Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Roast cauliflower and saffron soup

As well as popping into my head today on a couple of occasions, bizarrely, this dish has also popped up on my computer screen a couple of times too. Not only was it mentioned in an email this morning, it was also the subject of a post on Facebook too. 

I should add, however, that my friends aren't all discussing this particular (relatively uncommon) soup online by pure coincidence. It was, in fact, the first dish of a six course banquet that myself and ten others were lucky enough to indulge in on New Years Eve. Good to know it's still getting airtime! 

The soup was actually a last minute addition to the menu, but was possibly my favourite dish of the evening. I'd eaten an excellent cauliflower salad with saffron dressing a couple of days earlier, and felt it was a combination that merited inclusion in our meal. In the soup, cauliflower and saffron make for excellent bedfellows: The pureed cauliflower gives a velvety smooth texture, and subtly earthy flavour, whilst the saffron adds a touch of decadence. Meanwhile, slow-roasted garlic and shallots provide an undertone of rich caramel sweetness. 

Enough for six as a starter
one large cauliflower head, broken into florets
six shallots, peeled and halved
six cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
one medium onion, finely sliced
saffron, about 20 strands, plus extra for garnish
a litre vegetable stock
a thick slice of butter
single cream
olive oil
sea salt & black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Spread the cauliflower, garlic and shallots out on a roasting dish, season, and coat with a little olive oil. Roast for 1.5 hours, until they have started to caramelise and brown nicely at the edges. If you're short of time, you can roast them at a higher temperature for a shorter time, but be careful not to burn the cauliflower - the florets catch fairly easily. 

Soak the saffron in a splash of hot water for ten minutes, then add to the stock. 

Meanwhile, cook the onion in butter over a low heat in a sauce pan. Again, the slower the better - you want the onion  to caramelise and reduce to about a third of the volume of when it's raw. It should be soft, sticky and translucent. Add the roasted cauliflower, shallots and garlic. Stir to combine, then pour on the hot stock. Bring to the boil, and simmer for ten minutes, so the veg takes up all the stock flavours, then puree in batches in a blender. 

Add the cream, and gently re-heat. You don't want it to boil again, as the cream could split. Check the seasoning, and serve, garnished with a few more saffron strands on eat bowlful.  

Thanks to Food52 for the recipe. 

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