I have a strange variety of child. He is unceasingly articulate, disarmingly good at reading and bright in very many ways, although, admittedly, not in mathematics. For this last I blame his parents, who both have PhDs in the humanities. My child is also uncommonly tall, with shining hair, white teeth and peachy skin and is actually quite good at sport, despite his parental burdens.
I am not biased, all this is true, being recounted simply for the purpose of remarking upon how children manage to grow themselves up without much in the way of nutrition. For my child achieves all these miracles without meat, unless it comes in the form of a sausage or chicken drumstick. He was once offered a deluxe cut of wagyu beef, cooked just for him, and rejected it. He doesn’t like fruit either, at least not much. He manages bananas and loves stone fruit and watermelon and a nice pink lady apple, but rejects most other things, including strawberries.
Neither does the child eat vegetables. As a baby he was an all-organic superstar who chowed down on avocado, chomped through bowls of pumpkin and lapped up beans and salad and carrots. But as time wore on, vegetables were gradually excluded from his diet. All those books that say you just have to keep offering veges and they’ll soon enough accept them are WRONG. He doesn’t even like potato, unless it comes fried. If allowed, he would live on Easy Mac, pasta and pesto, pasta and cheese and two minute noodles. It has to be white or yellow to be accepted and he is seven.
This is very hard on me, because I like to think I am a Good Mum. In those dim days when the child was an aching abstract want rather than an actual gaping maw I cherished Earth Mother fantasies of pottering around the vege garden gathering fresh things that I and my toddler would take home and (switch to Nigella Lawson fantasies) whip into amazingness, his shining head resting on mine as we contemplated our artistry.
Alas, and alack. The bloody kid doesn’t like vegetables and thinks that vegetable gardens offer one thing and one thing only – opportunities to uproot things. These days he’s matured a little and actually will spend time with me in the garden, but only because I recently installed the world’s biggest trampoline. He’s not really into cooking either, although he is quite partial to collecting eggs from the chooks and to eating omelettes made from their eggs. But again, that’s white and yellow food.
So, I am obliged to play cunning tricks upon him to ensure he gets some vitamins and minerals. This soup is my favourite. It’s almost pure vegetable, and he doesn’t suspect a thing! Part of the trick is calling it what it looks like, rather than what is in it. But it’s a truly lovely late winter/early spring dish and perfect for grown up dinner parties, as well as kids’ tea time. It’s substantial, but takes no more than 45 minutes to cook. What could be better?
1 cauliflower, pure of heart (and aren’t they lush at this time of year?)
1 leek (only the white and light green bits) or one onion
1 good sized bulb of fennel (not the leaves or stems)
1 litre of stock (chicken or vege, depending on your inclinations)
a good slosh of organic full cream milk/soy
Optionals (what you have or what looks nice):
To make the soup, slice the onion or leek and sweat it in some butter. It’s really important you don’t brown it! Then cut the fennel into quarters and then fairly thin slices (fennel is tough and sometimes woody and needs long cooking, especially the root base in the centre). Sweat the fennel while you cut up the cauli. Peel the other veges, slice and dice them and chuck them in. Once it’s all in the pot, add the stock and simmer the lot for about 20 minutes, or until all the veges are looking a bit see through.
Use either a blender or a hand blender to reduce the entire saucepan’s worth to a light puree, and thin it down to your tastes with the milk. If you are not diet conscious, and let’s face it, few of those who frequent this site are, you can finish it off with a splodge of cream. Depending on the shade of your stock, it will be either light brown or pure white. It’s goes well with parmesan, and would look very nice garnished with some sage in burnt butter, or with fresh versions of almost any herbs you like. These are hypotheticals, for I dare not garnish. He might suspect it’s got vegetables in it!
DISCLAIMER: White soup does not work on all children. The child of my Moisty will not eat anything white, although he is also seven. Maybe he would like Ampersand Duck’s beetroot risotto?
DISCLAIMER 2: No political aspirations were harmed in the preparation of this post. As far as I know.