CREAMY WINTER CAULIFLOWER, PARSNIP AND GARLIC SOUP (V+, GF, GrF, ChF, NF, P)

I love January! Sure it's cold and dark and I'm always short of cash, but there is something so fresh and promising about having the whole year ahead of me; it's what makes me January's biggest fan. You see, I feel the beginning of the year gives us a chance to reinvent ourselves, to dream of all the things that weren't possible the previous year and to make them happen this year. With that sense of hope in mind, I've been thinking loads about the direction of the blog for 2016. What do I want this space to be and how can I make it better still? That's not to say that I haven't been incredibly pleased and proud of what I've achieved in the last 12 months. I SO have, but I know that I haven't reached my destination yet and that I am STILL moving towards my own creative peek. So what does this mean for the blog in 2016 and what can you expect to find here over the coming year? 

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1. Good Honest Food:
It has been my aim from the start to make the key and core of this blog be delicious, seasonal, fun vegetarian food. I have no intention whatsoever of changing that, partly because it's just how I like to cook and this blog is ultimately a reflection of what happens in my kitchen. But also because I have come to realise that yummy, simple and achievable recipes are what YOU like best.

So in terms of savoury food for 2016...

I'd love to stretch myself a little more in the coming year and shake things up a tiny bit. Hence I really want to include many more recipes using lentils, chickpeas and other legumes because they play a massive role in my diet, are a fab source of protein, utterly scrumptious and so quick and easy to make. Yet, I've barely featured them on the blog cuz - to be honest - they're REALLY hard to photograph :(. But hey, I think that's my challenge right there, to make legumes look sexy ;)! The same goes for grains – I LOVE them and really feel I need to give them the attention they deserve. Hence there should be more quinoa, barley and brown rice based dishes gracing your computer screen soon :).

And finally on the savoury front there are things I've never ever made before but would love to have a play with such as...

- vegetarian pad thai (YUMMY)
- the ultimate veggie burger (salivating just writing these words)
- and a good old proper falafel

How does that all sound to you? Anything YOU'd like to see?

And on the sweet side...

What is a food blog without its own version of a brownie or chocolate chip cookie? Nothing, frankly, so I gotta get those in here. QUICK! And there are a few other simple, classic recipes that are totally missing such as donuts and cinnamon buns. A crime, if you ask me, and I have all intention of rectifying that in 2016 (baking skills permitting).

And then there are some sweet treats I've been wanting to try my hand at for ages that perhaps require a little more thought and skill such as...

- vegan macaroons (it's THE thing at the moment and I want in on the fun)
- a vegan tres leches cake (my Latina roots are crying out to be represented in dessert form on the blog)
- and vegan panna cotta (my personal favourite!)

Any dessert gaps you've spotted? Please do let me know in the comment section below :).

2. Food Photography
If you've been following along for a while, you know I've worked really hard to get better at managing my camera and sharing what I've learned along the way. I intend to continue to work super hard in 2016. However, I'm in three (!) minds as to how I can do that. One part of me feels that I need to stop mucking about and finally settle on 1 style and really define myself visually. Another side of me feels that I'm still at such an early point in my food photography career, that I need to be brave and experiment and have lots of fun stylistically. And yet another part of me feels I need to be bolder still and get out of my comfort zone completely - taking pictures outdoors or playing LOADS more with shutter speed to capture movment. So we will see which voice prevails. What I am sure about though is that I'll continue to share what I learn with you on the blog, like I did in these blog posts here AND that I desperately need a new camera (a second-hand canon 70D plllleeeeaaasssee).

3. Nutrition
All being well I should be a qualified nutritional therapist by the end of this year. I have to say - I can't wait! What I hope to do once I qualify is offer 1-2-1 nutritional consultations in person and via skype. I intend to specialize in everything to do with hormones - skin health, fertility etc. My dream would be to put some key tips and hormone supporting recipes together in an e-book or app as well *blush*. Though I don't intend to do that this year! I hope that by putting my dreams out here in cyberspace, I can make them come true :)

Thank you so much everyone for making 2015 amazing, for following along and for reading :). It's greatly appreciated.
Now on to what you all came for: the recipe.

P.S. Wanna support this blog? Then please follow along on instagram, pin my recipes or tell your friend about The Little Plantation. It would make my day :)

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CREAMY WINTER CAULIFLOWER, PARSNIP AND GARLIC SOUP (V+, GF, GrF, ChF, NF, P)

The beautiful and talented Maria Bell, who writes her own food blog (which you can find here), popped by for tea and a chat the other day and before long we were both photographing away (it was inevitable really). I'm so grateful she helped me create these shots as her presence means that I get to share some behind the scenes pictures with you, give you a better sense of my photography set-up and detail how I build images for a blog post. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we did creating them :).

As for the recipe itself - I actually had no intention of featuring it. But when I posted this image on instagram a few weeks ago, I was quite overwhelmed by the response I got. I mean it's just a cauliflower and parsnip soup, never in a million years did I think anyone would take notice. But you did and when I thought about it, it made total sense - the recipe is simple, quick, easy and delicious. Why shouldn't it take centre stage in a blog post? So here it is, upon your request. Enjoy!

(Recipe inspired by one I found in Amy Chaplin's book 'At Home In The Whole Food Kitchen'). 

IMPORTANT: Please do check the tips at the end of the recipe before getting started :)

Preparation Time:
 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
½ a garlic bulb
1 tsp olive oil + about 1 tbs for frying the onion
a pinch of salt for the garlic and anther pinch or two to add to the soup (see instructions)
1 white onion
1 small cauliflower (about 500g/1lbs)
500g/1lbs parsnips
6 cups of filtered water
1 tsp tamari sauce
generous sprinkle of coursely ground black pepper

Garnish with:
fresh herbs such as parsley or coriander
sliced almonds
raw vegan pesto (get the quick and easy recipe here or try another super simple version, which can be found here)

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Image on the right by Maria Bell Photography

Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F.

Take ½ garlic bulb and separate each clove from one another (keeping the skin on!). Please the garlic cloves on a baking tray tined with non-stick baking paper, drizzle them with the olive oil and sprinkle with some salt. Then place them in the pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes or until their skin is crispy (not burnt!) and their insides nice and soft. Remove them from the oven, let them cool until you can easily handle them; peel the garlic cloves, discarding the skin and set aside for later use.

As the garlic cloves are roasting nicely, peel and dice your onion. Next wash the cauliflower, removing the leaves and cut into small-ish dices. Then wash and peel the parsnips, cutting them into small-ish dice too.

Next, grab a large pot and over a medium heat, fry the diced onion in about 1 tbs of oil. Add a pinch or two of salt as well. (By this stage your garlic cloves should be done, so don't forget to remove them from the oven as noted above).

Once the onions are translucent, add the diced cauliflower, parsnips and water and bring to a boil. Then cover the pot, reduce the heat and let everything simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are nice and soft and you can easily pinch them with a fork. Once done, remove from the pot from stove.

Now add the tamari sauce and the roasted garlic cloves to the pot. Next place the entire content of the pot in a blender (I used the vitamix, though any good blender should do the job just fine) and blend until the soup is nice and creamy. Taste the soup to see if you require more salt or pepper. Though if you are garnishing the soup with the pesto sauce (highly recommended), please note that the sauce will bring saltiness to the dish as well, so best not to overdo it.

Tip 1: I made the soup twice. Once using a whole garlic clove and the second time only using half. Interestingly the first time I made the soup, using the whole bulb of garlic, the garlic flavour was quite mild. The second time using only half the garlic bulb, it was quite strong. What I took away from that experience is that it all really depends on how fresh your garlic is, what variety you are using and how long you leave the garlic in the oven for. To be on the safe side I suggest using 1/2 garlic only, but it's up to you.
Tip 2: You can also use red onions but this will slightly change the colour of the soup ;)
Tip 3: Please note you can double this recipe and then freeze half of it for a rainy day. This might be a particularly good idea if you've got quite a large and heavy cauliflower head anyway :)
Tip 4: If you look closely at the recipe you wil notice that I used about 1kg/2lbs of vegetables here. You can use cauliflower or parsnip only by keeping the weight as suggested if you wish (make sense?).
Tip 5: To make the soup grain-free and paleo please either replace the tamari sauce with coconut aminos (I've not actally used this myself, but know it's a common tamari sauce replacer) or just omit all together, adding a touch more salt if need be instead.
Tip 6: You can also use soya sauce instead of the tamari sauce, but remember, then the soup will not longer be gluten-free.

Looking for more soup ideas? Why not try my raw avocado soup or this delicious miso soup

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