Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup with Curried Mustard Croutons

I was walking through the Portland Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago and did a double take on a stack of orange cauliflower. I adore cauliflower (the earthy flavor, the crunchy or creamy texture), and the only nit I can pick with this lovely vegetable is its color. It gets lost on a white plate and looks pallid and unimaginative next to other basic ingredients I love, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and poultry.

There are ways to work around this of course. Roasting comes to mind, as does tossing in buttered breadcrumbs. But I know in my heart that I eat more broccoli than cauliflower, not because I like broccoli better than cauliflower (rather the reverse) but because broccoli is green and green makes magic on the plate.

So there I was, staring at ORANGE cauliflower. I was enthralled with the gorgeous color and bought two heads. But what to do with it?

The first recipe that came to mind was one I made for my students at the Northwest Culinary Academy: a silky, subtle cauliflower soup. I looked up the recipe when I got back to the OtherWorldly Kitchen–and yawned. Subtlety does not interest me as it used to. Big bold flavor interests me.

Luckily, cauliflower can hold its own with big bold flavor, even curry spices, mustard, or both. So I reached in the frig for a jar of Dulcet Madras Curry Mustard and this new soup is the result. Don’t worry though. If you don’t happen to have this marvelous condiment on hand, I give you an acceptable substitute in the recipe.

But first, you must buy the cauliflower.

Buying Cauliflower

When buying fresh cauliflower, look for heavy, firm heads. There should be no discoloration (brown patches) on the florets (also called curds) and the leaves should be crisp, not limp. Color ranges from creamy white, to green, orange, and even purple. Purple cauliflower turns green when cooked, so maximize its unusual color by serving it as part of a crudité platter or other cold dish. You may also encounter the Romesco cauliflower, which is pyramid-shaped and a gorgeous yellow-green. Or Broccoflower, which is green all the way through.

And then prepare it.

Preparing Cauliflower

The only time I have cut myself seriously in the kitchen is in preparing a large cauliflower, so a word to the wise. Keep the hand that is holding the cauliflower BEHIND the blade of the knife. I’m just sayin’.

  1. Pull off and discard the green leaves that surround the base of the cauliflower.
  2. Position the cauliflower head down on a cutting board and work a sharp knife around the base in a cone shaped fashion. Your objective is to remove the stalk that holds the florets together. Make sure you keep the hand that is holding the cauliflower out of the way of the knife blade.
  3. Now that the stalk is removed, you can more easily see how the florets attach to the core. Slice each floret cluster through its base, separately it from the head.
  4. Break large clusters of florets into smaller pieces.

You can also watch this How to Cut Cauliflower video. I appreciate this chef’s approach, because he is careful to preserve the integrity of each floret (no cut sides).

Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup with Curried Mustard Croutons

An earlier version of this seductive soup surprised many of my culinary students who claimed to loath cauliflower. The cauliflower flavor note is definitely front and center, but it is softened and rounded with melted leeks and onion and then brightened with curried mustard and fresh lemon. Crunchy croutons add textural contrast and a surprising flavor hit of their own.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white and pale green section only, cleaned, trimmed and sliced (3 cups sliced)
1 large yellow onion, peeled, trimmed, and chopped (2 cups chopped)
1 tablespoons Dulcet Madras Curry Mustard (or 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon curry paste)

1 large or 2 small heads orange cauliflower, separated into small flowerets (2 pounds trimmed)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (and possibly up to 1 cup more)

1½ cups cream

1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground white pepper

Curried Mustard Croutons (recipe below)
cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil

  1. In a soup pot, melt butter and oil over medium heat.
  2. Add leeks and onion, and cook slowly to soften without browning, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add mustard and stir to combine.
  4. Add cauliflower and stock, bring to a simmer, and partially cover.
  5. Simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes, replenishing the stock if it reduces too much.
  6. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. (You can also let the soup cool somewhat, and then puree it in a blender or processor.)
  7. Add the cream and whisk to combine. Bring just to a simmer. Adjust the consistency of the soup by adding more stock if necessary.
  8. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
  9. Ladle into serving bowls. Garnish each serving with Curried Mustard Croutons and a drizzle of olive oil.

Makes about 10 cups; serves 6-8.

Curried Mustard Croutons

Croutons add a great textural contrast to soups and salads. These zippy croutons add a flavor boost as well.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dulcet Madras Curry Mustard (or 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon curry paste)
5-6 ounces cut or torn French or Italian bread
coarse sea salt in grinder
black pepper in grinder

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, olive oil, and Dulcet Madras Curry Mustard.
  2. Add the torn or cut bread and toss to coat with the mustard mixture.
  3. Grind salt and black pepper over the croutons and toss to distribute evenly.
  4. Arrange croutons on an edged baking sheet and bake at 350° for about 15 minutes, turning with a spatula once or twice in the process. Croutons with be crunchy and golden brown here and there when done.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet.
  6. Store in airtight freezer bags until needed. Croutons will keep for a few days. Rewarm to freshen.


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Copyright 2012 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.

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    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Thank you, Billy! I’m waiting for cooler weather as well. all of a sudden, I want to cook fall dishes, even though the temperature is still in the 80’s most days. I think you’ll love this soup.

  1. says

    My last CSA box arrived last week with a huge head of cauliflower and I think this recipe has its name on it. yum. Off to the kitchen! (I bet you’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving for weeks now, haven’t you??)
    Dana Zia recently posted…Pumpkin Madness!!My Profile


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