Cauliflower almond soup, with mushrooms and truffle oil
I’ve got snow envy again. It seems to be the same old story every January these days; I’m always the happy recipient of other people’s snowmen pictures, but there’s never a flake to be seen in London. Whilst I’m not a fan of the cold, I do love that magical ability snow has to imbue a sense of calm and serenity, acting as a massive blanket that muffles any noise and makes everything still under its weight.
The delicate flavour and thick texture of this soup has a similar calming influence to that elusive heavy snowfall which I never open my curtains to find. White food seems to have a gentle quality which can be just what you need after a daily battle through the cold. The nutty sweet flavour of almonds blends well with the earthiness of the cauliflower. I decided to top it off with even more earthy flavour from some fried mushrooms and truffle oil, although it’s not essential.
Its funny how some things can seem like too much effort in the kitchen, a culinary step too far, despite relative simplicity. For me, this is generally anything that relies on knowing what I’ll be eating more than a couple of hours in advance. Soaking dried beans overnight seems a ridiculous concept; even resting pastry for the requisite length of time feels like a trauma. So soaking almonds for two days to make this soup went totally against my cooking nature. But I tried this recipe with shop-bought almond milk and found it insufficiently almondy for this recipe, so I knew I had to get on with making my own. And it really wasn’t a big deal, but I feel I should apologise in advance for the two day head start you need to make.
So, two whole days (!) before you want to make this, place 100g almonds into a jug and cover with plenty of cold water, so you have double the depth of water to almonds. Add a pinch of salt. Leave to soak, changing the salted water roughly every twelve hours.
When you’re ready to cook, chop half a white onion and gently sweat over a medium heat until softened but not browning. Meanwhile peel 1 medium potato and cut into small cubes, about 1cm across. Roughly chop 1 medium cauliflower. Add the potatoes to the pan then the cauliflower on the top. Add 200ml vegetable stock, cover and leave to cook for around 20mins. The stock won’t cover the vegetables, but the cauliflower on the top will steam to tenderness. You don’t want much more liquid at this stage, the almond milk will top it up to a soup consistency later on.
Whilst the vegetables are cooking, drain the almonds and place in a blender with 300ml fresh cold water. Blend for around two minutes. Then strain the almond milk through a muslin or clean cloth, wringing out the almond pulp to get maximum flavour. You might want to add some of the left over almond pulp to your soup if you’d like the texture, otherwise save it and add to your baking or other recipes.
Once the vegetables are tender, pour over the almond milk and bring to just below boiling point. Tip everything into your blender and blitz until smooth, adding more liquid if you prefer a thinner texture. Season to taste.
Flash fry a few chopped mushrooms over a high heat in a little oil until slightly browned. Add to the top of the soup, with a drizzle of truffle oil and a sprinkle of thyme.
Serves 2, generously. Takes 40mins, plus 2 days’ soaking.
1 medium cauliflower
1/2 white onion
1 medium potato
200ml vegetable stock