Creamy Cauliflower Soup

by Jenn on January 23, 2012

in Budget,Gluten Free,Photography,Soups,Vegetarian


Cauliflower – a vegetable I grew up with, and wasn’t often thrilled about. Mom you know I love you, but I do not love the way you like most of your veggies cooked.

However, on my quest to enjoy more fresh produce this Winter season, I’m giving it a try again.  Cauliflower seems to abound in the markets right now and as fortune would have it, my friend Simone chose a lovely cauliflower recipe for this month’s Donna Hay Styling and Photography Challenge (DHSPC).  I enjoy participating in these challenges because they always make me reach and do something new that I might not otherwise try.  In this case, that meant not only the photo but also the recipe featuring heads of cauliflower! In fact, in the near four years that this blog has been on the interwebs, today marks the first time cauliflower has ever even appeared on Jenn Cuisine, let alone received a spotlight feature.

This month, Simone challenged us all to make a creamy cauliflower soup, which appeared in Donna Hay issue #51 (June/July 2010) and was photographed by Ben Dearnley. The soup was wonderful – cauliflower and potatoes cooked together in broth and milk and puréed until velvety smooth.  A perfect Winter bowl, better than plain boiled veggies. And even naturally gluten free!

Photographing this image, however, proved to be quite challenging, and I’m not all that pleased with my efforts.  For one, I have no dark surfaces to use, and so instead pieced together 3 different cheeseboard slates to “construct” the background.  Because of how small my background was, I had to shoot more overhead than I would have liked, which caused me to then re-evaluate just about everything in the image – where the light should come from, how much to fill the soup bowl, etc.

The slate also caused issues trying to place the “spills” on the surface – I dipped the bowl in cream and tried to make a ring on the slate, but the slate soaked up the moisture so fast that there wasn’t much I could do but keep trying to repair the spill by adding droplets of cream and well, now it no longer really looks like a ring…

What I cannot blame the slate for, however, is my lighting – that is all me, and I was not 100% satisfied with my treatment.  I decided to use natural light coming in from about 4:00, which was already diffuse (thank you shade and clouds).  I played with the black side of my 5-in-1 light modifier kit to absorb and intensify shadows on the left, and propped up a little gobo to block light in the front of the image as the slate had a bit of glare on it.  This was not the same lighting angle used in the original image (which I would say is more at 3:00), but for some reason this ended up working a little better for me, I think because I liked the way the light highlighted on the bowl a bit.  But as a result, I lost the detail in the napkin. HDR could pull it out (and yes, I did tone-map a single image for kicks haha), but most food does not HDR well I’ve found and this shot was no exception to that – nor do I feel HDR should be used to “fix” incorrect lighting. But that is a tangent for a different post one day.

Here you can see the progression of gobos that I added to play with the light – first I altered which blinds I had open to let light in, and then I added a small gobo front right to block light on the front most part of the slate, then I added a large one on the left to intensify the shadows, and then yet more in the front because I still felt the front was too bright.  Maybe I went too far.  Probably, as the soup might look a bit too much like it is “floating” in a sea of black napkin. (you can also see the deterioration of the cream “spill” hehe).

Other changes from the original were that I did not wrap any ribbons around the spoon, mainly because I would never eat with a ribbon on a spoon nor serve one that way. Also I forgot to reserve some cauliflower left for the parmesan cauliflower “crumbs”, and so instead fried up some parmesan croutons using gluten free bread.  I also decided to garnish with some of the parmesan and thyme just to add more texture.

And below is my finished image:

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

And if you got through all of this just looking for the recipe, no worries! Enjoy this wonderfully naturally gluten free cauliflower soup, I certainly give it two thumbs up!

Note – the original recipe called for an addition of cream, I found it wasn’t necessary.


Creamy Cauliflower Soup

From Donna Hay Issue #51 (seen on JungleFrog Cooking)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

25g (a couple tbsp.) butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 heads (2kg or 4 lbs.) cauliflower, chopped
500g (1 lb.) potatoes, peeled and chopped
750 mL (3 cups) vegetable broth
500 mL (2 cups) milk
salt and pepper to taste
thyme to garnish

1. Melt butter in a skillet on medium low heat and sauté onion, garlic, and bay leaf until soft.
2. Transfer to a large pot, add in cauliflower, potatoes, broth and milk and let come to a boil – then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until potatoes are soft and cooked through.
3. Remove from heat and purée either in your food processor or with an immersion blender. Add in salt and pepper to taste, and thyme.
4. Serve if you like with homemade croutons, parmesan cheese, and thyme.


Also submitted to – Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Gluten Free Wednesdays and Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free – Foods that Heal

As I always say, I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist, so “foods that heal” is a hard topic for me this month. I don’t know the healing power of any foods really. But I know vegetables are generally good for you, and that this cauliflower soup is Winter comfort food at its finest without being very heavy. It sure makes me happy to cook and eat this soup, and so that’s good enough for me :)


Rosa January 24, 2012 at 12:00 am

Gorgeous clicks and soup! I find that the soup pic is great, nonetheless… Cauliflower is such a lovely veggeie.



Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:17 am

Thanks so much Rosa!

Lisa January 24, 2012 at 12:48 am

I can’t even put into descriptive words how good this soup looks. The garnish alone is making me want to beg for some. I was just telling someone how underrated cauliflower is, and in less than a week, you and Jamie pull out doozies! Love it!

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:18 am

Thanks Lisa! And yes, I agree – cauliflower is totally underrated!

EA-The Spicy RD January 24, 2012 at 1:33 am

Saw this and had to comment as I have cauliflower on the brain tonight-making mashed cheesy cauliflower puree tonight. Hope it turns out :-) I think your cauliflower looks gorgeous!

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:19 am

Ooooh a cheese cauliflower purée sounds quite yummy – thanks!

chinmayie @ love food eat January 24, 2012 at 3:56 am

I have always loved cauliflower! I have never really made soup with it though… Looks so creamy and delicious :)

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:19 am

Thanks! It goes very well as a soup :)

Terra January 24, 2012 at 4:46 am

Looks fantastic! I love how you share the differences with the lighting:-) The recipe sounds fun and easy to make:-) Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:20 am

Thanks Terra!

Nicole January 24, 2012 at 7:41 am

I actually like your photo better than the original. I like the addition of the thyme, it gives it a little extra something. You did a great job on the texture of the actual soup as well, getting that nice ribbon effect. I agree with you about never putting a ribbon on a spoon, I have a hard time styling food that way as well and it took me three tries to get mine the way I wanted it. Finally, I totally agree with the fact that the cream was not necessary. I did not add it either. I love what you did here. Look forward to sharing more challenges with you in the future.

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:21 am

Thanks so much Nicole! Off to go check out your entry :)

Meeta January 24, 2012 at 8:29 am

I think the lighting was an issue with many. If it’s natural light one is trying to replicate it’s quite difficult to get the exact look and mood. But still I am enjoying seeing what everyone created because each image is great in it’s own unique way.

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Thanks Meeta! Replicating lighting on this one was tricky for sure – I think I needed my light at a lower angle to be able to highlight the napkin better too.

Sara {Home is Where the Cookies Are} January 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm

This soup looks so creamy and delicious! I really don’t mind cauliflower cooked, especially if it’s roasted and sprinkled with cheese, but I think the soup would be a delightful way to eat it as well. Thanks for the yummy recipe!

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Thanks so much! Yes I need to roast cauliflower too… but this soup is pretty good!

hannah alehandra January 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm

This looks delicious! I’m making this tonight :) I love cauliflower soup. Thank you!

Jenn January 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Thanks, I hope you enjoy it!

Amy (Minimally Invasive) January 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Honestly? I like your image even more than the original; it has such lovely, true color and an elegant mood. White soups are really tough to photograph, but you captured the texture beautifully. I’m looking forward to the next challenge! Can anyone play along?

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Aww thanks Amy! Yes go check out Simone’s site, you have until the end of the month for this particular challenge, else she will announce a new one next month :)

Nancy@acommunaltable January 24, 2012 at 6:14 pm

hi Jenn,

I really look forward to these posts – I love reading about your process and what challenges you and how you go about it – definitely appeals to the “food photo geek” in me!
I am with you on wrapping the spoon (WUWT??)
I can relate to troubles photographing soup – normally not that hard but I just shot one that was incredibly hard – the soup color looked wrong with EVERY bowl I tried! Argh…
Anyhow, I love cauliflower soup and this one looks beautiful – so glad that you enjoyed it!

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Thanks so much Nancy – and glad I’m not the only one who thinks wrapping a spoon with ribbon is a little odd :)

France @ Beyond The Peel January 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Hi Jenn, This is my first time here. I found you through Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. You have a new follower. Not only because i love your blog, but I also have a massive cooks crush on Donna. I know, who wouldn’t right? Gorgeous soup by the way.

I host a Whole Food Wednesday at I’d love it if you could swing by and even share if you like. Have a great rest of your week!

Jenn January 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Thanks so much!! Oh I totally understand, I love everything about the Donna Hay magazine :) Will check out your link event!

Simone January 24, 2012 at 9:27 pm

As always I love how you go through your whole process step by step Jenn as I think it is helpful for everyone trying to learn more about lighting and styling. Yes, your bowl is a little brighter then the original and the napkin a little darker but overall – as usual – I think you’ve done a great job. What I especially love about the way you tackle these challenges is that you do not give up easily. I wish I had your perseverance when it comes to getting the shot you want! I tend to give up too easily I must confess. You should really try this soup next time with the cauliflower croutons as I loooooved those!

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Thanks Simone! and yes, will def. make the cauliflower croutons next time :)

Athena January 25, 2012 at 6:11 am

I like your interpretation of Ben’s photo, and explanation of your thinking process on this challenge. I encountered some of the same issues you did and while not pleased with the photographic outcome, I at least enjoyed a good bowl of soup!

Athena January 25, 2012 at 6:13 am

And I def agree with Simone on the cauliflower croutons; they were delicious!

Jenn January 25, 2012 at 7:35 am

Thanks Athena – can’t wait to see your version!

kale @ tastes good to me! January 25, 2012 at 6:34 am

Well this is beautiful. And I love finding fellow Donna Hay fans!

Jenn January 25, 2012 at 7:35 am

thank you!

Harini January 25, 2012 at 11:55 am

I think I like yours the best of the lot! Also like the first photograph of the whole cauliflower. Well done, Jenn!

Jenn January 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Thanks so much Harini!

Dara January 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

What a fab recipe! I am loving how simple it is to make tasty and healthy soup out of some cauliflower.

Jenn January 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Thank you so much!

Jeanne @ CookSister! January 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Firstly, I have to say again that your “process” posts are absolutely mesmerising – especially from the perspective of somebody whose food shoots are usually done in 60 seconds between the food being cooked and my husband throwing his toys out of the cot from hunger!! If I get one that’s correctly exposed, it’s a win. If it’s also in focus, I get bonus points ;o) I so totally admire your attention to detail and perseverence in getting the result you want. Secondly I adore cauliflower and do not make cauliflower soup nearly often enough – definitely want to try this one!

Jenn January 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Thanks Jeanne – hope you enjoy the soup!

alyce culinary thymes January 25, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I think your pics look great! This soup sounds delish.

Jenn January 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm


Jaime aka The Tomato Snob January 26, 2012 at 4:22 am

Looks yummy. I just love cauliflower can’t wait to try this!

Jenn January 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Thank you !

Rochelle (@AcquiredLife) January 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm

It may not be the exact photo, but it’s gorgeous anyways! It makes me want to eat the soup and also try out playing with this DHSPC idea too :)

Jenn January 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Thanks Rochelle – and yes you should def. join in!

InTolerantChef January 27, 2012 at 12:40 am

Lovely recipe and photos. Its hard to photograph a meal thats so ‘bland’ in colour!

Jenn January 28, 2012 at 5:56 am

Thanks so much! and yes, the color is def. part of the challenge :)

Brian @ A Thought For Food January 27, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I’m saving this recipe for another cold night. Beautiful shots… despite the challenges you endured.

Jenn January 28, 2012 at 6:02 am

Thanks Brian – now I just need to find that gorgeous colored cauliflower that you showed off so beautifully in your post :)

Jennifer (Delicieux) January 28, 2012 at 1:15 am

I think your final image is beautiful Jenn!!! I’m a huge fan of dark backgrounds, and I think the contrast of the beautiful white soup and the dark slate work well to bring out the soup. I actually prefer yours to the original image.

Jenn January 28, 2012 at 6:04 am

Thanks so much Jennifer!

Maggie January 30, 2012 at 3:11 am

Jenn I always love reading your posts and looking at your pictures. I learn so much! I think your photo is stunning. Thanks for sharing it with Go Ahead Honey this month.

Jenn February 3, 2012 at 3:17 am

Thanks Maggie!

Aparna February 1, 2012 at 3:00 am

I think you managed to pull it off really well. The garnish provides the contrats to the soup, though maybe the cream spills take away something from the photograph? I just left them out in mine. :)
Love the freshness of the cauliflower in the first photograph.

Jenn February 3, 2012 at 3:18 am

Thanks Aparna! and yes, I agree my “spills” need some help…

Kevin (Closet Cooking) February 1, 2012 at 3:14 am

Great looking soup!

Jenn February 3, 2012 at 3:19 am

Thanks Kevin!

D Murphy February 5, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Great recipe and good to find one that isn’t absolutey loaded with cheese like most cauliflower soup recipes;)

Fatemah February 17, 2012 at 5:39 am

Jenn, I have been readingI your posts on An Amateur’s Perspective on Food Photography Series and I just finished tonight. I love it!
Thank you so much for sharing your experience , tips and tricks, this was soo helpful. If I ever get good at food photography, I will write something similar so everyone can benefit. It’s nice to see an amateur’s perspective rather than always hearing from the professionals.
Also, what a nice complete list of food photography resources you have, Bookmarked!

Thanks again. You have a lovely blog and gorgeous pictures.

Jenn February 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Oh wow thanks, I’m so glad it’s been helpful!

cozumel July 8, 2012 at 12:45 am

I have just found your site and it is awesome. Making this cauliflower soup tonight for my family!

melanie L November 3, 2012 at 12:38 am

I swapped out 1/3 of the cauliflower with broccoli. SO good!

Jenn November 3, 2012 at 7:23 am

Oh what a great variation!

melanie L November 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm

at the end I added a bit of coconut/almond milk since we dont drink milk. It was so good! Thank you for this recipe

Liz January 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Omigod, this is divine! I used sweet potatoes, and they work very well in this recipe too. I always loved cauliflower (I was a weird kid ;-), but have never made soup with it before – but this is set to be one of my go-to recipes. Thank you so much for posting!

Jenn January 1, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Most Donna Hay recipes I end up falling in love with :)

Liz January 12, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I’ve since tried substituting parsnip for the cauliflower (and using ‘normal’ as opposed to sweet potatoes), this also works very well. And the addition of some topinambour to either version is great too – thank you for inspiring me :-)

Jessica January 5, 2014 at 5:27 pm

How many servings does this make typically?

Thanks – It looks awesome in this chilly weather!

Jenn January 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm

The original recipe said four servings :)

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