Cauliflower cheese soup with curried cauliflower crumbs

A British comfort food, cauliflower cheese also makes a creamy, simple soup.

The Runaway Spoon
Creamy cheesy cauliflower soup with a touch of curried crumbs.

Cauliflower Cheese is a very popular dish in England, one of its comfort foods. Basically, it is cauliflower in a creamy cheese sauce. But the first time I heard of cauliflower cheese, on the set menu at a restaurant during a high-school summer in England, I was a little worried it was actually some kind of strange British cheese. I thought they might bring our some lumpy, bumpy, smelly cheese – an early on I always worried even the most innocuous sounding English food would contain unfamiliar animal parts.  I have since learned not to fear British food, and the combination of cauliflower and cheese is a solid one.  I love it in this creamy, simple soup.

This soup is hugely adaptable. I love the interesting touch of the curried crumbs (and it is a way to use some of the extra cauliflower), but the array of topping possibilities is endless. Try the crumbs with just salt and pepper, or any seasoning you prefer. Crispy pieces of bacon or pancetta, toasted croutons, a shower of chopped herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, chopped toasted walnuts or some extra shredded cheddar. Use your imagination and what you have to hand.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Curried Cauliflower Crumbs 

Serves 4

2 leeks, white and lightest green parts (about 8 ounces)

1/4 cup butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

6 – 7 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 pound cauliflower (about 1/2 head)

14 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated

For the Crumbs:

1/2 head cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1. Slice the leeks into thin rings, then rinse well under cold running water. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the leeks and cook until soft and wilted, about 8 minutes. 

2. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Sprinkle over the flour and cook until the flour is thoroughly combined with the leeks. 

3. Add the broth, cream and 2 cups of water. Stir until the soup begins to thicken, then add the nutmeg, bay leaves and thyme (I tie the sprigs together with a small piece of twine to make them easier to remove later). Bring the soup to a low bubble, but do not boil.

4. Cut the cauliflower into small pieces, removing any very hard center stem. Drop the pieces into the soup, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let the soup simmer for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft. 

5. Purée the soup with an immersion blender or vary carefully in batches in a blender. When the soup is smooth, stir in the grated cheddar by handfuls, melting each handful before the adding the next one. Season well with salt.  The salt can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours.  Reheat gently; do not boil.

6. Serve sprinkled with the curried crumbs.

For the Crumbs:

1. Use a large knife to shave the knobbly top of the cauliflower to produce 1/2 cup of crumbs.  Remove any larger pieces of stem. It should look like fine bread crumbs.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat, then add the cauliflower crumbs. Stir constantly until the crumbs are brown and toasted.

3. Sprinkle over the curry powder and a pinch of salt and stir to coat. Toast a few seconds longer until brown and fragrant. Remove the crumbs to paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.

4. Sprinkle the crumbs over the soup to serve.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.