Curried Cauliflower Soup with Mustard Seed Oil

cauliflower soup

When cauliflower is in season, as it is this time of year, it’s revelatory. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli are better when the weather turns chilly because the cold makes them sweeter and more deeply flavored.

People who think broccoli and cauliflower are bitter and stinky may have only eaten them out of season. Sitting on the grocery store shelf doesn’t help these healthful vegetables any, either.

I have a challenge for you: if you think you don’t care for either of these vegetables, go to your local farmers’ market in winter or join a CSA and you might just change your mind – especially if you have a good simple recipe like this one. So cozy during these wet northern California storms.

I became inspired to make mustard seed oil because one of my favorite farmers’ market vendors gave me some mustard seeds she’d hand-harvested from her farm. I had to find a special use for them. Toasted in oil like this, they brown and pop and impart a deep, nutty flavor to the soup, when used as a last-minute garnish.

Curried Cauliflower Soup with Mustard Seed Oil

Serves 4

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (depending on its level of heat and your preference)
3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
1/2 of a large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds cauliflower (1 medium to large head)
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground fresh pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil for high heat cooking
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
Fresh lemon juice (optional)
Plain yogurt for serving
Cilantro leaves for serving

In a small, dry skillet, over medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander seeds, shaking the pan often, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until beginning to brown and become fragrant. Remove from pan and cool. In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, grind the seeds finely. Stir in the turmeric and cayenne and set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil or ghee. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the cauliflower and the broth along with a few pinches of salt and some pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then lower heat, cover partially and simmer until the cauliflower is soft, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the mustard seed oil. In a small skillet, over medium -low heat, warm the vegetable oil with the mustard seeds for 4 to 5 minutes. They will brown and begin to pop. Don’t let them burn. Cool and let sit to infuse the oil and then strain before using.

Cool the cooked soup and then puree until smooth. Return to the pot and heat slowly. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. If you find the soup needs a little acid, add a squeeze or two of lemon juice to taste.

Serve with a drizzle each of yogurt and mustard oil along with a few leaves of fresh cilantro.

Buy local and organic ingredients whenever possible!

Recipe Copyright 2009 Vanessa Barrington

Image: matthewf01

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.