In an age in which Instagram reigns supreme, is there a place for an unassuming beige soup? When we’re confronted at every turn by perfectly filtered avocado on toast, and inexplicably exquisitely arranged bowls of muesli, it can seem like we don’t have time for anything less than photogenic perfection.
Diners often now go to restaurants purely for how ‘Instagrammable’ its offerings are, ordering by pointing at previously uploaded photos, so that they can then upload their own contribution moments later.
Everything is bright and beautiful: vibrant raw vegetables, symmetrical dishes, picture perfect pastries. It’s easy to get lost in this wonderland of hashtags and careful cropping, and to reject anything that doesn’t meet such exacting standards.
But to do so would mean missing out on some of the finest food you can make. It can be hard to make a pot of brown stew, sides splattered from the hours its spent on the hob, gently bubbling, look pretty or dynamic, especially when covered with equally brown dumplings, or mopped up with a doorstep of bread. It takes a special stylist to make a dish of creamy pasta look elegant. The darkest, most delicious daal, cooked for a whole day, until it transcends its composite parts, tends to look, at best, messy. But these are the dishes that comfort us, that warm us, that cheer us; these are dishes to be championed.
Whatever this soup may be, it is not pretty, but the world would be a poorer place with out it. It’s glorious: humming with spices and aromatics both sweet and savoury, rich from the milk, and almost golden from the charred cauliflower, it is the perfect soup to take you into autumn. It might not be a looker, but then it’s not trying to be – and sometimes, that’s ok.
Spiced cauliflower soup
Makes: Serves 4
Takes: 15 minutes hands on time
Bakes: 40 minutes
1 large cauliflower
1 red onion, sliced
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3cm ginger, grated finely
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon garam massala
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
200 ml water
1. Preheat your oven to 200°C. Remove the leaves and stalk from the cauliflower, and break the florets up into bitesize pieces. Place in a single layer on a large baking tray. Drizzle with two tablespoons of oil, and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast for 40 minutes, shuffling once or twice, until the cauliflower is tender and dark brown in places.
2. Meanwhile, place the rest of the oil in a large frying pan and add the sliced onion, frying gently over a low heat until soft, but not coloured. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to fry for a couple of minutes. Add the spices, and cook for two minutes more.
3. Add the cauliflower to the pan, along with the milk and water. Allow to simmer for five minutes, and then blitz carefully using a stick blender until smooth, or using a food processor to puree the soup in batches.
4. Return to the pan and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste, adjust seasoning, – you’ll probably need more salt, and perhaps another tablespoon go lemon juice. Thin out to your desired consistency with water. Serve piping hot with toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of olive oil.