Wednesday, 2 May 2007
Wednesday is Organic bag day. I decided when I moved back to the North East that I would utilise the local greengrocer's Organic bag scheme, and it turns out to be quite an exciting day in my life. In exchange for £10, a small brown paper bag is dropped off with a selection of local seasonal fruit and veg. A quick tip onto the table and I'm away with the note pad, scribbling away like a mad man trying to invent something.
Last week saw the first cauliflower of the season. It was a small number, not one of those huge alien like fiends you often see any time of the year in any supermarket. Cauliflowers are one of those vegetables that I hated as a child. Perhaps it was the way it was always served to me boiled to submission so that it was completely devoid of flavour and texture. I was a bit fussy with my vegetables when I was a wee one, and cauliflower definitely stands out as a thing of my nightmares. Now I love the stuff. And any other vegetable for that matter.
Cauliflower cheese has to be a true British classic. Whoever thought of combining this beautiful white specimen with a rich cheese sauce deserves a medal, as it has to be one of the few vegetable dishes you want to eat in its entirety with no accompaniment. It is simply delicious. When it tipped onto the table, I decided immediately that I wanted that dish. But what if I turned the cauliflower cheese philosophy into a simple summer soup, one that could be eaten cold as well as hot? So I did.
This soup is a true joy to eat, and any good strong cheese will suffice. I used a slab of Berwick Edge cheese from the amazing Doddington Dairy in Wooler (http://www.doddingtondairy.co.uk) as it is one of our tremendous local cheeses that sings like the best cheddar yet has a silky soft texture. Flavour and texture. Berwick Edge delivers it all.
All that was left was to make a simple purée with some peppery watercress, a few frozen peas and a little yoghurt. It all seemed to work nicely as a quick and effective afternoon soup for a sunny day in Spring. The Organic bag delivered another winner. It is a real lucky dip for an obsessive foody. Give a bag a go.
Cauliflower and Berwick Edge Cheese Soup with Watercress and Pea Purée
1 Cauliflower, trimmed and chopped roughly
1 shallot, sliced
150g Berwick Edge Cheese (or any good strong cheddar), grated
50g plain flour
Salt and Pepper
For the purée
2 handfuls of frozen or fresh peas, softened in boiling water for 2 minutes
2 handfuls of watercress
1 - Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the shallot and cauliflower. Cook for 5-10 minutes stirring regularly, until softened but not coloured.
2 - Add the water, bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes until softened completely. Blitz until smooth in a food processor or using a hand processor. Push through a sieve for a smoother consistency but I prefer the texture.
3 - Make a roux by melting the butter and adding the flour, stirring for 1 minute. Add the milk gradually until you have a thick sauce, the consistency of double cream.
4 - Stir in the cheese and thoroughly combine. Then stir into the soup. Taste for seasoning.
5 - Make a simple purée by blitzing the peas and watercress then stirring into the yoghurt.
6 - Serve the soup in bowls with a good spoonful of purée and a few shavings of cheese.