On those days when you are struggling through rush hour as the biting wind whips right through you, after your boss has blamed you for the system failure again and no-one even offered to make you a cup of tea, you need food that will sooth and nourish. You need comfort in a bowl.
Sometimes, soup is the only solution. It is simple, warming and, more importantly, easy to make and eat. One of the few benefits of wintertime is the opportunity to eat more of it. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a carton off the supermarket shelf once in a while, but they are often loaded with salt and sugar and sometimes taste a bit thin and souless.
Cauliflower cheese has got to be on a lot of people’s winter comfort food list. It’s a combination that works partly because it’s so simple and yet, totally delicious. One particularly bitter winter’s night a few years ago, it suddenly seemed to make complete sense to make it into a hearty and totally satisfying soup. It’s rather bland appearance belies the incredible depth of flavour; it is rich, smooth and deeply reassuring. Life cannot be so bad when dinner tastes so wonderful.
Most soup is quite easy to make, but this is a ridiculously simple recipe, yet tastes like you have slaved for hours. It will keep for a week in the fridge, but it also freezes well.
The success of this soup does depend on the cheese. I like to use the strongest Cheddar I can find; Keens is excellent here if you can get it. No other type of cheese had quite the right acidic tang, which offsets the richness of the soup. Rye bread works especially well here, as it is slightly nutty and robust enough to stand up to the strong flavours in the soup, but you can use any bread you have in the house.
Cauliflower Cheese Soup
1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 small potato, peeled and roughly chopped
100g of strong, hard cheese-preferably Cheddar
1 tbs English mustard
1/4 of a freshly grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
600ml vegetable stock
400 ml whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 slices of rye bread
1) Pop the cauliflower, potato and onion in a large pan and add the milk, bay leaf and stock.
2) Bring up to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes until the cauliflower is very tender.
3) Remove the bay leaf. Blitz in a blender until very smooth. Add some more milk if it is rather thick then return to the pan.
4) Add the mustard, nutmeg and grated cheese. On a low heat, stir until the cheese has melted. Season to taste and put aside to keep warm.
5) Make some croutons with the rye bread: simply cut into cubes, toss with a little olive oil and bake on a low heat for about 15 minutes, until crisp and dried out.
6) To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, scatter with the croutons and sprinkle with a little more grated cheese.