Delicious egg recipes for Easter: Lemon or cheese soufflé
- Credit: Frances Bissell
The egg is a culinary wizard; enriching, thickening, binding, aerating, Yes, I know, some would argue that aqua faba has even more wizardry; who would have thought that one could create airy meringues from the liquid in a tin of chickpeas?
But Easter is on the horizon, and my thoughts turn to lamb, to chocolate and to eggs rather than chick peas.
Apart from their culinary properties, eggs are truly the answer for quick and easy meals; a thick Spanish tortilla, with plenty of potato; a French omelette with herbs and diced tomato; boiled eggs and soldiers; a soufflé if you are feeling bold, bacon and eggs if not; scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with granary toast, or my favourite, revuelta, in which the cooking is too slow and gentle to be scrambled eggs -the secret is in the olive oil, no milk, no cream, no water, just plenty of olive oil.
Feeling bold, I have a fancy for soufflés. Every time I make one, it brings memories of my first soufflé, tasted long before I became a food writer. Four of us, two teachers, a civil servant and a publisher, were seated in the impossibly gilded and mirrored Grand Véfour in Paris, our first visit to a three star Michelin restaurant, having saved up our money for this awe-inspiring treat.
Crêpes flambées, fillets of sole layered with duxelles, house champagne served in a crystal jug, all impressed, but it was the soufflé grenouille that remains the indelible memory.
The reaction of guests when I place a slightly trembling, airy golden pillow in front of them is always rewarding, even if it is not a frog's legs soufflé. And soufflés are not difficult to make if one knows one's oven and its foibles. Mine tells me to bake deep soufflés for 25 minutes and shallow ones for 22 minutes both at 180C. I do not always use the classic deep fluted dish. Sometimes I use an oval ceramic dish about 4-5 cm deep which gives a slightly drier soufflé. Baked in the traditional dish, the egg mixture will remain slightly creamy in the centre, self-saucing, if you will.
Cook's notes: At this time of year I often make lemon curd, leaving a couple of left-over egg whites. I freeze them until I'm ready to make a soufflé; an extra egg white or two will give added lift to your soufflé. You will see that I have given two methods of preparation, one like a custard, one with a white sauce base. Both methods work for sweet or savoury soufflés.
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Cheese Soufflé (Serves 4)
Parmesan cheese – see recipe
400 ml milk
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
50 g butter
6 eggs, 5 of them separated
50 g plain flour, sifted
100 g strong cheese, grated
Butter a soufflé dish and dust with a little grated Parmesan. Put three quarters of the milk in a saucepan with the seasoning and butter. Bring to the boil.
Beat the whole egg with the 5 egg yolks, the flour and the remaining milk, and stir slowly into the boiling milk over a low heat. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens but does not curdle.
Remove from the heat. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Stir the cheese into the sauce, and then fold in the egg white. Pour into the prepared dish, or dishes, and bake in a preheated oven at 200 C/400 F, gas mark 6 for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the dishes.
Lemon Soufflé with Limoncello (Serves 4)
50 g butter
40 g plain flour
400 ml skimmed milk, warm
Grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
Caster sugar –to taste
6 large or 8 medium eggs, separated
To serve: icing sugar and limoncello
Melt the butter in a saucepan, and stir in the flour. Cook the roux for a few minutes, and then gradually stir in the skimmed milk, until you have a smooth sauce. Add all the lemon zest and about half the juice. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture thickens, then add sugar to taste, also adding more lemon juice if you prefer a sharper flavour.
Remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks, one at a time. Mix thoroughly.
Whisk the egg whites to firm peaks, and fold the two mixtures carefully together. Spoon into a well-buttered soufflé dish, or other oven-proof dish, place it on a baking sheet and put in the middle of the oven, pre-heated to 200 C, or following the manufacturer’s directions if using a fan oven.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, depending on the depth of the dish. Serve the soufflé immediately it comes out of the oven. Dust with icing sugar, and, as you serve it, break open the top with a spoon, and pour in a little limoncello which will cause the soufflé to rise in its dish.
Serve with a nice glass of ice-cold limoncello.