- 75g butter, softened
Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…
- 50g flour
Flour is a powdery ingredient usually made from grinding wheat, maize, rye, barley or rice. As…
- 500ml milk
One of the most widely used ingredients, milk is often referred to as a complete food. While cow…
- 1 small onion, chopped
Onions are endlessly versatile and an essential ingredient in countless recipes. Native to Asia…
- 1 star anise
Star anise is one of the central spices in Chinese cooking. It has a strong anise flavour, with…
- 3 clove
The dry, unopened flower bud of the tropical myrtle tree family used to flavour a wide variety…
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 egg, separated
The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition, packed with protein and a…
- 100g mature Gruyère, coarsely grated, plus 15g slice
Gruyère is an undoubted pinnacle of traditional Swiss cheese-making, a culinary masterpiece as…
- 100g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
- 85g well-aged Parmesan, grated
Parmesan is a straw-coloured hard cheese with a natural yellow rind and rich, fruity flavour. It…
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp mustard powder
A condiment made by mixing the ground seeds of the mustard plant with a combination of…
- squeeze lemon juice
- 100g ripe brie, cut into chunks
Mix 50g butter and flour into a paste (known as beurre manié, see notes, below). Chill to firm for about 30 mins. Heat milk to boiling point with the onion, spices and bay leaf, then simmer gently for 5 mins. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Taste milk for flavour.
Strain the milk into a large pan, pressing down on the onion to extract the maximum of flavour. Place the pan back on the heat and gradually whisk in the butter paste, adding in small pieces until you have a thick sauce.
Season, then leave to cool for 3-4 mins. Whisk in egg yolks, grated gruyère and cheddar, plus two-thirds of the parmesan. Add the Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Check seasoning, leave to cool. Can be made 2 days ahead – bring to room temperature before continuing.
Brush the insides of a soufflé dish (approx 20 x 8cm deep) with the remaining 25g butter, using upward brush strokes. Coat the base and sides evenly with some parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. Chill to set. Cut the gruyère slice into diamond shapes.
Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Coat a large, grease-free bowl with the lemon juice (see tip, below). Whisk the egg whites in the bowl, then whisk a third of them into the cheese mixture, to loosen. Carefully fold remaining egg whites into cheese mixture until well mixed, but still light.
Spoon half the mixture into prepared dish. Dot with brie and top with remaining mixture. Gently level the top. Arrange gruyère on top, scatter with remaining parmesan. Bake for 10 mins. Reduce oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4, bake for 15-20 mins. The soufflé should be evenly risen and slightly wobbly. Serve immediately – the centre will be soft, but will thicken slightly when served.
For the base of a savoury soufflé
Make a flour and butter paste (a beurre manié). This is whisked into hot, well-flavoured milk – add extra flavour with curry spice, paprika or cayenne. Beurre manié paste can be made in bulk, rolled into a sausage and chilled or frozen. Then you can cut chunks to use for other soufflés.
To make a sweet soufflé
Use a base of crème patisserie – a thick egg yolk and flour custard. To prevent it boiling too soon, add a little sugar to the milk while it heats.
Use a balloon whisk and spatula for mixing bases, and an electric mixer for firm egg whites. The slightest amount of grease prevents egg whites firming; a clean bowl and a squeeze of lemon juice rubbed around cleans it sufficiently.
Eggs are critical for your soufflé to rise properly. Make sure you beat yolks into the hot base mixture 1-2 mins after cooking, then allow to cool. Beat the whites to stiff, but not dry, peaks. Add the whisked egg whites in two stages – a third beaten into the base to loosen it, and the rest gently folded in. This stops the mixture from splitting.
I add extra flavour with chunks of ripe brie or wilted spinach for savoury soufflés, and fruit purées on the base of sweet ones.
It’s essential to heat the oven before baking and get the oven shelf position sorted first. Don’t open the oven door until almost the end of cooking. A cooked soufflé can be left in the oven for a few extra minutes if the temperature is turned right down.
To help the mixture rise
Brush the dish sides with softened butter, using even, upward brush strokes (from bottom of dish to rim – see step 4). If you like, chill to set, brush again with more butter, then coat in grated parmesan and coarsely ground black pepper. For sweet soufflés, use ground nuts or grated chocolate. Chill the coated dish to set before filling.