I used to make souffles often as a student- because they were cheap, actually pretty easy to do but looked impressive. It also occurs to me now that they are a perfect way to use up leftovers ( cauliflower cheese, cubes of ham, vegetables, tomatoes, an overripe avocado, the end of a nice bit of cheese, even risotto goes well into the mix.)
So today's 3 course menu is a smoked trout and lentil salad to start, followed by a cheese and ham souffle and coconut macaroon ice cream sandwiches for pudding (another Seventies classic- the ice cream sandwich!)
For a simple salad starter- boil a few new potatoes until tender and allow to cool until just warm. Mix in half a tin of lentils, a chopped spring onion and a handful of finely chopped parsley. Toss in a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard. Serve on a bed of salad leaves with some slices of smoked trout or salmon and some buttered brown bread.
|Smoked trout and lentil salad|
Now for the souffle. It is best to serve this immediately on coming out of the oven, so don't keep it waiting whilst you prepare the accompaniments- we just had some steamed buttered greens with it.
Thoroughly grease a souffle or casserole dish and preheat your oven to 170 degrees. Separate 4 eggs, putting the yolks in a cup and the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Beat the whites (preferably with an electric whisk) until they form stiff peaks. In a saucepan, melt 50g of butter and make a roux with 50g of plain flour and 225 ml or so of milk, gradually whisked in until you have a thick sauce. Season with lots of pepper and a teaspoon of mustard and allow to cool for a few minutes. Beat in 175 g of grated mature cheddar cheese and 100g of cubed ham. When the mixture has cooled for a few minutes, beat in the 4 egg yolks.
Now add the sauce to the egg whites, carefully folding in with a metal spoon until the sauce is marbled through but the egg whites still have plenty of volume.
Pour into your greased dish and bake in the centre of the oven until it is risen and golden (20-25 minutes or so). Do not open the oven in the first 15 minutes- and try not to at all until you are ready to serve.
The souffle will fall a little as you cut into it - but don't worry, it will still taste fluffy and delicious.
|Cheese and ham souffle|
If you want to make souffles for a dinner party- try doing the twice-baked variety. You can make them the day before and just pop them in the oven 10 minutes or so before serving to your guests.
Thoroughly grease individual ramekins and pour your mixture into these. Place them on a baking tray and pour some boiling water into the tray until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins (to make a bain marie). Cook for 20 minutes at 170 degrees as above. Remove from the bain marie and place on a cooling rack.
At this point, the souffles will fall and look like sad little Yorkshire pudding puddles. This is fine- don't worry!
|Souffles rising up|
When you are ready to cook them again- gently slide them out of their ramekins using a pallet knife to loosen the sides ( hope you remembered to grease really well!) Place them on a baking sheet, pour over a teaspoon of cream per souffle and a good dusting of grated cheese (parmesan is good here mixed with gruyere or cheddar). Put them in the oven for 20 minutes or so at 180 degrees and they will rise up and be all bright eyed and bushy tailed for your guests!
|Twice baked cheese souffle|
If you like strong cheese, then a circle of goats cheese goes well on the top of each souffle before the second bake instead of the cream and parmesan. Blue cheese is much liked in a souffle too.
|Twice baked blue cheese and walnut souffle|
Once you have mastered this simple recipe- let your creativity take over and add whatever you want to use up/have at hand/like to make the sauce.
Sweet souffles are just as easy- Delia has a good lemon curd souffle recipe- but you can adapt it to use marmalade, fresh raspberry sauce, jam etc http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/french/hot-lemon-curd-souffles.html
And so to pudding.
I think coconut macaroons were one of the first things I ever learned to bake. I must have been younger than five years old- and we used to call them coconut dibdabs. I don't know why.
So, when I watched a Donna Hay cookery prog the other day and saw her making these ice cream sandwiches I thought- "I want that". And so I made some.
So easy- and scrummy, if a little calorific.
For the macaroons- beat 2 egg whites until at the soft peak stage. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence, 100g of caster sugar and 200g of dessicated coconut. Mix together until it all binds.
Grease two baking sheets and line with baking paper. Place spoonfuls of the mixture into biscuit rings and press down firmly with a spoon to make round shapes. Bake at 170 degrees for 10 minutes or so. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as they are golden.Allow to cool.
For the pudding- sandwich a scoop of your favourite ice cream (I used salted caramel) between two macaroons, drizzle over some caramel sauce, maple syrup, chocolate sauce, cream- whatever you fancy et voila!
|Coconut macaroon ice cream sandwich|
You can do the same with any biscuits, slices of cake or gaufrettes that you have in the storecupboard.
|Out of this world!|