It has always been my belief that the cauliflower's beautiful, pale curds could make an interesting soup if we put some thought into it. This time I started with bacon, an onion, a tad of garlic and plenty of silent partners like bay leaves, black pepper and good stock.
smoked streaky bacon 3 rashers
an onion roughly chopped
garlic 2 small cloves
cauliflowers 2 medium
stock 1.2 litres
bay leaves 2
skinned hazelnuts 100g
a little groundnut or rapeseed oil
Cut the bacon into small pieces, about the size of a stamp, then fry in a deep pan till the fat is golden. Peel and finely chop the onion, add it to the bacon and let it cook without taking on any colour. Peel and slice the garlic, then add to the pan. Stir regularly as it will help prevent the onion browning.
Break the cauliflowers into florets, add to the onion mixture with the stock and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Simmer till the cauliflower is tender; it should be quite soft.
Toast the hazelnuts in a non-stick pan until they have darkened a little. As soon as the nuts turn a pale brown, pour in a few drops of oil – just enough to moisten – then add a generous grinding of sea salt and toss together gently.
Remove the soup from the heat, discard the bay leaves and blitz in a blender or food processor till smooth, holding back a few of the cauliflower florets. Pour the soup back into the pan, bring back to the boil and season to taste.
Ladle into bowls, add the toasted salted hazelnuts and reserved florets and serve.
• Nigel's new book, Kitchen Diaries II, is published by Fourth Estate at £30. To order a copy for £19.99 (including free UK mainland p&p), go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846.