Cauliflower Soup with Morbier Cream Profiteroles
Portion/Yield:Serves 6 as a starter or light lunch
The well-designed and complicated structure of cauliflowers makes them an impressive vegetable. Have you ever taken the time to study their composition? I find this unique vegetable intriguing as it has so many different dimensions, but then the colour fascinates me even more. When I cook cauliflower, I always try and keep the fresh creamy white colour as I find it warm and inviting.
Creating a soup that packs a punch in flavour is not always easy; my aim when I choose a flavour profile is always to end up with a dish that highlights the flavours of the ingredients I have used. Cauliflowers have a strong fragrant taste, but it’s interesting how the addition of other strong flavours such as onions and garlic, can easily mask the fresh taste of the cauliflower. Hence, I only choose simple ingredients when making soups such as this one and I apply this theory to most fragrant vegetables, especially the root varieties such as celeriac and parsnips.
Event thought I champion food producers from the Uk I also recognise amazing foods from around the world. I am too well traveled to ignore it. I love cheese and like wine I love a good and well made French cheese. Morbier is one of those cheese. I love the subtle but perfect blue line that runs through middle of this slightly salty sweet semi hard but equally bouncy and soft cheese. The gentle fragrance is subtle at first but once you take the second bite the taste becomes stronger and it leaves you with an unforgettable rounded fragrant after taste. Because of this sophistication and strength I have chosen to use Morbier to accompany this humble cauliflower soup. You can use Stilton instead.
Ingredients & Method
For the Morbier cream
- 1 leaf of gelatine
- 150g Morbier cheese, cut into small pieces
- 100ml cold water
- 100ml double cream
For the choux pastry
- 150ml milk
- 80g unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 120g plain flour
- 3 eggs
- 100ml cold water
For the watercress oil
- 20g watercress leaves
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 teaspoons sunflower oil
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the cauliflower soup
- 1 cauliflower (about 650g total weight)
- 50g unsalted butter
- 750ml vegetable or white chicken stock
- 200ml double cream
- a few toasted hazelnuts, to serve (optional)
First, make the Morbier cream. Soak the gelatine in cold water until it has softened. Put the Morbier, water and cream into a small saucepan and heat gently until almost boiling. Transfer the cheese mixture to a blender. Squeeze the gelatine gently to remove the excess water, then add the gelatine to the warm cheese mixture. Blend together until the gelatine has dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
Pass the cheese sauce through a fine sieve, then pour the sauce into a cream whipper. Fit the needle attachment to the cream whipper and secure the lid. Charge with 2 gas pellets, shake vigorously, then refrigerate for about 4 hours so that the mixture thickens. Remove the cream whipper from the fridge about 30 minutes before you are ready to fill the choux buns, to allow the Morbier cream to loosen up slightly.
Next, make the choux pastry. Place a shallow roasting tin in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper and set aside.
Put the milk, butter and salt into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted, then bring to a gentle simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately sift the flour into the milk mixture, then beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and leaves the sides of the pan to form a ball. Return to a very low heat and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, then remove from the heat.
Transfer the dough to an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on and add the eggs to the dough, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat until the mixture becomes silky, smooth and shiny. If you don’t have an electric mixer, gradually add the beaten eggs to the dough, beating well with the wooden spoon, until you have a smooth and shiny mixture. Transfer the choux pastry to a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle and pipe 18 walnut-sized balls on to the prepared baking trays, leaving a little space between each one.
Place the baking trays in the oven and quickly pour the cold water into the hot roasting tin in the bottom of the oven (be careful as the water will sizzle and spit). Close the oven door quickly. The water will create steam and the buns will each form a crisp outer shell with a cavity inside. Bake the choux buns for 20–25 minutes or until risen, golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and poke a small hole in the bottom of each bun with a teaspoon handle to release the steam, then return to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes to dry out. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before filling (see Cook’s Notes).
Meanwhile, make the watercress oil. Place all the ingredients in a small jug and use a stick blender to blend everything together until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Finally, make the soup. Remove and discard the green outer leaves of the cauliflower, then chop the cauliflower (stalks and florets). Melt the butter in a large saucepan and as soon as the butter starts to foam, add the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Sauté the cauliflower over a medium heat for 7–8 minutes or until it starts to take on colour, stirring continuously (don’t let the cauliflower take on too much colour as this will turn the soup brown). Add the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for about 12 minutes or until the cauliflower is very soft. Stir in the cream, bring back to a simmer and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Carefully transfer the soup to a blender and purée until smooth. Return to the pan and if the soup is a bit thick for your liking, stir in a little more stock. Reheat gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Keep hot until you are ready to serve.
To use the Morbier cream, shake the cream whipper vigorously and squirt the foam into a glass to check if it is ready (if the mixture has set solidly, then hold the cream whipper under warm running water to loosen the mixture inside, then shake and use as directed). Insert the needle into the hole in the base of a choux bun and squirt some Morbier cream inside. Repeat to fill all the choux buns.
To serve, ladle the hot soup into bowls, drizzle over the watercress oil and then grate over a few toasted hazelnuts, if you like. Serve the Morbier cream profiteroles on the side. Serve immediately.
Please note that when making the Morbier cream, the cheese sauce does not look great when it is cooking, but once blended, the cheese sauce will be creamy, smooth and appealing.
The cheese cream can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in the cream whipper in the fridge.
When baking the choux buns, I normally bake one tray at a time, as I find they come out crispier and cook better if there is good air circulation. If you have time, you can do this too.
The unfilled choux buns will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry cupboard for up to 3 days, although they will be at their very best if made and eaten on the same day. Once filled, the profiteroles should be served immediately as they will soon become soft.