This is one of the easiest and most impressive-tasting soups you can make.
It’s 100% vegetarian and provided you use the best English Stilton money can buy (I recommend Cropwell Bishop -I found it in the US in Costco) – you’ll have a luxurious, rich tasting cold-weather soup that would be ideal for festive or special occasions.
The chili croutons add just the right amount of spike and can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container where they’ll keep for several days. The soup will taste even better the next day so this is something you can quickly whip up ahead of time. Just keep it covered in the fridge and re-heat very, very gently, stirring from time to time.
CAULIFLOWER & STILTON SOUP with CHILI CROUTONS
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 large baking potato – peeled and chopped into smallish chunks
1 large cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
3 tablespoons of crème fraîche
9 oz (250g) of Cropwell Bishop Stilton (or the best you can find – it must be British and blue)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 and a 1/4 pints (1.5ltr) of cold water
For the croutons:
6 thick slices of ciabatta bread, crusts trimmed and cut into 1 inch (2-3 cm) cubes
1 tablespoon of olive oil
a pinch of cayenne (or if you can find it, ‘Urfa Biber’ -a wonderful Turkish chili powder that has a sweet, smokey warmth) – to taste
For the soup, start by heating the oil in a large heavy pan then gently sweat the onion and garlic until softened. Add the bay leaf , potato, cauliflower and water. Bring everything to a boil then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the potato and cauli are just tender.
Take off the heat, discard the bay leaf and either using one of those hand-held blender things (or wait until cool enough to put in a blender) – puree the soup until it’s smooth.
Put it back in the pan with the crème fraîche and crumbled Stilton and heat it through very gently, stirring frequently until the cheese has melted. Check to see if you need salt but be careful as Stilton is quite salty on it’s own. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
For the croutons – preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Toss the cubed bread with the olive oil, chili or cayenne and a grind of sea salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking tray and watch them like a hawk, checking after 8 minutes to see if they’re nice and golden. Toss them around and give them another minute or so if needed.
Once they’ve cooled, store them in an airtight container.
To serve, finish each bowl with a drizzle of really good olive oil and pass the croutons around separately (although this soup is thick enough that they won’t go soggy and sink, so you could drop one or two in there before serving).