July 31, 2006
I vividly remember the first recipe I ever followed. I was about 14, it was around 10 o’clock one school night, and I fancied an early midnight snack. The recipe was printed on the back of a Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce bottle. For some reason I felt compelled to follow it. Grilled cheese, apple and worcester sauce on toast. I carefully measured the cheese and apple to the nearest gram, and diligently counted the drops of sauce into a teaspoon. I can still taste the results. In my mind’s eye, nothing has ever tasted better. Revelation on a Lea & Perrins label.
The second gastro-epiphany came 4 or 5 years later, when I bought Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cookery. A book to read as much as to cook from – to read slowly, over and over. I loved the dated black-and-white line drawings of joints, bunches of vegetables, esoteric kitchen equipment. I loved the impossible list of ingredients needed to make a Pot-au-feu or authentic Bouillabaisse.
This recipe for courgette souffle is taken from this book. I’ve been wanting to try it for over 10 years. What’s stopped me? A primal fear of eggy collapse? More likely because I’ve only just got round to buying souffle dishes. Picked them up in the Harrods sale, dahhhling.
For 2 people you’ll need 2 egg yolks and 4 egg whites, 3 or 4 courgettes, and a couple of large ramekins or individual souffle dishes.
Before you start, heat the oven to about 160 degrees C. Put in a deep tray with an inch or so of water in it. Butter the ramekins.
1. Chop the courgettes into chunky slices. Salt and drain them, if you like. Put in a frying pan with a tablespoon or so of water and cook over a low heat, slowly, until soft. The idea is to cook out the moisture in the ‘gettes. Then sieve them to create a puree – or use a mouli-legume if you’ve got one. Drain off excess moisture.
2. Make a very thick bechamel sauce, using about a quarter of a pint of milk, an ounce of butter and two tablespoons of flour. Add the pureed courgette mix, 2 egg yolks and about 5 tablespoons of grated parmesan. Mix together and season well.
3. Whisk the egg whites, enthusiastically, until stiff and peaky. Gingerly fold the egg whites in to the courgette mixture with a metal spoon.
4. Divide the mixture between the two large ramekins, place them in the tray of water and cook for about 15-25 minutes depending on the size of the dishes. It’s better to under-do them so you get a creamy, gooey centre.
Stomach and soul, satisfied. Fear of the souffle, conquered.