My posts seem to be as erratic as the weather here right now. Thursday I headed home after food shopping wearing summer clothes. Suddenly, the next couple of days I’m back to wearing five layers of winter clothing. Still, at least the sun shines strong. Recently someone commented: sounds like you’re living on a rock off the Cornish coast. Guess what? That’s exactly how it feels some days. And I’m wondering if it would be warmer down there. Anyway, after living in Central London for so long I can’t get used to the lack of choice here. Although, with more and more Londoners moving here, known as DFL-ers as in Down From London-ers, the choice has improved. Not to the extent of selecting fresh artichokes nor Jerusalem artichokes, two of my favourites. The reason for mentioning that, and I’m sure it used to happen in London as well, armed with a shopping list I traipsed off to one of my local stores yesterday as I had a new cauliflower and white turnip soup with a surprise ingredient constructed in my head and notes made longhand on paper. The surprise was the store was all out of white turnip. I’m hoping that it’s not the end of their season as I’ve just discovered that I really like them sliced and pan-fried. So, with a cauliflower already bought in I decided to go with the turnips cousin, swede. Nice choice. With discs of pan-fried organic salad potatoes this turned out to be a delicious Cauliflower and Swede Soup. Lots of flavours and textures with the perfect heat from one green finger chilli. With a couple of slices of my wheaten bread lightly toasted and buttered this soup really hit the spot. Of course, to keep this even healthier the cauliflower, potatoes and swede could be oven-baked instead. With it being so cold again I’m certainly not giving up on my large bowls of comfort food, nor pan-fried foods for that matter, any time soon.
Cauliflower and Swede Soup, with organic pan-fried potato discs
FOR THE STOCK:
- 1 x large carrot or about 200g (7.05 oz), peeled, trimmed and cut into large chunks
- 1 x onion, cut in half, peeled, trimmed and cut into quarters
- 2 – 3 x celery stalks/ribs, washed, trimmed and cut into large pieces
- 3 – 4 x garlic cloves, root end cut off and discarded, peeled and kept whole
- 3 x sprigs fresh thyme
- inner leaves of the cauliflower (only to be used for flavouring the stock as they’re not edible), washed
- 2 x dried bay leaves
- 5 x juniper berries
- 5 x whole black pepper corns
- 1 x organic vegetable stock cube
- 500ml (1.05 US pt lqd) x cold water
FOR THE SOUP:
- 1 x small head of cauliflower, about 270g (9.52 oz) after prep, remove all leaves and most of stalk
- about 400g (14.10 oz) x small organic salad potatoes (I’ve used Charlotte), any blemishes cut out and sliced into discs about 3 – 4mm or 2/10ths in in thickness
- 1 x small swede/rutabaga, about 470g (16.57 oz), peeled, trimmed and cut crossways into discs about 12mm or ½ in in thickness (or if you want to go for the look on the plate as I’ve done double the thickness and pan-fry for longer)
- 1/2 – 1 x green finger chilli (Scoville rating 50,000), cut in half
- both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Put all of the stock ingredients into a large heavy-based saucepan with a lid on electric heat No 4 (out of 6). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for at least 30 minutes but preferable an hour. I do this the night before and after an hour I simply turn the heat off. Next day I do put the stock back on heat before straining it through a metal colander into a suitable bowl underneath. Then the garlic and bay leaves are removed and set aside. The vegetables are then squeezed with the back of a large metal serving spoon to extract as much of their juice and nutrients as possible. Those are then discarded and the stock is poured through a fine wire metal sieve into the saucepan that’s been rinsed out. Or the stock can be poured into a blender with the garlic, and when some of the cauliflower is cooked about a quarter of it can be added and the stock blitzed until smooth. That is then poured into the saucepan after the cauliflower florets have been pan-fried.
- For the cauliflower all leaves need to be removed. It’s normally easier to slice through the base of it to remove some of the core or stalk. Keep the smallish inner pale green leaves for the stock. The others are discarded. Normally with cauliflower I cut the florets off and soak them in salted water for 20 minutes or so. As this head of cauliflower was quite small I brought a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil on heat No 4. Then the whole head was carefully immersed into the water. With a lid on pan the water was brought back to a boil then simmered on No 2 for only 3 minutes. Then, carefully lift the pan into the sink and either empty out the hot water or simply run cold water until the cauliflower is completely cold. After it’s well drained the cauliflower needs to be split into florets, with the large florets split into two. Put a large saucepan on heat No 3, pour in a little oil and add the florets. Allow to settle, then stir through to prevent scorching. I like to get them slightly golden.
- In the meantime prep the swede/rutabaga and get those steaks into a heavy-based pan on heat No 2 with glug of oil and a lid. Cook for about 10m – 15 minutes, remove the lid and turn the steaks over. Continue to cook on both sides until easily pierced with a fork and both sides are nicely golden orange in colour. Take off heat and keep warm.
- For the potatoes give them a good scrub and cut any rough skin and blemishes from them. After slicing them get them into a heavy-based pan with a little oil on heat No 3. With two forks make sure none of them stick to the base of pan. After about 10 or 15 minutes turn each disc over and continue to pan-fry until they’re fully cooked and nicely golden on both sides, reducing the heat if necessary. I’ve found with making this again that the heat had to be reduced to No 1 after turning them over.
- When the soup is needed and the stock has been blended and poured back into the saucepan with the pan-fried cauliflower florets add the bay leaves and the sliced in half green finger chilli, put back on heat No 4 and bring to near boiling point. To serve I added the swede steaks, then stacked the potato discs on top and ladled the soup around them.
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