CASHEW AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH OREGANO, CHILLI AND LEMON ZEST GOMASHIO
This recipe is inspired by my recent trip to Greece for yoga teacher training, which I did with Yoga Haven. A Greek lady called Vasilika (which means regal or royal) who practises Raja Yoga (Raja in Sanskrit also means king or royal!) cooked us fantastic vegan breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day. One day she made a delicious cashew and cauliflower soup with a zesty gomashio… pure comfort food. So I went home and experimented until I came up with something similar — this sounds like a lot of work, but actually it’s so easy. With ingredients this good and simple I only needed to test it twice, and both times I happily enjoyed this bowl of goodness for breakfast!
Gomashio, a type of salty sesame condiment that is traditionally sprinkled over rice in Japan, has been a really popular ingredient from my Ayurvedic cookbook East by West, where I used it for my braised gem lettuce wedges with fennel and sesame gomashio (page 218), but I love to throw it on everything else just as much. The gomashio created by Vasillika had a tang to it, which is why I thought to add lemon zest to the recipe and then, since you couldn’t take a step without bumping into oregano out in Greece, I added a generous helping of that to the toasted sesame seeds, also found everywhere in Greece. Since we’re still officially in spring I livened up the sweet, heavy qualities of the cashew nuts, which make the soup so deliciously creamy, with some chilli flakes. You can use cayenne if you prefer. I also included the cauli leaves into the soup, plus I beg you to use all of the leek — I’m not sure where the fashion for throwing the lovely green part came from but it tastes delicious and is nutritious, so why throw it in the bin?! If you want to make this really Greek then swap out the cashew nuts for walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts or almonds in an equal weight to the cashews.
For the soup
2 tbsp ghee
1 medium head cauliflower, including stalks and leaves
1 medium leek
1 cup or 150g cashew nuts (soaked* for 1-3 hours)
1 litre of water or broth (if using bouillon do not add the salt until you have tasted)
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper to taste, approx. ½ tsp of each
For the gomashio
½ tbsp fine sea salt
1 cup unhulled sesame seeds (white)
2 tbsp dried oregano or 6 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
Zest of 2 lemons (approx. 1 tbsp)
In a large saucepan, heat the ghee on a medium high heat.
Finely chop the leek and cauliflower leaves and add to the pan. Gently sauté for 4-5 minutes until they soften and begin to colour and caramelise — don’t rush this stage!
Chop the cauli head into small chunks and add to the pan, then continue sautéeing for 5-7 minutes, making sure not to burn and just add some colour for a lovely depth of flavour, before adding the water or broth.
Add the liquid and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender (meanwhile you can make the gosmashio — see below).
Drain and rinse the cashews, and stir in the pan for a couple of minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly before mixing in the lemon juice.
Working in batches if needed, purée the soup in a blender until it’s smooth or at your preferred texture.
Stir in more stock or water if needed (soup should be the consistency of heavy cream).
Taste for seasoning and serve with a good sprinkling of gomashio, plus extra on the side.
To make the gomashio
Toast the fine sea salt in a cast-iron skillet or frying pan with the sesame seeds, lemon zest, fresh or dried oregano and half a teaspoon chilli flakes over low heat, until the sesame seeds start to crisp and brown. Watch like a hawk and stir often so it doesn’t burn. If using fresh oregano, make sure that it is completely dried out during the toasting process.
Pulse the salt, seeds, oregano, lemon zest and chilli in a food processor. The gomashio should be light and sandy-textured, not mushy or pasty.
You can store this condiment in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dry place for up to one month.
* Soak the cashews in double the amount of water for 1-3 hours. Go for the latter unless you have a very strong blender.