Kitchen virginity. And how to lose it.

 

M-06040a
The theme for this picture seriously needs to be Also Spracht Zarathustra. Look it up.

…and I did it the only way it should be done – by drinking most of a bottle of really cheap red wine first.

On my (ever-growing) shelf of cookbooks, I have the Granddaddy Bible Cookbook Of Them All – the incredibly unassumingly titled The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery by Georges Auguste Escoffier (sarcasm sarcasm).

It’s fucking huge, it has no pictures and there are something like a bajillion recipes in it. Obviously, with a name like Escoffier, the rules are all French, which means everything comes with a sauce made from cow’s feet that’s been reduced in a goat’s bladder for seven years over a temperature of exactly 72.32°F. Even the salad. As a result I honestly hardly ever look at it because frankly, I’d rather stab myself in the face with a spaniel. And besides, I’m a child of the modern world, to keep me engaged I need a large type-face, graphic design that someone has obviously paid vast sums of money for and massive oversaturated pictures to go with everything.

But the problem is that you can’t escape the French, they’re freaking everywhere – and their techniques have become entrenched. Hollandaise sauces, béchamel, rendered goose fat, reductions of everything – we have the French to blame for all of these things, and learning them is Required. And so when I finally wanted to pop one of my long-standing culinary cherries – I had to turn to bloody annoying Escoffier.

You see, somehow I have managed to never make a soufflé. Mostly because any conversation that involves soufflés inevitably includes how the bastard things never actually work, because they’re either flopping, catching on fire, leaving you for another man or stealing your money at gunpoint. If the collective myth-making of cooks around the world were to believed they’re nigh unto impossible to actually make, and so you wonder why anyone actually bothers to try.  Well, I decided that I should add my legend to the collective and give it a bash, which is why I got  liquored first, so that the shame of my failure wouldn’t sting quite as sharply.

Except for the fact that they bloody came out perfectly, maybe because of the drunkenness. And possibly because of the same principal that governs why first-time poker players Always. Fucking. Win.

I’m not boasting. I was shocked. And I now also know why everyone continues to try and make them: they’re more delicious than dunking your head in a bucket of …something really delicious that I can’t think of right now.

Savoury Baby Marrow and Cheese Soufflé

Ingredients

olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

half a brown onion

2 tspn thyme

1 pack of small baby marrows, finely sliced

55g butter

55g plain flour

250ml heated milk

4 eggs separated into 3 yolks and 4 whites

a handful of grated pecorino cheese (but you can actually use cheddar or whatever you have in the fridge really)

black pepper

salt

extra butter, to grease

 

What to do

Get the oven pre-heated to 180°C. Find a couple of what could be considered a ‘ramekin’, essentially a round, shallow cup of some kind – then grease them up good and proper with butter. Make sure you get it into the bottom and the lip of the cup as well, because that’s usually where the soufflé will stick, which is bad news for everyone

Finely chop the onion and the clove of garlic, slice up the baby marrows and heat some olive oil in a pan, then fry it together with the thyme. Keep the heat at a medium level and once they’ve browned and softened nicely, remove from the stove. Then, using a potato masher – smash it all up into a paste and put it aside.

Melt the butter in a pot, then stir in the flour and then slowly add the milk (hooray, you’ve just made a béchamel  – congratulations).  Stir vigorously while it bubbles for about 2 minutes or so, then remove from the heat and carry on whisking until it’s smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, just keep adding milk until you’ve got a yellowish creamy sauce.

Then, toss that in with the mashed baby marrow, along with the cheese and egg yolks. Grind some black pepper over it all, add some salt to taste and gently beat it into a thickish sauce.

At this point you need to find a flat-based and oven-proof dish and fill it about three quarters full with boiled water and keep it at the ready.

Now, this is the crucial bit – everything you do will hinge on this next step, so maybe drink some more quickly. Whisk the egg whites until they’re stiff and properly aerated (it should look like stiff sea-foam), then gently pour it over the sauce you’ve just made, and carefully carefully fold it in.

Once this is done, pour it into your greased ramekins and the put those ramekins into the dish of water, and then put that whole thing into the oven.

Turn on the oven light and keep an eye on the soufflé from about 20 minutes of cooking onwards, because this should mostly be judged by the look. The tops should raise about 2-3cm above the lip of your ramekin and start to turn a lovely golden brown – that’s the signal to get them out of there.

Once they have, remove from the heat (desperately praying that they won’t flop like a miserable poetry-reciting teenager) and serve immediately.

 

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Kitchen virginity. And how to lose it.

  1. The soufle looks lovely, yummy actually….but what the heck are baby marrows? I sounds like something a serial killer collects!!!

    1. Haha – that would have to be a seriously organised serial killer.

      I keep on being reminded that we in South Africa sometimes have odd names for things. Baby marrows are better known as courgettes or zucchini to you guys. I’m glad you stopped by!

  2. Oh… I thought it was beef bone marrow or something..

    Souffle’s have never appealed to me- I’ve always assumed them to taste like an empty muffin.
    Your description however, has definitely aroused both appetite and curiosity! I shall try it!

    1. You know, it’s the same reason I don’t drink so-called “light” beer – it always just tasted like beer with a hole in it.

      Souffle is a different thing – creamy, subtle and most of all saying “souffle” to people you’re cooking for makes you sound impressive.

  3. Nom. I wanted to try this for supper tonight but have been cruelly foiled…I have all thee ingredients except for the eggs; as thee hens decided to choose today – of all days – NOT to lay any eggs; as they’re in moult. So it looks like it’ll be roast chicken for dinner tonight instead….*evil-witchy-cackle*

    1. I’ve always thought farmers and taxidermists must have similar senses of humour: and almost *always* end with evil witchy cackles. Also – I need to reacquaint myself with the notion of “back yard as supermarket”.

  4. Stabbing someone in the face with a spaniel sounds like a useful skill I should learn. Now where did I leave my spaniel?

  5. Doh! Always, always read the comments before madly searching for ingredients. I spent 10 minutes searching “meat” and “offal” online, assuming that baby marrows MUST be some sort of innards from infant animals. Fry with onions and thyme, it sounds right, no? Anyway, thanks to the commentors and thank you for that lovely picture. It’s as close as I’ll get to a souffle in my kitchen. In fact, it’s so gorgeous I may print it and hang on the wall in my kitchen. Plus, you’re now in my Google Reader. Xlent site!

    1. Ha ha! For some reason I suddenly got this totally unexpected image of a girl I knew in highschool who had a picture of William Shatner in her locker. I never questioned it at the time, but looking back – that’s a fairly odd picture to have in one’s locker.

  6. Ahahaha. I had a great giggle over this, just LOVE the way you write! I only found you today, and have already starred half a dozen of your posts for future reference. Good on ya for taming the beast that is French Cooking and Souffles! well done you!

    1. You know, the funny thing is that since writing this post I actually haven’t made another souffle – and thanks to being reminded of my own cooking adventure, I’m going to rectify that.

      Thank you kindly.

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