Hello from the flakiest blogger in the world! I woke up early this morning to spend some time blogging, but then fell into a vortex of Ina Garten videos on Youtube. Do you ever feel like Ina and Jeffery are the Burmuda Triangle of the food world? A mystery that we’ll just never know the answers to? Why is every second word out of her mouth ‘Jeffery’? How does she know he’s arrived even before he’s in the driveway? Why are they so nice to each other?
These are a few of the questions that keep me going back the Barefoot Contessa videos. The food’s not bad either. One of the very first recipes on The Malabar Tea Room is from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics, a book that despite its terrible photos, I’ve come to love over the years.
I’ve been stressing about blogging lately. Firstly, because I miss it. There’s something lovely about putting your slightly self-involved thoughts out there and having other people read it. Secondly, with work consuming so much of my time, what really is there to talk to you about? Ate Top Ramen Curry Noodles for the third night in a row?
I have, however, been cooking a little bit more in the last two weeks. I made scones a few days ago – I think they turned out pretty good, even though mum said they looked terrible when I sent her pictures. I made grilled eggplant with miso twice, and as I write this, I have a batch of my very first pizza dough rising in my kitchen. I didn’t plan this very well, however and so instead of being ready in time for dinner, it is now going to be ready for shaping at 6 am. Oh well, more Top Ramen, anyone?
I’ve also made cauliflower soup four times in the last two weeks. It’s a Food52 genius recipe that is really, truly genius. Have we talked about Genius Recipes? If I had to live on a desert island and bring only one cookbook along, I’d smuggle in Genius Recipes as my second choice. (My first would be Ummi Abdulla's Malabar Muslim Cookery, duh). I love that the recipes are elegant, thoughtful and unpretentious. I know many home cooks find Food52 recipes to be fussy and tedious, but this book has so many recipes that use everyday ingredients and turn it into something magical. Heck, any book that can convince me to make a soup that has cauliflower and not much else in it, four times in a fortnight, is a winner.
I first made this soup several years ago when I found it on the Food52 website – it tasted god-awful and I’m not sure what made me try it again two weeks ago, but I’m so very glad I did. This time however, rather than tasting like boiled cauliflower puree (which it essentially is) it tasted velvety, creamy and deeply rich. Words you would not usually associate with cauliflower. A no-nonsense, straightforward, strong, wholesome flavour. Like if Mr. Darcy were a soup. Because I had several pieces of Parmesan rind that i'd been collecting for months, I added a few of those. I also added stock because I don’t have the courage to ever make soup without stock. There, my secret’s out.
A few things to keep in mind:
The recipe asks you to sweat the onions on low for 15 minutes. This is important, don’t try to speed this process along. Put on some music, or a podcast and let it do its thing. The smell of onions slow cooking is so good – if it could be bottled and sold as a scented candle, I'd buy it. As strange as it sounds, it has that deeply savoury smell of searing meat. And I think this is what makes the entire soup taste delicious. It adds depth and umami. So don’t mess up.
When I made it last week, I accidentally let the first round of water evaporate and the cauliflower charred a little bit and the flavours were intensified without tasting burnt. The next time, hoping to replicate it, I let it char a little too much and this time it definitely tasted burned. Don’t do that. As soon as it starts to smell caramelized, add the water.
Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup With a Few Adjustments
Adapted from Genius Recipes by Food52
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin (about 170 g)
1 head very fresh cauliflower, broken into florets (about 650 g)
5 ½ cups water, or chicken stock
Parmesan rind (optional)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot. Add the onions and sauté on a low flame for 15 minutes, without allowing the onions to brown.
Add the cauliflower, increase the flame to medium, and let it cook till the florets brown in certain spots, about 4-5 minutes.
Now add salt, ½ cup water or stock, Parmesan rind and cover the pot tightly, increase the flame and let the cauliflower cook for 15 minutes.
Add the remaining water or stock, and let it simmer away for 20 minutes.
Remove the rind, and blend the cauliflower and liquid CAREFULLY until smooth.
If needed, adjust the consistency of the soup with hot water.
Serve warm with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper.