CHEESE SOUFFLÉ INSPIRED BY JENNY COSTA
Jenny chose her mum's cheese soufflé as one of her Desert Island Dishes. She was talking about it with such affection and a kind of awe that I slightly misread the situation and piped up with an exclamation of how soufflés are much easier to make than people think. This was not actually what Jenny wanted to hear, because as with a lot of memories, this one had little to do with the soufflés themselves and everything to do with the fact her mum made them for her. And that's what I love about Desert Island Dishes so much.
That being said, a cheese soufflé is a delicious thing and I'm excited to share this recipe with you. I think the soufflé has a real mystique and awe about it. Yes you absolutely must get them to the table quickly once you've brought them out of the oven. But beyond that? They really are simple, and hard to mess up. The even better news? If, for some unexplained reason they do go wrong, they still taste great. And you can use a little trick of mine if they fail to rise...just screech, yelling like a banshee that they are sinking as you run, flustered to the table, and exclaim a lot (a lot a lot) about how positively fabulous they looked as you took them from the oven. You're welcome.
We have a little thing in our house. That as soon as it's announced that the food is ready, one particular family member decides it's a good time to go to the loo. I won't name and shame him here, but he knows who he is. If you too have one of these, make sure you get a firm grip on their elbow and tell them you are making soufflés. Much better that everyone is waiting at the table a few minutes longer than you having to usher people to the table where lies some deflated, yet once fabulous soufflés.
So really, they are simple. All you do is make a thick white sauce. Add some cheese. Separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites. Failing to whisk the egg whites sufficiently will mean you don't get a good rise on the old soufflé, and for goodness sake be gentle when you fold the mixtures together. I have whisked by hand and I have whisked by machine. I am a sloth like creature and the elbow grease required in hand whisking is not really for me, but you do as you wish. As long as the egg whites are whisked sufficiently, it's fine by me.
I love all soufflés. A great chocolate one is a thing of beauty, I've had a rhubarb and custard one which was delicious, and pistachio ones are pretty hard to beat. However, whilst a sweet soufflé does have something of the show offs about them, not so with a savoury one. They make for perfect Sunday night suppers. Serve only with a crunchy green salad with a tangy vinaigrette and you've whipped up a feast. A feast that mainly used up store cupboard ingredients and that left over block of cheese you found at the back of the fridge Bridget Jones style.
Serves 4-6 (depending on the size of your ramekins)
50g butter, plus extra for greasing
20g white breadcrumbs
1 tsp dijon mustard
4 eggs, separated
50g parmesan, grated
100g gruyere, grated (or cheddar)
Put the kettle on and heat the oven to 200C
You can either use a large 15cm soufflé dish which is what my mama always does and I love it, or you can use little ramekins so that everyone get's their own soufflé. The choice is yours. Cooking times vary but we shall get to that in a bit.
Either way prepare the soufflé dishes with melted butter and breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs should encourage the soufflés to rise.
Pour the boiling kettle into a deep baking tray and fill it up about half way and pop that in the oven.
Start by making a thick white sauce. Melt the butter in a pan, and once it's melted, stir in the flour. Allow to cook for a minute or so but keep stirring so the flour doesn't burn. Slow add the milk, but whisk it continuously so you don't get lumps. Stir in the dijon mustard and the cheeses and set to one side to cool slightly.
Separate the eggs. Add the egg yolks to the slightly cooled white sauce and stir well to combine.
Whisk the egg whites to until stiff.
Add a spoonful of the whisked egg whites to the white sauce and stir well to combine. This lightens the mixture and makes it easier to combine the two. Now tip the egg whites into the sauce and gently fold them until mostly combined, trying to keep as much air in the egg whites as possible.
Spoon the mixture into the dishes. Run your finger around the edge of each souffle dish - about 1/2 a cm in, in what they call the top hat effect. It helps to encourage the souffle to rise and not get stuck on the rim.
Pop the soufflés into the water filled baking tray and for the little ones cook for 12 minutes or so, and the big one will take about 25-30 minutes.
Do not open the oven to see how they are doing, this will ensure they don't rise.