After the Holidays, it seems we need to tone it down a little - not just in the selection of food but also in the ease of preparation of meals. After hosting huge dinner parties for Christmas, I seem to run out steam in January and just cannot find the energy to prepare complicated meals that require big production and lots of ingredients. This is where the soups come in.
I grew up with a wonderful grandmother who was an amazing cook. She spent hours in the kitchen preparing wonderful meals for us when we were visiting. She and my mother would share the tasks (they were both great cooks) and the aromas and sounds (lots of discussions and laughter) that wafted from the kitchen made it the place to be.
I learned many things from her and I was lucky enough to have her around until she was 96 years old. Although she prepared wonderful meals, she would often only have a bowl of soup and toast for dinner. She grew up in a time when the largest meal of the day was eaten at lunch - because you needed the extra energy for all the manual tasks and chores that needed to be done. Dinner was a light meal, often soup with fresh bread, that would be easily digested as they went to bed very early. Actually in Québec, dinner in French is called "souper" (as opposed to ''dîner'' in France) because they did generally eat soup as the last meal of the day.
So, in honour of my French Canadian heritage, we often have soup for dinner and everyone seems to really like it. The key to making this work, I think, is to offer different flavour combinations with lots of texture.
I had some fresh fennel and cauliflower in the fridge and thought I would try this out. The combination was really good (although it does not offer a huge colour contrast - I would toss in some fresh chopped parley with the roasted fennel next time before serving). I love fennel and roasting it with onions is a great way to add an unexpected sweet crunch and flavour to the soup (you could also do this as a delicious garnish for a fish dish - just place the cooked fish on top).
You will need: For 6 - 8 portions
For the soup:
- 1 medium cauliflower (1kg) , washed, cut in small pieces
- 1 tbsp (15ml) of oil
- 1 medium leek (100g), diced (I always remove the first outer layer of the leek as it tends to be very fibrous)
- 1 medium onion (60g), diced
- 2 tbsp of salted herbs (or just season with salt if you do not have)
- vegetable or chicken stock - enough to cover the vegetables
- 1/4 cup (60ml) of heavy cream
- Place the oil (1 tbsp, 15ml) in a large pot and heat (medium high);
- Add the diced leeks (1 medium - 100g) and diced onion (1 medium - 60g) and cook for about 5 minutes to soften;
- Add the cauliflower (1 medium - 1kg) and sauté for 1 minute with the leeks and onions;
- Cover the vegetable with chicken or vegetable stock and cook (simmering) until the cauliflower is very tender (about 40 minutes);
- Using a hand held mixer or blender, blend until very smooth;
- Return the soup to the pot and adjust consistency - adding more stock if it is too thick;
- Add the heavy cream (1/4 cup - 60ml) and season with salted herbs (2tbsp) or salt and pepper.
- Keep warm until ready to serve or freeze until ready to use (you may need to blend it again when you thaw it to return it to its creamy consistency).
For the Roasted Fennel and Onion
- 1 medium fennel, core and fronds removed, chopped in medium pieces;
- 1 large onion, chopped in medium pieces
- 1 tsp of fennel seeds
- 2 tbsp of oil (olive or grape seed)
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F(185°C);
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper;
- Toss the fennel and onion pieces in a bowl with the olive oil and fennel seeds;
- Season with salt and pepper;
- Roast in centre of oven until fennel is tender but still has a little crunch - this took about 30 minutes;
- Remove from oven and spoon into the centre of a deep dish;
- Ladle the soup around the fennel and onion and garnish with fennel fronds.
Smile of the day: