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Easy, chic and cheap recipes: delicate cauliflower leaf and pecorino soup

Photo: Cauliflower leaf soup

Photo: Cauliflower leaf soup

For years it has hurt me to throw away the green outer leaves of the cauliflower. I have simmered them for the chickens in the past but mainly they are added to our kitchen compost bin.

Having had the tip from John Coe – that all the leaves on the sprouting broccoli plant are edible – I decided to experiment with the cauli leaves this week. I chopped up the main stalk and tore the leaves away from the fibrous stems. Then I simmered them for about twenty minutes in vegetable stock. They looked really unappetising when I lifted the lid. So I liquidised the leaves using my stick blender. The basic soup tasted delicious. Delicate and sweet. I was amazed.

I thickened it with three tiny cooked new potatoes that were knocking about beside the cooker, added a few herbs and spices and a handful of pecorino cheese. Any strong tasting cheese would do. The secret is just to add a little to enhance rather than drown the gentle cauliflower flavours.

Danny wasn’t keen on tasting it.
“I don’t want to try it as I know that it’s made with some hoary old leaves – I peeked in the pot when you were out at work.”
“Oh come on! I want to hear your opinion.”
Danny tasted a teeny fairy sized drop and then made a lunge for the saucepan.
“It’s really good.”

So next time, don’t buy a trimmed cauliflower. Get one with leaves on and enjoy this soup. Apart from the cheese, potatoes and spices it’s almost free.

Delicate cauliflower leaf and pecorino soup recipe for four


  • The outer leaves from a medium head of cauliflower
  • Vegetable stock to cover (I used a tsp of vegetable stock powder)
  • 1 clove of garlic or a tsp of garlic granules
  • Quarter tsp of powdered mace
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Three cooked new potatoes or a cooked medium potato (skinned)
  • 25g of pecorino cheese (stilton/mature cheddar/parmesan)
  • Lashings of ground white pepper
  • A squeeze of lemon juice to enhance the flavours


  1. Strip the outer leaves from a cauliflower and remove the thick, stringy central stems. Chop up the central stalk.
  2. Put these in a saucepan, cover with vegetable stock  and simmer until soft (about 15-20 minutes).
  3. Add the cooked potatoes, the spices and herbs. Liquidise using a stick blender
    Add the finely grated cheese and stir to dissolve.
  4. Serve in warm bowls with a garnish of fresh basil leaves and hot crusty rolls.

  Leave a reply


  1. Great recipe.

    I’m known for being a tightwad when it comes to what I put in soups – veggies on the wilt, brocolli stalks, leftover beans, you name it, it goes in. In fact, I think it’s the only reason I make soup in the first place.

  2. Love it!

  3. What a great idea. I’m trying to waste less with food, but I always buy too much veg – I need to plan my menu’s more.

  4. It’s Leeks that i most hate buying! up here they are sold by the kilo, with too much top left on! Soon as i get it home, half of it goes in the compost!! Anyone got a recipe like this for Leek tops?

  5. Julie Watts

    I always add some of the more leafy green bits to my cauliflower cheese when I make it. Adds a bit of colour and I think improves the flavour!

  6. Michelle in NZ

    Potatoes are wonderful in so many soup types. These days i avoid recipes that involve a white sauce, or annt that add cream to make the soup creamy. Not needed with potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, butternut squash(if you must)

    Buttercup pumpkins taste heaps better, no way watery, their full on flavour IS THE BEST)

    And I’m biased… care and huggles to all the Min Pins..and their humans….

    Mickle xxxxxxx

  7. I wouldn’t have thought of this but what a great idea. I find it really annoying to cart something home only to immediately throw it in the bin (I have no composting facilities in my flat and nowhere to put any compost even if I did). I will definitely have to try this out next time I buy a cauli. Sometimes the simplest of concoctions produce the most wonderful results. Just think of all the potential soups we have been throwing in the bin!

  8. Veronica

    What a great idea, and the soup looks really attractive. Sometimes I add the leaves to cauliflour cheese if they look nice and fresh, but more often they get thrown away. Not any more!

  9. Domestic Executive

    I’ll remember that for next time. I chucked out the cauliflower outer leaves when I harvested them earlier this summer.

  10. Belinda

    Your Danny sounds like my Mat.. its the IDEA that put them off. If you tell them nothing they will eat anything with few exceptions.

    In Mats case its acid like lemon, plus spinach & cheese, though I have found he will eat all 3 in small amounts if Im stealthy enough.

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