Parsnip and cauliflower soup

I love parsnip soup. And I love cauliflower soup. So it only seemed like a natural progression to try the two together. And it was definitely worth doing!

When cooked, parsnips are naturally ‘creamy’ – and so is cauliflower. When cooked and blended together, it creates a lovely rich and unctuous texture that is wonderfully comforting, perfect for those grey January days.

I’ve used both a curry powder mix that contains turmeric as well as a little additional turmeric. This is to ensure that as well as super tasty, this soup also gives the immune system a bit of a helping hand.

Turmeric is a beautifully golden yellow spice (or root rather) that contains some powerful medicinal compounds that have been well researched for their positive effects on both the body and the brain. The main compound studied is curcumin, although there are many more within turmeric that all work together as a team, so as always, trust nature and consume turmeric as a whole rather than an individual compound.

To maximise absorption of these helpful compounds, it’s best to consume alongside some black pepper (for the compound piperine that massively aids absorption) and a little fat. As you know, all my food is cooked without oil, but I have included some almond milk plus I like to garnish my soup with a drizzle of cold-pressed flaxseed oil. This provides some healthy omega 3 fatty acids and helps absorption of the turmeric compounds.

This soup keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days plus it freezes well, so you can make a big batch and have portions on hand when you need a tasty lunch that will hug you from the inside out! Enjoy.

Parsnip and cauliflower soup

A deliciously thick and warming soup perfect for chilly winter days.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Soup
Servings 4 big portions

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 4 medium parsnips peeled and diced
  • 1/2 medium cauliflower chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons medium curry powder
  • 700 ml vegetable stock
  • 100 ml almond milk or dairy-free milk of choice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • drizzle cold pressed flaxseed oil optional

Instructions
 

  • Place a medium-sized pan on a medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes until the onion starts to soften.
  • Tip the parsnips into the pan and sauté for 3 minutes, then add the cauliflower and garlic along with a little extra water to stop it sticking to the base of the pan. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the ground turmeric and curry powder and stir in to coat the veggies. Pour over the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  • Pop on the saucepan lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the veggies are soft.
  • Turn off the heat and add the almond or dairy-free milk of choice. Using a stick blender, blend to smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Gently reheat if necessary then serve piping hot with a little extra black pepper and glug of flaxseed oil
Keyword cauliflower, gluten free, healthy soup, OMS friendly, parsnip, plant based

Cauli-power!

The humble cauliflower has had a massive image overhaul in the last year or so. Gone are the days of soggy, overcooked mush with sulphurous overtones (thank goodness!) – in fact to simply boil a creamy white floret might be seen as sacrilege now! Whether it’s the raw crisp crunch or the rich, caramelised softness from roasting, our homegrown hero offers much to previous cauli detractors.

There’s even whole features on them in food magazines, including this month’s Waitrose magazine. And rightly so, as this previously underrated vegetable has much to offer, with outstanding taste,  nutrition and flexibility.
I’ve raved about cauliflowers before, using them as a base for a white sauce, and creating a ‘cheesy’ sauce and soup (see http://foodiesensitive.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/cheesy-cauliflower-soup-or-pasta-bake.html). The low-carb and paleo followers use cauliflower for a number of grain based alternatives like rice, and pizza base. I’ve tried the pizza base, as part of my search for the ideal pizza alternative – good taste but lots of effort! As for rice, I like the brown stuff myself, and all the goodness that goes with it, so not gone for the cauli-rice personally. The texture of cauliflower means that it can hold its form in curries and stews (as long as it’s not added too early and overcooked) and absorbs spices really well, so works with a lovely dry curry like aloo gobi.

Whilst I always encourage eating an array of rainbow vegetables every day, there are still some beneficial white vegetables, cauliflower being one of them. As the head of creamy florets develop, they are protected from the winter weather by layers of dark green leaves that capture whatever winter sunlight they can to help them grow. As part of the super-healthy cruciferous family, cauliflowers share many of the powerful anti-cancer phytonutrients found in other brassicas like broccoli and cabbage. Whilst maybe not quite as nutrient dense, cauliflower still packs a good punch of vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium and of course fibre. And that sulphury aroma – that’s released from the phytochemicals as they are cooked, so steam lightly rather then boil it to death, and not only will your house smell better, your body will benefit too!

My two favourite ways of using cauliflower are roasting or using to give a creamy, flavoursome texture, either as a sauce or in soup.

Roasting caramelises the outer layer of the florets, creating a beautifully nutty flavour. You can try and roast a whole cauli in one go, but this takes at least an hour – I found these cute little mini caulis the other day, perfect for roasting, only taking about 20 minutes. And the flavour was fabulous!

Cauliflower as a cream in soup is really easy to use – this creamy cauliflower and sweet potato chowder is not only packed full of amazing nutrients, including vitamin A, C and a whole bundle of phytonutrients, the ‘cream’ is rich and flavoursome, and of course dairy free. And using all vegetables gives an extra boost of fibre to keep your intestines super happy!

My next foray into cauli versatility is to explore the world of cauliflower steaks, a new experiment for me in textures and flavours. So why not start discovering cauli-power for yourself, and watch out for more cauli raving in the future!

Cauliflower, red pepper and sweet potato chowder
1 teaspoon olive oil1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, diced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
2 teaspoons thyme
1 litre vegetable stock
salt and pepper
dairy free milk (optional)
parsley or basil to garnish (optional)
Heat a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a large pan and sauté the onion for a few minutes until it starts to soften. Add the red pepper and sweet potato and cook for a few minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and continue to sauté until it starts to brown slightly (this is why you need a large pan, so you can move the vegetables around a bit!). Stir in the garlic and thyme, mixing well. Pour in the vegetable stock until the vegetables are covered (you can add more later if needed), bring to the boil, then put on the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so until all the vegetables are well cooked. Season with salt and pepper, cool slightly then blitz until smooth – add more vegetable stock or some dairy free milk to get the thickness you want. Check seasoning, then serve with a chopped herb garnish (optional)

Saucy cauliflower

There are some recipes that just seem to work best with dairy – white sauce is one. Melting rich butter, frantically stirring in flour to form a roux, then slowly adding creamy milk whilst whisking madly, sending out a little prayer that it won’t be too runny or lumpy. If the white sauce works, the rest of the dish does too.

Since going dairy free, making a good white sauce has been a challenge. Dairy free spread makes a great butter replacement (as long as the pan is not too hot) but soya milk has too much flavour of it’s own and rice milk is too watery. As they were my only options in India, I used vegetable stock to make a savoury sauce for pies but was never really satisfied with the results.

After visiting Vegefest earlier this year, I discovered Kara (or Koko, not really sure which one it’s called!). Made from coconut milk, it’s rich and creamy and perfect for cooking with, particularly sauces. Surprisingly, fresh Kara doesn’t have a strong flavour; the long life one is more coconutty. So white sauce is no longer a challenge if I want to make it the traditional way and dairy eating family members can’t tell the difference!

But this is not necessarily the healthiest route to go. My food journey is about using food to heal, not just sustain the body, so I’m always looking to maximise my nutrition intake by reducing anything processed and inflammatory and focusing on whole foods.

And that’s where the humble cauliflower comes in.

When cooked and pureed, cauliflower makes a wonderful creamy sauce that can be used for pasta dishes, lasagna or even a kind of bechemal sauce. Apparently, you can add nutritinal yeast to create a cheese sauce, but as yeast is a no go area I can’t comment!

Because it’s one of those super-healthy cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is packed full of nutrients, including a whopping amount of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate, and is pretty good for manganese, B5, potassium and fibre. It’s anti-inflammatory, packed with anti-oxidants and phytonutrients and helps your cells to detox.Of course, every positive has to have a negative, and cauliflower can have a smell issue! Some of the phytonutrients release sulphur compounds when cooked so the house can take on a farty aroma for a while! Minimal cooking produces minimal smell, but for sauce making the cauliflower has to be soft, so keep those windows open!!

To get a good savoury flavour, use vegetable stock; place your chopped cauli in a pan with a tight-fitting lid and pour over the stock, not quite covering all the veg, then boil with the lid on, stirring it up every now and then to make sure everything is cooking. The cauli will break down as it cooks and release its own water. Once cooked, leave to cool in the stock, then blitz it all together (this is why you don’t want too much stock otherwise it’s too watery). This way you retain as many of the nutrients as possible that may have leached out into the cooking water. Then season and serve.

I recently made a pasta sauce this way – whilst the cauli was bubbling away, I sauteed some onion, red pepper, garlic and mixed herbs until everything softened, then added some broccoli and sweetcorn for another few minutes, adding a tiny bit of water from the pasta to stop everything from sticking. Once it was all cooked and properly seasoned, I added the veg to the pureed cauliflower to create a beautifully light, creamy sauce, dolloped it onto the pasta (wholewheat of course!) and watched my 14 year old giant-boy wolf it down, declaring it to be lovely. As macaroni cheese is his favourite meal, that’s quite a compliment!