Blue cheese soufflé
This month we are cooking dishes from places that could be a home away from home. In many cultures, food is a way of making guests feel welcome; I just know that in a place where food is so intrinsically linked with national identity I will fit right in. Although I have never been to France (it is certainly up there on my list of places to travel), I have chosen to cook two French classics: today’s Blue cheese soufflé, and later in the week I will be posting a Tarte Tatin.
What I love about French cuisine is that it is challenging. Most culinary educations are built on mastering the classics, and the classics are French. I’ve heard people talk about a ‘snobbish’ edge to French cuisine, but I think of it more as a high level of respect for quality ingredients, traditional methods and the skill of the chef. Meals are lovingly prepared over several hours, and then eaten with as much care and style as has been put into making them.
Soufflés wait for no one. A single-baked soufflé must be served immediately. There are some steps than can be done in preparation – the moulds can be greased and refrigerated earlier in the day and the béchamel sauce base cooked. The egg whites however must be whipped and folded in just prior to baking, and once baked they must be eaten before they deflate!
I served these alongside a peppery watercress, hazelnut and caramelized pear salad with Dijon mustard dressing to make a great lunch or light dinner. Just remember your timing – prep the salad and dressing before starting the soufflés, then simply dress and plate the salad while the soufflés are in their last 10 minutes of baking.
- ½ cup hazelnuts
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 pear, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 cups (loosely packed) watercress
- Handful flat leaf parsley
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- ½ tsp sugar
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Blue cheese soufflés
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 75g blue cheese
- 1 ¼ cup full-cream milk
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- ⅛ tsp grated fresh nutmeg
- Pinch salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 6 egg whites
- Extra butter to grease moulds
- 1. Preheat oven to 190ºC on bake. Roast hazelnuts for around 10 minutes or until they start to shed their shells. Once they are cool enough to handle, roll the nuts between your hands to remove the shells.
- 2. Heat butter over a medium heat in a heavy-based frying pan. Add pear slices and arrange is pan so each slice is in contact with the pan. Cook until golden. Turn over and cook other side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
- 3. Combine watercress, hazelnuts, pear slices and parsley. Dress and serve.
- Combine shallot, mustard, vinegar and sugar. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking well to combine. Season to taste.
- Blue cheese soufflés
- 1. Preheat oven to 190ºC on bake, place oven shelf as low in oven as possible. (In order to encourage the soufflé to rise, you want more heat coming from the bottom.)*
- 2. Brush insides of six small ramekins** with melted butter – be generous and use upward brush strokes to encourage the soufflés to rise. Place on a baking tray and refrigerate. After 10 minutes take them out and brush a second time with more melted butter. Return to refrigerator.
- 3. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter and half of the cheese over a medium heat. Add flour and mix until smooth. Continue to fry for a couple of minutes until the flour is cooked through.
- 4. Warm the milk (either in microwave or a separate saucepan) and slowly add to the butter, cheese and flour paste, whisking constantly to ensure a smooth sauce free of lumps. Continue to whisk over a gentle heat until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add the cayenne pepper, nutmeg and salt and mix until smooth.
- 5. In a medium-sized bowl, beat egg yolks until thick. Add a little of the béchamel sauce and mix (this will gently warm the egg yolks). Continue to add the rest of the sauce and mix until smooth. Cover and leave to cool.
- 6. Using an electric mixer, whip egg whites until glossy and firm peaks form.
- 7. Fold the remaining blue cheese into the egg yolk mixture and then gently fold in the egg whites. Start with 1/3 of the egg whites and fold through until marbled, then add the remaining egg whites and fold in until just combined (over-mixing at this point will knock a lot of the air out).
- 8. Take moulds out of fridge and fill up to rim. Place moulds onto baking tray and then place into oven.
- 9. Bake for 20 minutes or until the soufflés have puffed up and are just set in the centre.
- Serve immediately.
- Tips and Tricks
- *If your oven has a pastry bake function, this would be ideal for cooking soufflés as it uses the lower element. Some ovens also have a classic bake function which again uses the lower element and provides the perfect environment for soufflé success.
- **Soufflé containers must have even sides to allow the soufflé to rise easily.