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The Daring Cooks Soufflé: Rising to the Challenge

by on November 14, 2010
 

I have many habits – good and bad. Some I’ve stemmed with age, like tearing recipes out of magazines. I don’t do that anymore. Well, I shouldn’t do that anymore and I don’t except when I come across a stack of mags with recipes I know the ‘owner’ would never cook. Take my sister, K for instance – she loves to cook and eat but in moderation, especially the cooking part. Now when I visited her in her new flat in Glasgow a few weeks ago, we spent the weekend talking food, I made a couple of lemon cakes for her and pored through loads of ‘Good Food’ mags that had been given to her by the previous occupant of the apartment.

IMG_6908Some recipes made me want to steal the entire pile, but I dared not.

IMG_3976In the end, we struck a deal – I would only tear out those recipes which I knew she would never make and photograph the others. An extremely fair deal, one which allowed me leave with a few nuggets – a pancake soufflé from Gordon Ramsay/Arnold Bennett, an apple pithivier recipe;

IMG_3961A Salmon cake and a few more interesting notes and photos.

IMG_3990So when I initially began contemplating this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge, I was all set to make the pancake soufflés a la Gordon, without the fish and with chocolate orange centres instead but I wasn’t ‘feeling it’. I didn’t  just want to make something for show –  I wanted it to be part of my meal routine, hopefully ingesting less calories this way for its not every day this girl has such fancy desserts.

IMG_6896 However, a glad discovery of Fish Salpicon led me to this bake consisting of left-over flaked fish and herbs, spiced with spoonfuls of chilli corn salsa, enveloped in a creamy coconut roux with egg white for rise.

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Blog-checking lines: Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

Mandatory Items: You must make a baked soufflé – using any one of the recipes provided or any other soufflé recipe that looks interesting and tasty. (Note, however, that not all recipes that call themselves soufflés are really soufflés! So-called frozen, chilled or iced soufflés are really mousses, and their aerated texture is maintained by incorporation of gelatin; also, there are a lot of casserole recipes masquerading as soufflé.) If you’re a veteran soufflé maker, we also ask that you make a soufflé that you haven’t done before. Of course that’s on the honor system, but it’s also a lot of fun to try something new!

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Some tips:

Make sure that the oven is pre-heated. The first few minutes are critical for making the soufflé rise properly; make sure it’s up to the correct temperature and don’t leave the door open for too long when you put your soufflé in.

Prepare your dishes thoroughly. Make sure that your soufflé dish is thoroughly buttered and lined with crumbs, cheese, chocolate, etc as directed. This goes for the collar too if you’re using one (see below). The crumbs are really helpful in showing where you might have missed a spot – if they don’t stick to any area, be sure to patch it with more butter. Also, do make sure the top edge of your dish is clean by running your finger along the rim. Otherwise, soufflé will burn in that spot and it can also interfere with the rise.

Prepare everything beforehand and work briskly. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the whole recipe and prepare all your ingredients and equipment beforehand, rather than stopping to read each step as you go along. But don’t feel like you have to rush: soufflés really are much more forgiving than they’re cracked up to be.

Use fresh eggs at room temperature. Cold eggs won’t whip up so well.

Temper the egg yolks. Tempering the egg yolks means bringing them closer to the temperature of the soufflé base before mixing them together. (If you add cold, or even room temperature egg yolks to the hot base, you run the risk of making scrambled egg…) The usual technique for tempering eggs involves mixing some of the (warm) base into the egg yolks, stirring thoroughly to disperse it before it starts to cook the eggs. Once the eggs are warmed up in this way, they can be safely added to the base. However, after multiple disappointing savory soufflés using this method, we tried the technique of beating the yolks over a bath of warm water, as one does for a sabayon. This made all the difference in the world. The detailed instructions are included below in the watercress soufflé recipe, but the approach can be applied to any savory soufflé.

Use a clean mixing bowl and mixer blades for the egg whites. Even a little grease or detergent can interfere with the formation of air bubbles in the egg whites. Similarly, take care not to get any egg yolk in your egg whites when you separate the eggs. Egg yolks contain fat, which has the same bubble-destroying properties as grease and detergent.

Keep the oven (mostly) closed during baking. It’s often said that soufflés will collapse if the oven door is opened during baking. That’s partly true – you should keep the oven closed as much as possible during baking – but in our experience you probably won’t ruin your soufflé if you briefly open the oven to check on things, particularly near the end of cooking time.

Fish Salpicon Soufflé

Ingredients

1/2 – 1 cup Fish Salpicon (recipe below)
400ml coconut milk
4-5 pandan leaves (optional)
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
2 large free-range egg yolks
3 large free-range egg whites
A little softened butter , for greasing
4 tablespoons dessicated coconut, to line ramekin insides
Salt and pepper, to taste

Now while this recipe started out as a Mexican recipe, I soon found out that the flavours were also ‘Thai’, and so I have transformed this to a Thai-inspired soufflé with pandan-flavoured coconut milk!

How to

Prepare the oven/ramekins: Liberally butter 4 or 6 small ramekins or gratin dishes and then sprinkle the dessicated coconut into each one, ensuring the base and sides are well-coated.

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Make a roux: Gently simmer the coconut milk and 3-4 pandan leaves for 10 – 15 minutes or until the milk is richly flavored. Squeeze all the juice out from the leaves before discarding; apparently these last drops are the most fragrant. Melt the butter in another (medium) pan and stir in half of the flour with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat, stir vigorously, then cook for 30-60 seconds over a gentle heat, stirring. Repeat with the remaining flour.Now stir in the hot coconut milk, in stages. This yielded quite a thick custardy roux and as such I omitted the cheese which I originally planned on adding  but was very nervous about (for I didn’t think the flavours would work. I’m so glad I left that out)!

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Add the yolks: Put the egg yolks in a small bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of the roux to it, whisking quickly, then add this egg yolk mixture back into the pot/pan of roux. The warmth of the sauce makes it absorb the yolks better. You could omit the ‘tempering egg yolks’ stage (when you add some roux to the yolks) but for some, this is a case of being cautious and avoiding scrambled eggs. Use the wooden spoon and gently fold in the fish salpicon being careful not to break up the fish further. Taste and season now (the egg yolks have been cooked by the heat, so worry not)with salt and pepper, you won’t have to adjust the seasoning further as the egg whites are neutral and won’t affect the flavours.

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Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Whisk the egg whites: Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry metal bowl with a balloon whisk until they form stiff peaks. I ensured my bowl was clean and grease free by wiping down with some vinegar! However, I DID NOT do the hold over your head test once the whites were thick and ready to go into the creamy mix. Obviously, I’m somewhat fashion conscious and did not want to ruin my lovely braided hair do from my recent trip to Nigeria.

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Incorporate the egg whites in stages – first add about a third of the whites and then mix that in roughly or anyhow you desire. Then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated.

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Stand the dishes on a baking sheet – I used a variety of oven dishes: a couple of regular ramekins, a couple of small , square-topped containers and a small tart dish. Fill till just shy of the top. Before they went in the oven, I cleaned the rims of the ramekins – I hear they make them rise better; the other dishes I left as they were. They all rose pretty well, especially the small square-topped ones!

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Bake for 15 minutes in the centre of the oven, or until the mixture has risen and the top is browned.While they baked, I nervously watched them through my oven door!

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They should have a bronzed top when cooked.

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However, check for doneness by inserting a toothpick/skewer, which should come out clean if ready.

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Serve (immediately) with lime wedges and guacamole.

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Fish & Corn Salpicon recipe

Adapted from Merrill@ food52: this recipe combines my corn salsa recipe with Merrill’s Fish Salpicon

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Ingredients
Salt and pepper
3 tilapia fillets, dried
Vegetable oil, to fry the fish
1/3 cup of sweetcorn
Juice and zest of 1 lime1 small hot chili (Serrano, bird chili, etc.), seeded and finely chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Large handful cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Large handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce
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How to
Prepare the pan: Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add a thin film of oil.
Cook the fish: Season tilapia fillets and add to the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown on one side, and then flip and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. In the last minute, add the sweetcorn and lime zest. Then remove fish and corn to a large bowl. Flake the fish with two forks, or chop it roughly with a sharp knife. Add the chili, spring onions, cilantro and parsley to the fish and corn. Then drizzle over the sweet chilli sauce and the  lime juice over the top, fold gently to combine. Taste and add more lime juice and salt if necessary. Serve with (corn) tortillas and creamed guacamole, saving a cup of leftovers for your soufflé. Leftovers can keep for a couple of days.
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I already had some corn salsa, so I added that to the fish salpicon!

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My friend, husband and I had them for brunch – my husband was last to have his and I kept them warm int he oven for him for 15-20 minutes. When his was served, the soufflés had only shrunk a touch – they still had pretty good height on them.

My friend and I loved them – they were well risen, with a good height and toasty top. The flavours worked well together – the corn and fish lent substance to the soufflé and gave it some bite and the chili peppers in it cut through the ‘richness’. It was rife with coconut flavours and a touch of lime juice over the top lent a wonderful, fresh bouquet of citrus. I would definitely make this again. It was much easier than I anticipated and I ended up with good results. I’d say, the side serving of guacamole should be standard – weird but …so be it.

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My husband on the other hand ate it. Summarised it as ‘OK’ and had to have bread and marmalade afterwards ’cause….it was too light. Hmmm.

Another DC challenge under my belt, and one I really enjoyed. Thanks Dave and Linda. And to my dear regular readers, I’m back from Nigeria with barely any food photos to show. I went for only a couple of days work and had NO time to eat my way through my long list!!!!!!! I just say to everyone these days that my frequent travels of the last couple of months are getting me ready for my jet-setting rich ‘n famous days which must surely be on their way!

Lots of love, XXXXX