Thursday, January 19, 2012

Zucchini souffle

Photo by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times 18 January 2012
From the best Paris restaurants to small country bistros, the soufflé has developed an unfair reputation for being unpredictable and frightens the most competent of cooks. 

There really is nothing complicated about making a soufflé, although there are three things you do need to know. It’s important to beat the egg whites until they hold semi-firm peaks but make sure they are still glossy; fold the whites into the soufflé base gently, so you don’t knock the air out that you have so carefully beaten in; have your guests seated at the table before you take the soufflé out of the oven, as the drama is over very quickly.

The best thing about a soufflé is it’s feather light texture and when combined with a green salad makes a delicate meal, great for this time of year.

15g butter, melted
1 ½ tbsp dried breadcrumbs
350g zucchini, chopped
125ml milk
30g butter
30g plain flour
75g Gruyere or Parmesan, finely grated
3 spring onions, finely chopped
4 eggs, separated

Serves 4
Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush a 1.5 litre soufflé dish or individual dishes with the melted butter and then tip the breadcrumbs into the dish. Rotate the dish to coat the side completely with breadcrumbs. Tip out the excess breadcrumbs.

Cook the zucchini in boiling water for 8 minutes until tender. Drain and then put the zucchini in a food processor with the milk and mix until smooth.

Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes over low heat without allowing the roux to brown. Remove from the heat and add the zucchini puree, stirring until smooth. Return to the heat and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring, for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Pour into a bowl, add the cheese and spring onion and season well. Mix until smooth, then beat in the egg yolks until smooth again.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until they hold firm peaks but are still glossy. With a large metal spoon, mix a quarter of the beaten egg white into the soufflé mixture and quickly but lightly fold it in, to loosen the mixture. Lightly fold in the remaining egg white, don’t worry if there are streaks of white not incorporated. Better this than to overbeat. Pour into the soufflé dish, and now the secret tip, run your thumb around the inside rim of the dish, about 2 cm into the soufflé mixture (try not to wipe off the butter and breadcrumbs). This ridge is the secret to helping the soufflé rise without sticking.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the soufflé is well risen and wobbles slightly when tapped. Test with a skewer through a crack in the side of the soufflé – the skewer should come out clean or slightly moist. If the skewer is slightly moist, by the time the soufflé makes it to the table it will be cooked in the centre.