Curry it up: Vegan Curried Cauliflower Chowder with Chanterelles

I was feeling nostalgic about the Northeast and that conjured up thoughts of chowder and bisques with coastal seafood. Growing up in an Indian household, we did not eat these classic New England cuisines but they so closely tied to the east coast that it came up in my mind with nostalgia. Cauliflower is a versatile food. I often make cauliflower mash, so I thought about a cauliflower chowder. I included some Indian spices to merge it with my heritage and give it more complexity. And since it is spring, chanterelles have shown up at the market. The earthy but mild peppery taste works well with Indian spices. The result was creamy, flavorful and satisfying.

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When I first met my husband a decade ago, he was an omnivore. I mentioned that I would like to try a vegetarian restaurant when we visited his family in France. He didn’t believe there would be vegetarian restaurants since growing up, vegetarianism was something that he did not encounter. Yet, I knew through globalism, tourism and the rise of vegetarianism along with fascination with Buddhism, Hunduism, and Hare Krishnas that there was likely a couple of restaurants in Paris and other big cities. I also knew that he likely never noticed vegetarian offerings around because he did not need to. We only start to observe the availability of items when we are in need or they pertain to us. For example, since I don’t eat meat or fish, I never notice how many kinds are offered, but you can be sure I will pay precise attention to the varieties of greens available.

Of course there were several options, and now that he is aware and eats mostly veggie, he points out vegetarian offerings everywhere in his home country. We decided to try out a particular one that was high end, since we heard it would be closing down in the next few months (rent was too high). I will never forget that meal eaten nearly a decade ago – proper French techniques using fresh produce and local ingredients with mushrooms as the star. The starter was a veloute – one of the five “mother sauces” as defined by Escoffier in French cuisine that is a velvety smooth sauce/soup made with stock and roux. It is the stock that defines the type of veloute. The one we ate was a girolle veloute, which introduced me to the depth and complexity of mushrooms.

Girolles are often interchanged with Chanterelles and are referred to as being the same, but they are different. Girolles are yellow/apricot-colored with a large umbrella wavy cap and have a rich and meaty flavor. A chanterelle is brown/grey/yellow, the stalk is thinner and hollow with a delicate cap. The flavor is more delicate than a girolle.  I would have preferred girolle, but our local mushroom stall at the farmer’s market had chanterelles, which worked well. Earthy and with a nice delicate flavor.

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The soup came out flavorful and creamy with the chanterelle. And crisp chanterelle as garnish added more texture and flavor.

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Mushrooms should be cleaned with a moist towel or a dry brush to remove the dirt. Sort through them to remove any that look too damaged as well as twigs or dirt.

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The soup includes cashews and a potato to make it creamy and thick. The potato can easily be eliminated for Whole30 or other food diets/challenges. I have made it with and without potato and it will slightly change the texture. I add a small amount in for the velvet like texture which potato offers with its starch and ability to bind the ingredients together. Too much potato and the soup will be glooey or gummy.  Yukon gold is the best for its buttery creaminess but any potato will do.

The cashews need to be soaked in water overnight. Sometimes I decide last minute to make something that involves soaked cashews and rather than postponing, I add boiling water to the cashews and let sit until the water reaches room temp – about 15-20 min.

The key to Indian cooking is frying the spices. After the coconut oil is heated up, add the spices and fry in the oil for 30-45 seconds until they are fragrant and then add ginger and continue to fry.

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Then add the onions and salt and cook down until slightly brown. Add the chopped chanterelles and cook for a few minutes. Then add in the garlic, cauliflower and potato and stir to coat in the spices. Garlic added too early browns and turns bitter.

Now it is time to add the veggie stock and let the cauliflower cook until tender.

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Meanwhile, I puree the cashews with the coconut milk. When opening up a can of coconut milk, sometimes there is a cream at the top and the liquid on the bottom. Use 1/2 a cup of the cream and 1/2 cup of the liquid. The soaked cashews and coconut milk should be pureed together in a food processor until creamy and smooth. If liquid is needed, use some of the soup liquid that is cooking.

Once the cauliflower and potato are tender – able to be pierced with a fork – remove it from heat. You have several options to puree the soup – puree in batches in the food processor, mixing with the cashew coconut cream or add the cream to the pot and use an immersion blender. I like my soup to be extra velvety – so I added the cream to the pot, used an immersion blender first and then puree it in a vitamix on high until velvety smooth.

Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. To serve, I like to add garnishes to stimulate the senses – a little bit of crisp with crisped up chanterelles and color with some smoked paprika and green scallions. To crisp the chanterelles, sautee in a pan with coconut oil.

Ladle the soup into a bowl, sprinkle with paprika and scallions and top with the crispy chanterelle.

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Rich, creamy, and nourishing. I love this in the evening for a light meal.

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Happy eating!

Vegan Curried Cauliflower Chowder with Chanterelles

  • 2 Tbs coconut oil, plus more to serve
  • 1.5 tsp ground garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 tsp himalayan salt
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup chanterelles, cleaned and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced (omit for Whole30)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 16 ounces), trimmed and coarsely cut including stems
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked and drained
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Himalayan salt and black pepper to season
  • Paprika (optional)
  • Green scallions, chopped (optional)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add garam masala, cumin, tumeric, paprika and cayenne. Cook for one minute, until fragrant. Add the ginger, stir and cook for another 30-45 seconds. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt until onions are translucent and slightly brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add 1 cup chanterelles and saute for about 3 min. Add garlic and stir thoroughly. Add cauliflower and potato and stir to coat. Add broth. Cover to bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer uncovered until cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add cashews to a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Add the coconut milk. If the cashews need additional liquid, use some soup liquid. Remove the soup from heat. In batches, add the soup and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the soup pot. Alternatively, add blended smooth cashew cream to the soup pot and use and immersion blender to puree the soup. (Note: I first use the immersion blender in the soup and then finish in batches in the Vitamix for an extra smooth velvety soup)

Taste and add more salt, pepper, or spices.

Take remaining 1/2 cup chanterelles, and in a sauce pan heated with a small amount of coconut oil, saute on medium to high heat for 5 minutes until tender and slightly crisp.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with paprika, crispy chanterelles and diced green scallions.

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