|A sunken soufflé|
I could say it was about the figs. There were dark, oozing figs at the market which looked like a bruise. I wanted to make them better.
I could say it was about the 4/5ths of a log of goat’s curd skulking in the corner of the fridge, threatening to turn yellow and chalky. One more day and it would be lost to the land of things that are no good.
I could say it was about wanting to put to use the ramekins I bought on impulse online, despite the fact we don’t have enough cupboard space for cereal.
But really, the reason I decided to make soufflés for midweek supper had much more to do with this.
‘how do you feel about goat’s curd soufflés, with sticky figs and asparagus for dinner?’
That was the instant message that I sent to The Hungry One at 12.34 pm. I knew he’d be thinking about breaking soon for lunch.
Instant message is how we communicate during the day. It’s occasionally an emoticon. Sometimes it’s about the mundane grit of sharing a life. Often I write ‘clear’ first, so he can let me know if there are any other technical whizzes at his desk. They don’t really need to know about what’s been clogging the kitchen sink.
There was a swift reply of one line; ‘I love my wife’.
And that, is why I pulled down the ramekins.
It’s not just for the affection but more for the small, gloatingly needy part of me that hopes one of his desk buddies will ask ‘what are you having for dinner tonight?’
It comes from the narcissistic, completely egotistical part of me hopes that his answer inspires a little wedge of jealousy. I think people who like to cook usually do it for one of two reasons; a search for gluttony or a needy search for praise. I fall somewhere in the middle.
The funny thing is that while soufflés sound rather grand, when made like this, they’re a doddle. And while they sound grand, they often sink swiftly, leaving behind a squat little pot of cheese and egg pudding.
This recipe that originates with dessert guru David Lebovitz – it started as a sweet souffle of goat’s curd and caramellised lemon. One day I’m going to give that a try- probably accompanied by some blackberry sauce to track and stain its puffed belly.
Instead of making a bechamel or a custard for a base, this soufflé just combines bog standard cream cheese and goat’s curd. There are egg yolks, parmesan and some mustard bobbing about in the mix. And then it’s just about folding in some perky egg whites.
Playing along are figs cooked down in Pedro Ximenex vinegar and butter (but balsamic would also be fine). An extra drizzle of vinegar just before serving helps to soften the centre and add some cut through. All that it then needs is something salty to dip – that’s where grilled asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto come to the fore.
The quantities of this recipe make four squat soufflés- though if you were after super tall ones you’d be better to double the recipe and use six ramekins. They would make a lovely group brunch, lunch, or a starter in a larger feast.
One quantity also makes enough for dinner for two. (That’s three little puffed egg pots for him and one for me.)
After eight years together I’ve learned what kind of flavours float his boat. But I’ve also learned how to cook portion sizes to keep him happy. And there’s a small self centred part of me that hopes he lets that slip to his colleagues too.
Goat’s curd soufflés
Makes 4 individual soufflés
Four 1 cup ramekins. 1 electric whisk. 2 mixing bowls. 1 spatula.
¼ cup (60g) full-fat cream cheese
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
4 ounces (115g) fresh goat cheese
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of ground almonds
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of butter for greasing ramekins
Pedro Ximenex vinegar, or balsamic reduction, to pour through the centre when serving.
Here’s how we roll
1. Butter the insides of the ramekins. Combine one tablespoons of the parmesan cheese with two tablespoons of ground almonds. Pour it into the base of one of the ramekins and tilt the dish to spread it around the edges. Pour the excess off into the next ramekin. When all of the ramkekins are coated put in the fridge while you make the filling.
2. Preheat the oven to 200 C (400ºF)
3.Combine the goat’s curd, cream cheese, mustard egg yolks and lemon zest until completely smooth. Season generously with pepper.
4. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites and the salt in a clean, dry bowl until stiff
5. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the goat cheese mixture, then fold in the remaining egg whites. Try to keep as much air in the batter as possible.
6. Transfer the batter into the prepared baking dishes and gently smooth the top
7. Bake the soufflés on the middle rack until the soufflé is just set, the top brown, but it’s still wobbly in the middle.
8. Serve with figs that you’ve cooked down with a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of vinegar and asparagus spears that have been wrapped in prosciutto and then grilled. I also garnished the top of the cooked soufflés with some extra shards of prosciutto that I’d grilled until crispy.