The Cottage Smallholder

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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. I’m from Swansea, Wales. We always cook the (trimmed) green cauliflower leaves together with the florets: steamed or boiled. When cooked, we chop the leaves and florets together, into a puree. This is traditionally served as a Sunday dinner vegtable accompaniment.

  2. karenO

    Hi Fiona. I just chopped all the cauli greens stalks and all unless they looked inedible. I used chicken stock because I had some bones ready boiled. I had no garlic but I’m sure it would be better with. Used blade mace as had no powdered – not sure what difference this will make for good or bad. (although I chewed a piece of it when cooked and it was aromatic and citrusy – lovely. Bit like cardamom pods but much nicer). Added Cayenne. Cooked one med pot cubed very small in with cauli greens instead of adding cooked. Used black pepper & did add good squeeze lemon juice. I used Grandano Padano cheese (a cheap version of parmesan but I’ll bet stilton would be good too.) It was quite hot but delicious. I’m waiting now to get another cauli and try yours to see how different it might be. I imagine the chicken stock made a difference because it was quite a strong flavour in the soup.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello David

    Cauliflower and chestnut mushroom soup sounds wonderful. Any chance of the recipe?

    Do hope that my recipe worked out well for you.

    Hi Deborah

    I’m really enjoying the challenge of saving money and trying to use up everything. I hate waste. But for years tossed away scraps without considering how that they could be transformed.

    It is so easy to do what your parents did and not think around the box.

    Hi KarenO

    I’d love to see your recipe. I’ve only made this once and am still a bit of a cauliflower leaf soup virgin…

  4. karenO

    For several years I have thought to make cauliflower leaf soup with the organic cauli we sometimes get in our box but somehow always leave it to wilt and in the end the smell makes me throw it away. Perhaps it was lack of a good recipe that held me back but I made this with some cauli leaves we had over on Sunday and it was delicious. Mine was quite different as we didn’t have all the right ingredients and I’d boiled a chicken carcass so used that as stock now I’m looking forward to next time so I can try yours as per original recipe.

  5. Deborah

    I really admire your resourcefulness and willingness to fight waste-with delicious results. We do throw away so much! I’ll remember this next time I make cauli soup.

  6. david

    I made a Cauliflower & Chestnut Mushroom soup yesterday which was really nice, and cut the green leaves off and put them in the fridge hoping i could find a use, then found this today! Yeeeeoooooww making this tonight!

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Belinda

    Danny isn’t very adventurous when it comes to food but he is forced to join in. He’ll do this as generally the results are OK and he wants me to develop new recipes.

    But tasting a dish is very different from eating the dish. So I spend quite some time tweaking so that a new recipe will appeal!

    Hi Domestic Executive

    This soup was superb. Well worth making for the freezer.

    Hi Veronica

    Yes, I add the tiny leaves too.

    I was really surprised. I tried broccoli leaf soup a couple of days ago and it just didn’t have the same vroooom.

    Hi Pamela

    I so agree, hate chucking out stuff and now I’ve discovered that these taste great in soup am kicking myself for not experimenting before!

    Hi Michelle in NZ

    I wouldn’t have thought of using squash to thicken soup. Thanks for the tip!

    Deep strokes for Zebbie Cat.

    Hello Julie Watts

    Thanks for the tip. The flavour of the leaves was good. Perhaps I might use the soup as the base for the sauce next time?

    Hi Steve

    I agree. I’ve tried leek tops in homemade stock and they’ve killed the flavour.

    Hi Diane

    I seem to buy too much veg too. Although D loves to eat at least four different veg a night.

    In the winter this is fine as veg keep very well in the chilly barn. But when summer comes, all veg need to be kept in the fridge and we have space problems.

    Hi Amanda

    This is well worth trying at home just remember to let no one see what you are putting into this soup!

    Hello Steel

    Soup is great. I so often forget this which is a shame as it is a filling, generally sliming alternative to doorstep sandwiches for lunch.

    Hi Beck

    Stir fry is a great idea! Thanks.

    Hi Tess

    What a brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing.

    Hello Scott at Realepicurean

    Hope that it works out well for you.

  8. Scott at Realepicurean

    Fantastic – I didn’t know you could use cauliflower leaves.

    My veg box this week has 2 big fat cauli’s in it so I may have to give something similar to this a go. I’ll make sure to mention you when I blog about it!

  9. On a sort of loose link from Steel above…I get all sorts of comments from my family about the way I use up leftovers in my breadmaker – sounds odd, but it started with leftover mashed potatoes, rice or pasta being added to the basic bread ingredients in the machine, then I got the bit between my teeth, and all sorts goes in…leftover cauli cheese, christmas cake, even bolognese sauce! It’s one way of making them eat up whilst the food is on the table 1st time round!

  10. Leek Tops- I save them and use them in stock. Or cut ´em fine for stirfry.

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