Sweet potato, leek, cumin, saffron and cauliflower soup

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Vegetables: The new food heroes


By Peter Gordon

Published 2007

  • About

This soup is very earthy in its flavours, with the saffron also adding a lovely hue to it and the croutons providing texture. By frying the cauliflower, as opposed to the more usual steaming or boiling, you get totally unexpected characteristics from the vegetable – it becomes sweet, mild and crunchy.


  • ¼ cauliflower
  • 60 g butter
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium leek, sliced and well rinsed to remove any grit
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 400 g), peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 bay leaf, torn in half
  • 2 pinches of saffron
  • 1.2 litres vegetable stock
  • 1 large slice of stale bread, crusts removed and the bread cut into cubes
  • chopped chives for garnish


Remove the thick stalks from the cauliflower and roughly chop the florets into pieces. Heat a large pot, add half the butter and let it cook to a light nut-brown. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then add the cauliflower and cook over a moderate-to-high heat to caramelize it, stirring often. Tip the cauliflower into a bowl and wipe out the pot.

Return the pot to the heat, add the remaining butter with the cumin and again cook the butter to a light nut-brown colour. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then add the leek and 2 of the garlic cloves, which you have roughly chopped, and sauté until the leek has wilted.

Add the sweet potato, bay leaf, saffron and vegetable stock, and bring to the boil. Turn down to a rapid simmer and cook until the potato is tender, then adjust the seasoning.

While the soup is cooking, make the croutons: smash the remaining garlic clove with the side of a large knife and place in a small pan with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Place over a medium heat, add the cubed bread and cook until the bread turns golden, stirring constantly to prevent it and the garlic from burning. Once they are ready, tip the croutons and oil into a bowl, discarding the cooked garlic bits.

To Serve

Ladle the soup into bowls, spoon some cauliflower on top, then scatter with the croutons, together with the oil in which they were cooked and some chives.