Whenever I have deadlines to meet I cook incessantly. Every meal becomes an exercise in flashy knife skills & obscure ingredients. Although the latter is as much to do with the fact that I won’t allow myself to leave the house until the copy is filed and so must cook with whatever is in the cupboards.
In London that didn’t really present much of a challenge as I had a superb kitchen bursting with supplies. Here in New York it’s like playing Ready Steady Cook. I have a third of a kitchen cupboard for dry ingredients and a very small fridge & icebox, and that usually means that I eat everything before going shopping again. I have no room for the standard essentials: no flour, no sugar, and certainly none of the esoterica with which I filled my London shelves. And I never really plan what to eat in advance: I just buy what looks good in the markets.
Last night all I had left were some distressed looking mushrooms, a small cube of Halloumi cheese, an onion & a small head of cauliflower. To be completely honest, I do live opposite the Westside Market, a very good food store, but it was raining, the apartment is a fifth floor walk-up and I hadn’t brushed my hair since the day before.
So, I scratched my (unbrushed)head for a while. I’d run out of starches, milk, tinned tomatoes and coconut milk, so there were no sauce ingredients to bring it all together, and nothing to bulk it out. Then I remembered a meal I had thrown together for my mother last month in England: a cauliflower soup with fried mushrooms and Halloumi,
Fortunatley for this post, I photographed all the food I cooked in England, so I can give you a proper recipe below. I had chopped coriander there, so that’s added too. It works like this:
Chop up the onion & a clove of garlic if you have it. Find a big saucepan (big is good, you’ll see why in a minute), put in a splash of whatever oil you have kicking around, & a knob of butter if you have it, turn the heat to medium and, when the oil is hot, add a tsp of ground cumin, a tsp of haldi (turmeric) & a tsp of garam masala. Cook the spices in the oil for 30 secs, and then throw in the onions.
Keep the heat at low-medium – you want the onions to cook slowly, without browning. Push them around in a desultory way with a spatula from time to time to check that they aren’t sticking. In between prodding the onions, chop up the cauliflower into pretty small pieces (removing the stalk & outer leaves) and rip up the coriander and, when the onions are translucently soft, throw in the cauliflower rubble & the chopped coriander.
Then you need a about a litre/ 1.5 pints of hot liquid. (It’s going to depend on the size of your cauliflowers – you need the liquid to come just over the pieces.) Stock is best (I like using Marigold Vegetable Bouillon – it doesn’t taste too processed), but water wld do in a pinch. Pour this over the cauliflower and cook till the cauliflower is super soft. This can take about 10 minutes.
Whilst the cauliflower is cooking, chop up the Halloumi into teeny cubes, heat up a frying pan on the stove, with a tsp of oil and when it looks hot, throw in the cheese. After 10 secs, push them about a bit. The aim to get them nicely browned. (You don’t need much oil for this). When they are done, tip them out onto kitchen paper and try to resist eating them all. Good luck with that.
You also need to chop up the mushrooms into small pieces, and fry these in butter (preferably), or else olive oil, with a pinch of salt, over a medium heat until they are cooked. (It’s good to not boil away all the juices.)
The fun part. And the reason why you need a big saucepan. Get out your stick blender and whizz that cauliflower to a soup consistency. It won’t form a puree, what you will get is a thin-ish liquid with teeny tiny pieces of cauliflower in it. If it looks too thin, bubble it up on the stove to reduce the liquid; equally, if too thick, add some more stock/hot water.
Season generously to taste with lots of black pepper & Maldon (kosher) salt.
To serve, ignore the dog who will have retired to the sofa in high dudgeon upon realisation that there is no meat in tonight’s supper: