Friday, March 19, 2010

What's the Alt(ernative?

As not all of us feel confident enough to make a souffle, this is the perfect recipe to have a trial run and even if a failure (we all have those) we can at least eat what comes out of the oven for a light lunch or supper dish, for whether it looks good or not, it will still be perfectly edible. Practice will eventually make perfect, so do have a go. This is so easy, you should get it right first time..

Mushroom and Tomato Souffles: serves 4
1 oz (25g) dried mushrooms
1 tblsp grated Parmesan cheese
1½ oz (40g) butter
1½ oz (40g) plain flour
8 fl oz (250ml) milk
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) grated mature Cheddar cheese
4 eggs, separated
2 sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 tblsp chopped fresh chives
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with warm water. Leave to soak for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile grease (butter) four ramekin dishes and sprinkle the Parmesan in each, rotating and shaking so the cheese sticks to the buttered base and sides.
Melt the butter in a pan, and then stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat then slowly mix in the milk. Return to the heat and cook/stir until the sauce has thickened. Add the grated Cheddar and seasoning to taste.
Remove from heat and beat in the egg yolks - one at a time - then stir in the chopped tomatoes and chives.
Drain the mushrooms, chop coarsely and fold these into the souffle mixture. Finally whisk the egg whites until soft peaks, fold a little into the mixture to slacken it, then carefully fold in the remaining whites.
Divide the mixture between the four ramekin dishes and bake for 25 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 7, until well risen, golden on top and firm to the touch. Do not open the oven during the cooking time.
Serve immediately as souffles start to sink as they begin to cool. The centre of a souffle is always light and a bit creamy, so do not think they are undercooked.

There is more than one type of 'Parmesan cheese', so if you want the correct one, look for Parmigiano Reggiano. This are very strict rules when it comes to making this. If a cheese is just labelled 'parmesan', it probably isn't.
Grano Padono is another quality hard cheese, but not aged as long, so even though almost as flavoursome as the real PR, it is cheaper. So one to look out for.
Pecorino is slightly saltier than PR, much the same price, but one I prefer as it seems to have more flavour. Of course we can always save the last inch or two of a hard cheese such as a mature Cheddar, leave it in unwrapped in the fridge to dry out, and then grate finely as a (good) substitute for PR.

Here is a recipe that makes use of chorizo sausage from the fridge, and cooked prawns from the freezer, sundried tomatos could also be added. Depending upon the country, this dish is called a tortilla or frittata - myself tend to call it 'a thick flat omelette'. Instead of chorizo, snippets of ham could be used, or lightly fried bacon. If like to see the colour red (always appetising) in your 'omelette', add sun-dried tomatoes or chopped red bell peppers.
Surf 'n Turf Frittata: serves 2
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) chorizo (or other spiced sausage) sliced
2 tsp olive oil
3 large eggs (or 4 medium) lightly beaten
1 tblsp milk
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) small cooked peeled prawns (defrosted)
4 oz (100g) frozen peas (thawed)
snippets of sun dried tomatoes (opt)
Put the chorizo and onions in a pan with the oil and fry gently until the oil runs from the chorizo. When the onion has softened, remove pan from heat and pour away excess oil (this oil could be saved and used to fry onions for perhaps a pasta dish as it adds chorizo flavour without using more of the sausage).
Stir the milk into the eggs, add seasoning to taste, and pour this over the pan contents. Leave to cook for a few minutes, then stir in the prawns and peas. Continue to cook until the top is just beginning to set (approx 10 minutes) , then pop the pan under a hot grill until the top is cooked and golden.
Serve hot or cold, in wedges, with a crisp green salad.