Cauliflowers are in season in Britain from September till May and can be found in abundance at greengrocers and farmers markets in the winter months. It is an ideal vegetable to be creative with: from experimenting with variances of the infamous cauliflower cheese dish to imaginative salad and soup recipes.
We have prepared the soup of pearl a couple of times in our home this autumn and winter. This soup is an ideal winter dish for the week before Christmas if you want to keep your meals light but satisfying. Or it might be the perfect accompaniment for your turkey leftovers in the coming weeks.
This Lia’s kitchen recipe was inspired by two recipes from Skye Gyngell and Delia Smith found in Soup Kitchen, a soup recipe book edited by Thomasina Miers and Annabel Buckingham. The recipes are inspired by the combination of cauliflower and blue cheese that give the soup an iridescent white pearl tint and its characteristic flavour.
My favourite cheese for the soup is Pearl Las (from Caws Cenarth Cheese Company), an unexpectedly different Welsh cheese: a blue Caerphilly cheese. You can use Dolcelatte or Roquefort instead of Pearl Las: these are the cheeses used in the original recipes that inspired this meal.
The bread of preference for this soup is homemade and wholemeal Irish soda bread. Once the bread is in the oven the preparation of your soup should not take much longer than its baking and cooling down time (approx. 45 min). Your meal should be ready in an hour and could feed 4 people as a main (including seconds).
Recipes and preparation
For the Irish Soda Bread I have used and adapted a BBC Food recipe from James Martin:
170gr self raising wholemeal flour
170gr Einkorn or other plain flour
½ tsp salt
1/1 tsp bicarbonate soda
This is the easiest and quickest bread to make. I use plain Einkorn and self raising wheat flours, both organic and wholemeal. Don’t worry if you don’t have buttermilk: you can make it yourself by adding the juice of one lemon in 250ml or more of milk. If your milk does not seem to thicken just add a bit more lemon juice. Mix all ingredients together and knead briefly in a lightly flowered area. I make one round bread and cut a cross in the middle. Before baking I sprinkle the top and bottom of the loaf with more Einkorn wholemeal flour. The bread bakes in 30 minutes 200 degrees Celsius. Serve warm with butter.
One of my favourite butters to have with warm or toasted bread is Calonwen Organic slightly salted butter, made in Wales by a dairy cooperative of 20 organic farmers.
For the soup of pearl for 4-6 people:
2 medium to large cauliflowers
25 gr of butter (plus a tbspn at the end)
Fresh Thyme (dry will do if you don’t have any)
4 heaped tbspns of crème fraiche or more
3 bays leaves
1 large leek
1 Celery stick (optional)
1-2 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
250gr or more of Pearl Las Cheese or Dolcelatte
Some ground nutmeg (optional)
At least 3 litres of stock
A large pot that can fit 2.5 litres of water and soul (makes about 5 litres of soup)
Sauté the leek, onions and bay leaves in your pot in low heat for 10 minutes. Season with some salt and pepper. Add celery and some of the thyme and continue for a couple of minutes. Then add the cubed potato or potatoes, the florets of cauliflower and the green stalks. Waste none of the cauliflower, the green leaves of the vegetable add to the taste and make a fantastic stock. After sautéing for another couple of minutes fill the pot with 3 litres of boiling water or stock. You can use chicken or vegetable stock. I prefer using organic and yeast free bouillon stock. Simmer the cauliflower for 20-30 minutes or until all ingredients are tender. Take the soup of the hob and add the crème fraiche, half the cheese or more, season with some more salt and pepper and nutmeg if you would like. Cream the soup with a handheld food processor or blender in the pot. Adjust seasoning to your taste. I usually end up putting more crème fraiche and some more cheese.
For the pear relish
3 conference pears
1 tbsp or more sugar
A bit of butter (25gr)
Some red wine
Some cider or red wine vinegar (75 ml)
Fresh lemon thyme or dry thyme
Whilst the soup is cooking: Peel, core and chop the pears and apple and place in preheated pot with the melted butter. Add some thyme. Soften the fruit on the heat for 5 minutes add the sugar followed by the wine, and vinegar after a couple of minutes. Simmer at very low heat for 10 minutes or until the fruit is soft and there is enough thicken relish juice for the soup.
This relish makes the soup very special as its sweet and sour flavour nicely contrasts the creamy and savoury soup. I would advise you make double the relish if you have guests. You will notice that people keep reaching out for it.