In between days.
It’s a phrase that seems designed to enable people to overlay any meaning they wish onto it; a phrase that changes meaning for me depending on what is going on in my life. I first heard it as the title of a wonderful song by The Cure and like a pebble in your pocket that you absently turn over and over in your fingers, it is a phrase that my mind often returns to , reinventing and reinterpreting it to suit my current circumstances. I remember thinking wearily in the awful period after my mother’s death and before her funeral that these were the inbetween days – days when when my father, brother and I seemed to be suspended in time; already physically cut off from my mother forever, but not yet able to let go with our minds. In between pain and mourning; in between memories and loss.
The phrase came to mind again last month when I was back in South Africa and once again going through my parents’ remaining possessions in my childhood home, more than two years after my father passed away. In many ways, it feels like starting the mourning process afresh each time, sifting through the years of memories, the slides, the mementos, the dreams and plans never brought to fruition. A photo of my mother as a young wife looking forward to the future; or of my dapper, mustachioed father proudly holding me as a baby is enough to bring the sharp prick of tears to my eyes. The house haunts my dreams on a regular basis, more than 12 years since I last lived there. Unable to go back to the times I remember; but unable to let go. Caught in between the past and the future. In between days.
Back home in London, we are experiencing in between days of a different kind. Winter came early and lingered, and lingered… and lingered. London had snow in April. my morning commute became increasingly grouchy. By the time you get to April, surely you are entitled to a hint of Spring? But the weather stubbornly remained grey, windy and miserable. That is, until last weekend when it seemed as if somebody had opened the blinds in the sky and we awoke to blazing sunlight. Suddenly I noticed strings of pink cherry blossoms festooning the trees; daffodils nodding their heads sagely in the breeze; and the heady, perfumed scent of purple hyacinths on my patio. But even as we bask in the sun, the air remains chilly and woe betide the optimist who leaves home without a cardigan. Also, I am reliably insured that by the weekend, temperatures will be back to “normal” – i.e. less sun, more chance of rain, and a few steps back into winter. So here we are, stuck between an interminable Winter and a hesitant Spring. In between days.
With all this seasonal confusion, it is hard to know what to cook. We are wishing so hard for Spring to stay, with its promise of bright green flavours of asparagus, cress and spring greens. And yet on a chilly evening, my body still longs for the comforting foods of winter – creamy potato bakes; spicy Brussels sprouts; or sweetcorn chowders. A happy compromise presents itself in the form of the cauliflower. It’s another member of the superfood brassica family (which also includes cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts) and it is in season practically throughout the year, with different varieties being planted throughout the warmer months to ensure year-round availability. Raw, it has the crunchy freshness that is appropriate for Spring; but roasted, it takes on a warming, nutty Autumnal flavour that is supremely comforting. It is also a perfect partner for spicy flavours such as cumin, coriander and chilli, which is what inspired me to pair it with garam masala in this soup. Garam masala is the perfect spice blend for people who are not too keen on volcanically hot food. The blend is common throughout northern Indian cuisine and at its most basic, contains some combination of white/black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds and cardamom pods (black, brown and green) – plus whatever personal twist the cook wants to add, like chilli or nutmeg. The spices are toasted to mellow their flavours, then ground together before being used as a powder in cooking. Once you have tasted the pungent, toasty flavour of homemade garam masala, it is hard to go back to store bought (Soma has a great garam masala recipe on her blog) – but if, like me, you are pushed for time, you can buy ready mixed garam masala in any Asian grocery store. You can find it in supermarkets too, but I often find supermarket versions to be disappointingly bland.
In this soup, both the roasting of the cauliflower and the addition of the spice contribute to a final result that is creamy without being rich; and warm without being over-spiced. Perfectly in between flavours. Perfectly in between seasons. Perfect for those in between days.
- 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2-3 cups of florets)
- olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 small onion, diced
- pinch of chilli powder
- 500ml chicken stock
- 400ml whole milk
- 1 heaped Tbsp garam masala (more if you like it spicy)
- salt and black pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 190C. Wash and chop the cauliflower into florets.
- Toss the florets in enough olive oil to coat them lightly, then turn out onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 15-20 minutes , turning once, until the florets begin to soften and brown at the edges.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the chilli powder and onion and fry for a few minutes until the onion becomes translucent, then add the garlic and fry for another minute or two.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and when the cauliflower is done, add it to the saucepan as well and mash with a potato masher. Add the stock and milk and blend using a wand mixer until the soup is as smooth or as chunky as you like. If it is too thick, add more stock or milk. Stir in the garam masala, then check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Return the saucepan to a low heat and bring the soup to a gentle simmer before serving.
- Serve with crusty bread.
Here’s what some other bloggers have been making with cauliflower:
- Margot made Cauliflower mac & cheese
- Andrew made Cauliflower with a chilli, tomato & caper sauce
- Sylvie made Roasted cauliflower with olives and herbs
- Kevin made a Cauliflower crust gluten-free pizza
- Michelle made a blue cheese sauce that’s perfect with cauliflower