A savoury soufflé is a thick white sauce, enriched with egg yolks, with flavourings added and whisked egg whites folded in to provide lift. Once mastered, soufflés become straightforward to make.
1. Coating the buttered ramekins with breadcrumbs.
2. Incorporating the milk into the roux base.
3. Adding the grated cheese to the panade.
4. Whisking the egg whites to medium peaks.
5. Folding a large spoonful of the whisked egg whites into the mixture to loosen it.
6. Carefully folding in the rest of the egg whites.
7. Spooning the soufflé mixture into the ramekins.
8. Running a knife around the edge of the mixture to encourage an even rise.
9. Serving the soufflé immediately, before it has time to collapse.
Serves 6 as a starter
30g butter, plus 10g to grease
1–2 tbsp dry white breadcrumbs
30g plain flour
Small pinch of mustard
Small pinch of cayenne pepper
85g Cheddar or Gruyère cheese
Salt and finely ground white pepper
- Heat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6 and place a baking tray in the oven to heat up. Melt the 10g butter and use to brush the insides of 6 ramekins, then pour the breadcrumbs into the first ramekin. Tilt the ramekin to coat the bottom and sides evenly with the crumbs, then pour the excess into the next ramekin. Repeat until all the ramekins are coated, discarding any excess crumbs.
- Melt the 30g butter in a saucepan over a low to medium heat, then add the flour, mustard and cayenne pepper. Cook for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon, then remove from the heat and start to add the milk in small amounts, stirring to incorporate each addition. The mixture will be very thick initially, then as more milk is added it will start to loosen. Ensure there are no lumps by beating the mixture well before each addition.
- When at least half the milk has been incorporated, add the remaining milk in generous amounts. Return the pan to the heat and stir the sauce as it comes to the boil, then lower the heat and leave to simmer for 2 minutes. This thick sauce is called the ‘panade’. Remove the pan from the heat. Finely grate the cheese and add it to the panade. The heat of the panade will melt it. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Separate the eggs, putting the whites into another clean large bowl and stirring the yolks into the panade. Taste and season generously with salt and finely ground white pepper. Whisk the egg whites to medium peaks.
- Fold a large spoonful of the whisked egg whites into the panade to loosen it.
- Carefully fold in the remaining whites, retaining as much volume as possible.
- Fill the prepared ramekins three-quarters full with the soufflé mixture.
- ‘Top hat’ each soufflé by running the tip of a cutlery knife around the inner rim of each ramekin, which helps to create an even rise.
- Place the ramekins on the hot baking tray (to give them an immediate burst of heat) in the top of the oven and bake for 8–12 minutes until well risen and cooked, but still uniformly wobbly when lightly shaken. Serve immediately. There should be about 1 tsp undercooked soufflé mixture in the centre.
- To make a large soufflé (to serve 2–3 as a main course), put the mixture into a 15cm soufflé dish instead of individual ones and bake for 25–30 minutes.
Spinach soufflé Reduce the Cheddar to 30g and add 200g spinach, wilted, seasoned, squeezed dry and finely chopped, to the mixture after the cheese has melted, then proceed as for the main recipe.
Watercress and Gruyère soufflé Use 100g Gruyère and add 150g watercress, picked, washed and finely chopped, to the mixture once the cheese is incorporated.
Stilton soufflé Replace the grated Cheddar with 75g Stilton, crumbled into small pieces.