Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cauliflower and millet soup with salmon, flavored with cumin and turmeric

S and I have been into some sort of hibernation mode these days. We’ve been staying in most weekends, watching tv series and movies (we finally watched the Harry Potter movies!), and I’ve been cooking for us warming and comforting foods that fit the weather, the mood, the season —winter. A winter that has been mild thus far, yet still cold enough to have us crave soups, stews and all those dishes the body yearns for this time of year.

I’ve been flirting with this soup ever since I got sent the book Simply Ancient Grains, a truly marvelous, award-winning cookbook, written by an equally wonderful author, Maria Speck, who was raised in Greece and Germany and now lives in the US. The book is filled with Mediterranean-inspired recipes using whole grains, and I’m not talking about just salads, but all sorts of main dishes, soups and stews, as well as breakfast dishes and desserts.

This cauliflower and millet soup with fresh salmon, flavored with whole cumin seeds and ground turmeric was the first of many recipes that I was tempted to try. Even though there was no photograph of the dish in the book, as soon as I saw the title, I started imagining a golden-tinged soup with tiny pearls of millet floating inside, with whitish cauliflower florets, and pink-hued salmon cubes perched on top. I imagined it, I cooked it and it came to life.

This dish is hearty and warming with interesting flavors. The cauliflower has a subtle flavor and provides texture as it remains in chunks in the soup whereas the millet is there to thicken the soup and give it body with its creamy and slightly glutinous texture. There are acidic notes from the lemon that brightens up the dish, sweetness from the juicy salmon, a metallic hint from the turmeric, and spiciness, earthiness and slight bitterness from the cumin.
Hope you enjoy it!

Cauliflower and millet soup with salmon, flavored with cumin and turmeric
Slightly adapted from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck

If you don’t plan to serve the soup right away when you cook it, then don’t add the salmon. Add and cook the salmon in the soup only when you want to serve it.

Yield: 6 servings

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 red onion (about 50 g net weight), finely chopped or processed
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 large dried bay leaf
1 kg cauliflower head (you will need to use the florets, 600-650 g net weight, cut into 2.5cm pieces)
¾ tsp ground turmeric
60 ml dry Vermouth (or dry white wine)
1.5 liters water
2 chicken (or vegetable) stock cubes
150 g millet
350 g fresh salmon fillet, skinless, cut into 2.5cm cubes
Zest of 1 large lemon
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tbsp fresh dill leaves, finely chopped

1 large lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, add the oil and heat over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the cumin seeds and fry for 40-60 seconds until they start to release their aroma and darken, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon to prevent burning. Add the chopped onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until it starts to take on a golden-brown color around the edges, about 5 minutes. One minute before the onion is done, add the garlic, the bay leaf and a little salt, and sauté, stirring continuously, for 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and turmeric, and cook, stirring continuously, until the cauliflower is coated with the spices, for a couple of minutes. Pour in the Vermouth (or white wine) and cook until almost all liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the stock cubes and water, turn heat up to high, and stir to dissolve the cubes. Then add the millet and a little salt, and use your wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan for any precious browned bits. Bring to the boil, then turn heat down to low, put the lid on the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the millet and cauliflower are tender.

When ready, season the salmon cubes with some salt and add them to the pan. Stir gently so they don’t break up in the soup and simmer with the lid slightly ajar, until the salmon is opaque throughout, for 3 minutes. Don’t cook for longer because the salmon will overcook and become dry.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Give the soup a taste and add more salt if necessary.

Serve hot in soup bowls, sprinkle with the dill and have the lemon wedges at the table in case you need more lemon. I always do.

Note: The soup thickens considerably when it cools so eat it while it’s hot. If it cools down and becomes dense, all you need to do is add a little more water to loosen it before reheating and serving it.


  1. Very nice! I recently won a copy as part of a give-away that Peter Minaki did through his blog, the book next came in the mail the other day so I haven't had a chance to make anything yet, but it looks interesting! I'll have to give this soup a try, if only my husband liked salmon!

  2. Whats here not to like.Fantastic!