17 July 2010

Creamy Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Pan-fried Shallots

I've been posting a lot about cauliflower lately.  The produce stands are just full of them, with big, happy, creamy white florets, and they are just huge.  I can't help but get in on the action.  It doesn't hurt that I end up getting at least 3 meals out of one large head, since the leaves and stems can be used to make a soup of their own.

I get a little over-zealous at the produce stands with all the fresh, local vegetables.  I spent many months this winter just anxiously waiting for veg to come in-season in Britain, so I buy too much.  The items I can't get to in time for other meals end up all getting turned into a soup and stored away in the freezer for a time when I'm too busy to cook (or just can't be bothered).  This soup won't make it that far - it's too damn good for that!

I just love the colour of this soup... the creamy, soft yellow-y white soup and crispy browned shallots look so elegant in a simple white bowl.  The flavour of the cauliflower comes right through, too, and the accompanying flavours don't overpower.  I'm very happy about this one, definitely a keeper!

If you can't find these ingredients, not to worry - substitute away!  I used Double Gloucester cheese, but any cheddar-y cheese will do (or even Stilton...).  I'd love to hear about what you come up with!

Creamy Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Pan-fried Shallots

1 head cauliflower
1 clove garlic
light vegetable stock
Double Gloucester cheese
2 teaspoons mustard
single cream (I used about 50ml)
salted butter - about 30g
cracked black pepper, to taste
1 medium shallot, for garnish

Melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat.  When it starts to foam and sputter, add chopped cauliflower and stir to cover it in the butter.  Cook until it just starts to brown, and add garlic.  Cook for a few minutes more, then add vegetable stock to cover the cauliflower.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until cauliflower is completely soft, adding more water if you need to.

Meanwhile, slice shallot and saute over medium-high heat until crispy and well-browned.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a paper towel.

Remove soup from heat and add mustard, cream and pepper.  Blend until smooth with a stick blender, then add grated cheese - as much as you like, but be careful you don't add too much, since some cheeses get very oily when melted.  Stir to incorporate cheese and serve with a little pile of shallots for garnish.

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