Cauliflower and cannellini soup


1 cauliflower head cut into florets

400g can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed in cold water (this will reduce about 40 per cent of added salt)

1 chopped onion or leek

About 2 litres of vegetable stock (depending on size of cauliflower and consistency desired)

2–3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon of butter (optional)

1 dessertspoon of olive oil

Handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt (if not in vegetable stock) and cracked pepper

Goats fetta or yoghurt for serving


In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and butter; add onion or leek and sauté on low heat until partially cooked.

Stir in cauliflower to coat with the flavour of the onion and oil.

Add beans, then enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables.

Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer until cauliflower is cooked (breaks up when pressed with a wooden spoon).

Remove bay leaves and process with a hand processor.

Serve with crumbled fetta or low-fat yoghurt and extra parsley.

Nutritional Value

This is a quick and easy recipe requiring little preparation – great for the end of the shopping week. It's a great way to use cauliflower, part of the Brassica (cruciferous) vegetable family, which are associated with a lower risk of cancer including lung, colon and breast cancer in women.

The anticancer effects of the Brassica family are associated with compounds called glucosinolates. Broccoli is usually promoted as being the best choice in this family for potentially reducing cancer risk, but it is suggested that a variety of vegetables rich in glucosinolates may be better in helping to influence the enzymes in the body's system that are moderated to reduce risk. One of the ways the Brassica vegetables might lower breast cancer risk is by influencing the way that our body's oestrogen is broken down to become less harmful.

The beans thicken the soup and are useful for people who consciously reduce carbohydrates. They provide a source of phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) found in legumes. Phytoestrogens eaten in moderate to high amounts, as in the diet of Chinese and Japanese women, may help reduce peri-menopausal symptoms in some women.

Cannellini beans also provide fibre and protein. Protein found in legumes, including beans, is an 'incomplete' protein and needs to be complemented with either a grain or a seed. Eating bread with the meal, or sprinkling sesame seeds on the soup, would complete the protein. Alternatively, add fetta or yoghurt, both of which are complete proteins because they are an animal source.

Cannellini beans are a good source of B vitamins, including folic acid. They are rich in cholesterol-lowering fibre. The high fibre content also prevents blood sugar level from rising too quickly, which helps sustain energy – ideal for people with diabetes and other blood-sugar regulation problems, such as insulin resistance or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).

Adding goats fetta, or low-fat yoghurt, adds a source of calcium, as well as increasing the protein.