Autumn has definitely arrived in Tasmania. The grapevines and their melting leaves glow orange across the landscape; nights are chilly and days are clear and cool. Food choices also change as we shift from outdoor barbies and salad, to something with a little more heart and comfort.
Even though I’m a summer girl through and through, I do love cooking and eating the bigger, warming foods of winter. I also find winter food easier in a lot of ways because I can cook large amounts of, say a braised dish either in the oven or slow cooker, and freeze portions for a no-cook home-prepared meal at any time.
And so it is with soup. Last week I made my first big batch of the season with the stock reserved from the day before’s poached chicken and chose the vegetable du jour – cauliflower – as my key ingredient. Actually I’ve never stopped using cauliflower, or any of the other perceived unfashionable ingredients for that matter, but I am enjoying exploring new ways of preparing this good old fashioned vegetable.
Combining the flavours of cauliflower and parsnips roasted to a golden perfection, with leeks, onions and garlic – well it seemed like the perfect match. Another perfect match was definitely my freshly baked bread rolls using Tasmania’s Callington Mill stone ground flour.
This type of food also suits my preferred diet that’s lower in carbohydrates and although parsnips have carbohydrate content, generally speaking they’re not quite as high in carbs as potatoes. Actually, when you divide the 25 or so grams of carbohydrates one cup of sliced parsnip has across the four or so litres of creamy soup that this recipe makes, of which you’ll probably eat somewhere between 350-500 ml in a bowl … well you do the maths. It’s not many and you do need some carbohydrates in your diet for energy.
As mentioned above, this recipe is made from my home-made chicken stock (also something I keep in various sized containers in my freezer as I don’t like the taste of the bought stuff). Chicken, beef or lamb broths are all ridiculously easy to make and with my upcoming new website, currently in development, I’ll do a section dedicated to basics such as these.
Just as an aside, I must say I have to giggle when I read the stuff about bone broths a-la paleo and other fad diets as if they were some mystical magical ingredient to be placed on a pedestal and revered from afar. I’ve been making bone broth … aka stock … for years.
Don’t be fooled or afraid. Home-made stocks are simple, basic and make loads of difference to your food. Plus you know what you’re eating. NO additives, preservatives or ingredients sourced from countries with dubious farming practices because they’re cheaper. Just fresh bones, vegetables, fresh herbs if you wish and water. That’s it.
As noted above, this recipe makes about four litres of sublime, creamy soup. That’s enough for dishing out dinner fresh from the cooking pot and then dividing the rest amongst containers to freeze for instant home-cooked goodness at any time.
Without further delay, let’s cook soup.
You will need
1 large head of cauliflower – about 1 kilo of florets
3 medium sized parsnips, peeled
2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and finely sliced
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic – more or less according to your own taste, peeled
2 litres fresh, home-made chicken stock
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1/4 cup pure cream or sour cream or coconut cream (optional and to your taste)
Sea salt flakes or finely ground pink salt + freshly ground black pepper
Time to cook
Preheat your oven to 180C fan forced / 200C non-fan.
Break the cauliflower into large-ish florets and place in a colander, then rinse under a cold running tap. Dry well with a clean tea towel and place on a baking tray or spread across two. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and place in the oven.
Cut your peeled parsnips into even sized chunks. Place into a bowl and drizzle with the teaspoon of olive oil. Toss to coat evenly, then tip into a baking tray – either share one of the cauliflower trays or place on its own, but make sure there’s space for it to brown up.
Roast both the cauliflower and parsnip until golden brown and remove from the oven to cool.
Pour the tablespoon of olive oil into a large soup pot and heat gently. Add the onion, garlic and finely sliced leeks to the pan with a sprinkling of salt. Cook over gentle heat, stirring until the liquid that releases from the vegetables evaporates and the pan becomes dry. This takes up to 10 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander seed and stir until the spices release their earthy aromas.
Tip the cauliflower and parsnip in and stir it all together. Season it all with ground black pepper and salt to taste.
Note: it sounds like I’m using a lot of salt in this recipe. When I’m using salt in this manner it’s generally just a pinch or two between my fingers at a time, which probably amounts to about half a teaspoon all up. Just use your common sense and don’t pour it on by the spoonful. Or omit altogether if you like salt-free food.
Pour the chicken stock in all at once, add a slosh of white wine if you’re using – up to half a cup, but no more. Pop the lid on your pan and warm it all gently until it reaches a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes or so.
Turn off the heat and set aside in a cool place to cool down for an hour or so. During this time the flavours will develop further.
If you have a stick mixer, use that to puree your soup into a smooth, sultry consistency. You could also use a blender or food processer. My Kenwood stick mixer has a special soup end, which is really wide with a metal blade and it works a treat. Stir in about 1/4 cup of sour cream or pure cream if you want a creamier soup, but it suddenly becomes non-vegan, non-dairy friendly. You could also add coconut cream/milk at this stage as an alternative.
I celebrated this sensational soup with freshly baked bread rolls using my newly purchased fresh stone ground flour from Tasmania’s fantastic Callington Mill in the tiny historic village of Oatlands.