Serves 4 as a light lunch dish or 6 as a starter
This is my first offering for the Epicurious “top ten most difficult recipes to make” challenge I am undertaking with the Saucy Cooks. People tend to steer away from soufflés because of their perceived fragility but as this article explains there really is nothing to fear. The key to a good savoury soufflé is a béchamel base flavoured with herbs, spices and perhaps onion and a light hand when folding in the stiff egg whites. Yes, they will deflate after they have been out of the oven for a while but you should have a good 10 minutes or more before they have completely lost their puffed up glory.
In Real Food Nigel Slater suggests making a hole in the top of Rowley Leigh’s hot chocolate soufflé and dropping a ball of pistachio ice cream into it. The sensation of cold ice cream as it melts against the hot fluffy soufflé is really lovely. I thought I would give it a go with a savoury ice cream. Before you think I’ve gone all Heston on you, I heard Professor Peter Barham state on the BBC Radio 4 programme, The Kitchen Cabinet, in Brighton recently that the original ice creams were savoury. As you will see the recipe below is taken from Jane Grigson’s Good Things and dates from the 1930s. It really is much nicer than it sounds!
I chose courgettes for the base of my savoury soufflé simple because they are in season at present. Lord of the Hundreds is a tangy Sussex artisan cheese made from ewe’s milk. If you can’t find this then substitute it for pecorino (another ewe’s milk cheese) or any full flavoured hard cheese.
If the thought of presenting a soufflé straight from the oven to your guests still terrifies you you could always try the twice baked variety which are still as delicious if not quite as spectacular.
See how Jill and Margo got on with their first recipe challenge here.
- 450g young courgettes, finely grated
- 1½ tsp fine sea salt
- 25g butter, melted
- 30g ground almonds
- 225ml whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig rosemary, bruised
- 1 onion studded with 2 cloves
- 3 black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g plain flour
- 100g Lord of the Hundreds or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
- 4 eggs separated
- A few drops of lemon juice
- Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
- Place the grated courgettes in a colander then sprinkle with fine sea salt. Leave for an hour to extract some of their liquid.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Brush the inside of four 200ml ramekins or six 150ml ramekins with melted butter then sprinkle with ground almonds to ensure the inside is thoroughly coated.
- Place the milk in a small saucepan with the herbs, onion and peppercorns. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least 10 minutes.
- Rinse the courgettes the dry thoroughly. The most efficient way to do this is in a clean tea towel so that you can squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Gently cook the courgettes until tender but not coloured for about 5 minutes. Drain on some kitchen towel until required.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until slightly golden. Turn off the heat.
- Strain the milk infusion then gradually add this to the roux. Return to a medium heat and cook until you have a thick paste.
- Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Beat in the cheese followed by the courgettes. Taste and adjust the seasoning (you shouldn’t need to add much salt but a small pinch of cayenne works wonders). Leave to cool slightly before beating in the egg yolks.
- Whisk the egg whites with a few drops of lemon juice until they form stiff peaks. Carefully fold them into the cheese and courgette mix.
- Fill each ramekin with the soufflé mix then place the ramekins in a roasting tin half filled with boiling water.
- Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until well risen and brown on top. Serve immediately with a scoop of camembert ice cream on the side.
- To eat the soufflé make a hole in the top and tip in the ice cream allowing it to melt into an oozing cheesy sauce.
Jane Grigson’s Camembert Ice Cream
Makes around 500ml
- 250g ripe Camembert, waxy rind removed and cut into chunks
- 150ml single cream
- 150ml double cream
- Cayenne pepper and salt to taste
- Liquidize the cheese and the creams in a blender until thick and thoroughly combined. Add cayenne and salt to taste.
- Place in an ice cream maker and churn until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Spoon into a container and freeze until required. You will need to take this out of the freezer 10 – 20 minutes before serving to allow it to soften slightly.