One of my favorite memories from my childhood in Norway is when my mom would make a simple, creamy cauliflower soup for dinner. She would also buy a baguette (white bread – a luxury in my home) and we would slather it with butter and eat the soup with my mom’s homemade saft (a fruit concentrate blended with water) that were pressed from red and blackcurrants we grew in the garden. Nothing could be simpler, but yet it seemed like a really special meal to me.
I’m not sure why it was always during the summer we had cauliflower soup, because technically it’s not in season until the fall and through winter. But I’m guessing it was because my mom considered it a light meal that was more appropriate during the warmer summer days and she didn’t want to spend too long in the kitchen cooking.
True to Norwegian and Scandinavian cuisine, a classic cauliflower soup doesn’t have a lot of spices or other vegetables blended in. Rather, it lets the cauliflower shine. A touch of cream might be added with a little ground nutmeg (or not). Mild and filling, it feels healthy yet decadent. Some people today will add a little curry powder to it or add in a carrot or some garlic. I’ve added some sauted onions to mine and a potato to make the soup even creamier. I also feel that a little lemon juice brightens it up. Topping the soup with a few toasted seeds of your choice adds a nice, crunchy texture to the creamy soup. Use your imagination and add whatever you like, however be careful not to let the additional ingredients outshine the main star.
In Norway, cauliflower has been grown since the 17th century and is to date one of the most popular vegetables in the country. Norwegian cauliflower is so fresh and flavorful, it’s really in a class of its own. Some people call cauliflower “the queen of vegetables”, as it’s versatile, healthy and likable to the majority of people. I tend to agree; whether you roast a cauliflower whole (cauliflower steak, anyone?), add it to salads, tacos or in curries, or even just cook it and mash it up in place of potatoes or use as a dip, this vegetable is really magical and fun in so many ways.
The key to a really tasty cauliflower soup I feel is to roast it first, as it caramelizes and develops more depth of flavor. If you don’t want to take this extra step, you can easily saute the florets in the same pan you’re cooking the soup in, and it will still work just fine. When cooking it in the vegetable broth and pureeing it in your blender, you get a creamy, yet dairy free soup. This way you can eat several bowls of this in good conscience. I add a few cashews to the soup for a nut based cream, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have them on hand.
I hope you will try out my soup! For those of you who are gluten free, this is a wonderful choice as well. This recipe makes a fairly big batch but you can easily freeze it if you by some chance have any leftovers.
CREAMY CAULIFLOWER SOUP
1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for sauteing
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
5 cups vegetable broth
juice from 1 small lemon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for about 2 hours
kosher or sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)
Fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives, chopped – garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (210 degrees Celsius). Place the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over them, season with a little salt and massage in the oil and salt well. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan, or the florets will steam instead or roast. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and slightly charred. Remove from oven and set aside.
Reserve a few of your prettiest cauliflower florets as garnish for soup and set aside.
Heat up a little extra virgin olive oil in a large soup pot, throw in the onion with a pinch of kosher salt and saute for about 4-5 minutes until soft and golden. Add in the cauliflower along with the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes until soft.
Ladle in the soup into your blender in batches with the soaked cashews, puree until creamy and smooth. Pour the soup back into the pot, add the fresh lemon juice, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste until you have achieved the flavor you want.
Serve warm, garnish with the reserved cauliflower florets and chopped, fresh parsley or chives. Some great artisan bread with some great vegan butter like Miyoko’s European artisan butter is wonderful – and maybe even a Norwegian beer or your favorite glass of wine!