Well, folks it's been a very emotional week, to say the least. My heart and shoulders are aching from the weight of it all, and I know I'm not alone, nor have I felt it the most. It seems sort of trivial to be blogging about food at a time like this, but then again we still need to eat, and more importantly we must continue to nourish and feed ourselves and each other. So in honour of that, here's a recipe for some true comfort food to help keep us strong and warm as winter approaches.
There is something so hearty and satisfying about the classic combination of cauliflower and cheese. It's like mac and cheese, but with out the heaviness of an indulgent pasta feast, and the delicately nuttiness of cauliflower pairs perfectly with the nippy tang of a crumbly old cheddar.
When I was a kid the only way we ever ate cauliflower was boiled until squishy and bathed in a thick orange cheese sauce, usually to accompany some sort of roast. We never thought to cook it in the oven until crispy and caramelized or to toss it with potatoes and fragrant curry spices. And while I love all of these other delicious cauliflower preparations, I always enjoy revisiting the comforting cheesy flavours of my British-Canadian childhood, as do my kids, who request this soup on a weekly basis.
This recipe comes from Jamie's Food Revolution, one of my favourite Jamie Oliver cookbooks. It first came out in 2008 and it's full of simple, delicious and relatively affordable recipes that have become a part of our family's regular meal rotation. This is such a simple soup to prepare, and it's hearty enough to stand on it's own as a meal, especially with a hunk of good bread. Jamie recommends topping it with a bit of crumbled bacon which you will not regret doing, if you swing towards the carnivorous side. Surprisingly, despite the dairy component, this soup freezes beautifully so I often keep some on hand as a quick kid dinner or a thermos lunch.
CAULIFLOWER CHEESE SOUP
2 stalks of celery
2 medium onions
2 cloves of garlic
8 cups of cauliflower
7 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken)
8 oz of Cheddar cheese (Irish, smoked or the end bits of various cheeses are all tasty here)
1 tsp mustard (Dijon or English)
optional: pinch of nutmeg
1. Peel and roughly chop the carrots, onion and celery and slice the garlic. Chop the cauliflower into florets. Don't worry too much about size/ shape because everything will be blended at the end.
2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and toss all of the veggies in. Turn the heat to medium and leave for about 10 minutes, until everything is starting to soften.
3. Add broth to the vegetables, bring to a boil and then simmer for another 10 minutes with the lid on. Stir occasionally. While this is simmering, grate your cheddar.
4. When everything is soft, turn off the heat and add your cheese and mustard. Blend until silky smooth using an immersion hand blender or whatever liquidizer you have. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and grate in a pinch of nutmeg, if you like.
Serves 6 to 8