A return to one of A Crust Eaten’s earliest recipes and a guest post from the rumbling belly at the other end of all this: my husband.
There are benefits to getting older − something you have either discovered or which lies around the corner as a pleasant reward for advancing years. Among those I cherish most are the gaining of the confidence to simply leave a party you’re not enjoying because life’s too short, and the acceptance that not knowing what’s number one in the charts is probably a blessing in disguise rather than cause for anguish at being three or four time zones adrift of the zeitgeist.
But possibly the most wonderful thing about being firmly in the second flush of youth is the gradual maturation of the palate. Looking back it would be unfair to say I was a fussy eater as a child, but there are many foods that I wouldn’t have touched in youth which I will consume with gusto today. Fresh tomato, courgette (or zucchini, if I’m respecting the house style), gherkins, anything remotely fiery, all things I would have steered clear of in the past. And that’s not even to get onto whisky, espresso, big and bold red wines. The list could go on and on.
Sometimes I wonder whether my experience reflects the natural state of things. Does everyone experience this change as the years progress? Or do fussy eaters remain so, and adventurous childhood gourmands (I hear they do exist) continue to enjoy their culinary adventures? I like to think that – as with so many areas of our lives − age brings a growing sophistication and openness to new experience, and that everyone at least has the chance to explore new flavours, textures and ingredients.
Which brings me to cauliflower cheese soup, adapted from a recipe found in Jamie Oliver’s 2011 cookbook Jamie’s Great Britain. This dish calls for a liberal sprinkling of blue cheese to bring the soupy cauliflower and the rosemary-infused sourdough to life. And while I confess that blue cheese remains a flavour I struggle with in isolation, in this dish it really sings, mellowing in the mix but adding a wonderful depth of flavour in a plate of food just made for these autumn evenings and the drawing in of the nights.
It’s a simple dish to make, even for one as infrequently intimate with the kitchen as I am, and the real investment is made in time rather than effort. Soften onion in butter and olive oil, throw in sliced cauliflower stem with seasoning and a splash of water, and simmer for 40 minutes. Next it’s time to get physical. Mash the onions and stems to thicken, then it’s in with the cauliflower florets and stock to cook for another 10 or 15 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked through.
While this is going on toast up some sourdough before rubbing it good and hard with a bunch of rosemary and grab a nice deep dish into which you layer the bread, soup and the cheese. The recipe calls for Stilton – appropriate since it’s Jamie’s celebration of all things British – but I used dolcelatte. It does the job just fine, and is slightly less pungent than its Midlands cousin.
Pour a third of the soup into the dish, follow it in with a layer of the toast, and then crumble over the blue cheese. Repeat twice more, finishing off with a layer of bread topped with what remains of the cheese and a splash of olive oil. Now bung it in an oven at 180C and bake for around 25 minutes it until it’s bubbling and golden on top.
And there you have it. A soup taken to the next level by the cheese − which as a child I would have run from in search of some mild, mild Cheddar − and the texture of the layered toast. A simple yet hearty dish that you can knock up in little more than an hour − which at this time of year means you’ll have something to brighten your evening just as the day admits defeat and darkness falls outside.