A Soup Without Stock

Cauliflower soup is a classic winter soother. The caulis are plentiful and cheap and the soup is a cinch to get together quickly, with or without stock. The intensity of the cauli makes this a rarity. It is just as good without the middle flavours provided by a well-made stock.

The cauliflower is a beautiful thing to behold. Beautiful in the garden as those perfectly white flower heads pop out from among the green and grow and grow and grow like a canny lad’s bank balance. Beautiful in fruit and vegie shops as they stand proudly beneath very small price tickets. Beautiful when they are pulled apart and cooked in a million different ways. I’ve never understood why they have given their name to the ears of beaten boxers.

If there’s anything better on a freezing winter’s night than cauliflower soup, stoked with grated Parmigiano Reggiano, it could only be pumpkin soup. Whatever, it would take five sets to work out the winner.

Cauliflower soup is one of those rare soups in which a stock is not altogether necessary to get a more than reasonable result, the cauli having so much flavour of its own that it can survive without a stock. ‘Survive’ note, not necessarily flourish. If you’ve got the time, please add guts to the following by the addition of a stock made with bacon bones. The underlying smoky flavour adds real weight to the broth. An alternative is to fry bacon (on a paper towel in the microwave) until crisp, and work through the soup after it has been whizzed.

3 medium-sized onions, chopped roughly

a little olive oil

½ cup dry sherry

1 chilli, chopped roughly

1 cauliflower (about 750 g), leaves and stem removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 cloves garlic

1-2 bay leaves

2 cups water, or chicken stock, vegetable stock, bacon stock, or a mix of the lot

1 cup cream

1 cup milk


black pepper

3 teaspoons thyme leaves


fresh herbs

30 g parmesan, grated


Fry the onion in a little olive oil for about 3 minutes, until softened.


Pour in the sherry, add the chopped chilli, and continue to cook, stirring so that most of the flavour is taken up by the onion, and the alcohol disappears.


Transfer to the pressure cooker or stockpot, and add the cauliflower, garlic, bay leaves and water or stock, and cook for 10 minutes on full steam. The cauliflower will have softened. This takes 15-20 minutes in the stockpot on gentle heat.


Discard the bay leaves, and purée. Add the cream and milk, stir to amalgamate, warm through, and season with salt and black pepper. Stir through the thyme leaves and nutmeg, and serve sprinkled with fresh herbs and the grated parmesan.

WINE: Get a bottle of really good Australian or Spanish Oloroso sherry. It will do wonders with the soup.