Monday, 24 January 2011

A couple of classics and an attempt at a balanced diet

I'm afraid I'm being a bit self-indulgent here by reliving a couple of recent meals. Last Thursday I had the privilege of cooking an absolutely magnificent t-bone steak – a perk I'd received the previous day, when I helped out at a rather meaty photo-shoot. Consequently, on Friday night, we opted for something a little lighter –  cheese soufflé. Which did I enjoy most? It was a close thing, but I'd have to say it was the steak – an awesome piece of meat, beautifully tender with deep, complex flavours (the fillet side was surprisingly flavoursome and gamey) and perfect for sharing.

We enjoyed the steak with potatoes sautéed in duck fat with rosemary and some broccoli. I seasoned the meat generously with Maldon salt and black pepper and there was no need to used any oil the pan.

As the steak was nicely thick, I made sure the fatty edge had the chance to colour up and render. I had boiled the potatoes first and given them a good shake to roughen them up (chuff them) before frying.

A bottle of youthful, vigorous Jones Rouge from the Languedoc provided some tannic grip and succulent ripe, spicy fruit.

Such was my reverence for this beautiful piece of meat, at the end of the evening I couldn't resist photographing the stripped bone. There was something powerfully arresting, dark and pagan about it that really caught my imagination (or perhaps it's just me being a hard-core carnivore).

After such a meat-fest, on Friday we needed something a little lighter (and preferably meat-free). Cheese soufflé seemed a sensible choice. I cook this on quite a regular basis and have always got good results following the clear recipe in the Leith's Cookery Bible. Friday's soufflé was particularly cheesy as I used up some Keen's Extra Mature Cheddar that we'd had since Christmas. It wanted using up and was great to cook with. A well-dressed mixed salad would make an easy and refreshing accompaniment, but we kept things simple and roasted some tomatoes in the oven at the same time as the soufflé. A bottle of Valpolicella Ripasso worked well with the cheese and tomato flavours, its fresh acidity standing up nicely to the eggy richness.

Cheese soufflé 
60g butter
dried white breadcrumbs
45g plain flour
3/4 teaspoon dry English mustard
a pinch of cayenne pepper
385ml milk
112g strong Cheddar of Gruyère, grated
6 eggs separated
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serves 2–3

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Melt a knob of the butter and brush a 20cm soufflé dish with it. Lightly dust with the breadcrumbs.

Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour, mustard and cayenne pepper. Cook for 45 seconds. Add the milk and cook, stirring vigorously, for 2 minutes. The mixture will get very thick and leave the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the cheese, egg yolks, salt and pepper. Taste; the mixture should be very well seasoned.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry, and mix in a spoonful into the cheese mixture. Then fold in the remainder and pour into the soufflé dish, which should be about two-thirds full. Run your finger around the top of the soufflé mixture. This gives a "top hat" appearance to the cooked soufflé.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes and serve immediately. (Do not test to see if the soufflé is done for at least 30 minutes. Then open the oven just wide enough to get your hand in and give the soufflé a slight shove. If it wobbles alarmingly, cook for a further five minutes or so.)

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