Cauliflower, clam and kombu soup

Callan Boys
Broth with a backbone: Cauliflower and kombu soup.
Broth with a backbone: Cauliflower and kombu soup. Photo: Callan Boys

This is a great starter for dinner party - just leave the clams out for non-seafood eaters.


1.2 litres vegetable stock

30g shio kombu, finely chopped

2 knobs butter

40ml olive oil

1 large cauliflower, florets chopped, stalks discarded

1 large potato (a Dutch cream would be terrific), peeled and chopped

1 onion, chopped

500ml milk (the creamier the better - no light milk under any circumstances, you hear?)

200ml double cream

2 cloves garlic, sliced

500g surf clams (Cloudy Bay diamond shells are tops)

1 bottle Hillbilly apple cider

25g arame seaweed


1. Add the stock and kombu to a large saucepan and simmer on a low heat. Meanwhile, heat one knob of the butter and olive oil on a low heat in another large saucepan. Throw in the cauliflower, potato and onion, stir until things start sizzling, then cover and sweat the vegetables for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until they're soft but not coloured.

2. Pour in the stock and kombu and bring to the boil. Pour in the milk, bring to the boil again, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Now would be a good time to season, but be careful with any salt because that stock packs a punch.

3. Pour in the cream and blend everything in batches, transferring the blended soup to the empty stock saucepan. You could also put it through a sieve after blending, but it's winter and a thick soup is a good soup. Let the soup have some time to recognise its place in the world over a very low heat while you steam the clams.

4. Melt the remaining butter over a medium heat in a saucepan and cook the garlic until tender. Add the clams and cider, increase heat slightly, and cover the pot. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until the clams have opened, giving the pot a couple of shakes in the process and treating yourself to any remaining cider in the fridge.

5. Cook the arame in hot water according to packet instructions. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a few clams and a tangle of arame.


-  Kombu and arame can be found at select Asian food stores. 

- You can't use chicken stock when cooking soup for vegetarian friends, and it hurts. To give vego-friendly soups backbone I use a handful of the dried Japanese seaweed, kombu.