crisp - this should be around 8-10 minutes, then remove
- Put the florets into a saucepan with the Parmesan and stock, and squeeze the cooled garlic cloves (which should be soft and pulp like now) into the pan also, then add 4 of the rashers of pancetta/streaky bacon
- Bring them to a simmer with the lid on, then turn the heat off and stir the creme fraiche and a glug of extra virgin through the ingredients, and either transfer them to a food processor or use a hand blender to puree the pan contents
- Blend the contents for a few minutes until really smooth, and then put back into the pan and reheat through on a low heat
- In a food processor place the basil, a couple of shots of extra virgin olive oil and scrunch of salt - then blitz until smooth
- Ladle the soup into bowls and top with shards of the remaining pancetta/streaky bacon, the parsley and drizzle the basil oil over it, then eat