I've already used this idea to wonderful effect in a cream of potato and turnip soup and a white bean cream of asparagus soup, and another opportunity presented itself this week in the form of a large, round and perfectly snowy-white head of cauliflower that I couldn't resist snatching up at the market. Not that an unblemished cauliflower is needed for this recipe — in fact, it's a good way to use up cauliflower that is beginning to wilt and brown, and I'm thinking very much right now of a close friend who regularly buys cauliflower and leaves it until it has to be cooked in a hurry.
Light Indian spicing lends a warm summery glow to this simple and elegant cauliflower soup suggested by a recipe found in Yamuna Devi's Vegetarian Table. The sweet and mild nutty flavour of split urad dal is a perfect complement to the spices and provides a gentle and delightful contrast with the cauliflower. Although available at any Indian grocer, the urad dal can be replaced with yellow split peas in a pinch — simply soak split peas for at least 4 hours instead.
Indian Style Cream of Cauliflower Soup
1/4 cup brown rice
2/3 cup skinless split urad dal
1 large cauliflower, trimmed and chopped
2-3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
large handful fresh parsley or coriander, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
Rinse the brown rice under cold running water and soak overnight in 1 cup of cold fresh water.
Before cooking, thoroughly rinse the urad dal under cold running water and soak for 2 hours covered in several inches of cold water.
Drain the urad dal and add to a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the brown rice with its soaking water and combine with the cauliflower, jalapeños, ginger, ground coriander, turmeric, and most of the fresh parsley or coriander. Pour in 6 cups of water, or 4 cups of water and 2 cups of vegetable stock, and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat.
Using a hand blender or in batches in a countertop blender, purée the soup until smooth. Season with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.
Heat a stainless steel frying pan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the brown mustard seeds and cover. Once the seeds begin to pop, remove from heat and stir into the soup.
Serve right away, or gently reheat. Serve garnished with the remaining parsley or coriander. Serves 6 to 8.
Audio Accompaniment: Vibrant Forms II - by Fluxion
On the top of the reading stack: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky