After recently discovering that soufflés aren’t as difficult a deal as they’re made out to be, I’ve been dying to try cooking up a savoury soufflé. In principle it’s just about combining two parts, a flavour base, which is usually a liquid concoction with milk, yolks and the main flavouring elements and an light airy part, usually made with egg whites whisked senseless.
I first attempted a chocolate soufflé a few weeks back. Contrary to my expectations of it being a complicated, tedious recipe, I found it to be quite simple. In fact, you could whip up a soufflé in about 30 minutes. The only thing you need to pay attention to is the fact that the flavour base part has to be viscous enough to fold into the egg whites easily, without being too wet and making it super runny or too thick and viscous, that it wouldn’t fold easily into the whisked egg whites.
For my first savoury soufflé, I decided to adapt a recipe I found in The Silver Spoon. I specifically chose this one because it doesn’t use any fancypants ingredients or any special technique. The original recipe calls for Swiss cheese, but I used our run of the mill cheese cubes, the ones most of us have grown up with (the word “cheese” to me would paint a picture of a cheese cube wrapped in foil more than wedges of Parmesan or blue cheese, since I’ve had more of the former through my life than the latter). They’re also easier to measure out, in that you don’t have to measure them out, since each cube weighs exactly 20g.
The combination of cheese and corn is one that always works, and the chillies and capsicum (bell peppers as some of the planet knows it) keeps it from getting monotonous and over-cheesy. Using red bell peppers also makes the mix colourful in a nice and warm way. I made a fine dice of the bell peppers to match the size of the corn kernels. You could use green ones, but they wouldn’t look as pretty and won’t taste as sweet. Red bell peppers are ripe bell peppers, which means they’re also richer in nutrients than the green varieties.
I didn’t expect the soufflé to rise as well as the chocolate one, since its overall consistency wasn’t as even thanks to the presence of the corn and cheese, but it still did a pretty good job of rising well over the brim of the ramekin I used. I used a regular little cheese grater to grate the cheese, but I grated it in long, continuous strokes. I like the idea of long strands of cheese tangling up with the corn and milk. Also, I didn’t want chunks.
In terms of ease of putting it together, this recipe is only a tad more complicated than the chocolate one. The extra processes involved are the steaming of the corn, plucking the kernels off the cob, dicing the bell peppers, slicing up the chilli. Grating cheese barely qualifies as an effort really.
The consistency of this soufflé is that of a light cheesy cloud with delicious bits of corn suspended in it, with just a little bite from the chillies. It came off the edges of the ramekin quite surprisingly easily, probably because they were well buttered and there isn’t much flour in this recipe to stick to the ceramic.
If you’re a fan of cheesy things (and/or corn), this is a recipe that you must attempt. I’m not a really big fan of bell peppers, but this dish would be incomplete without it. The spicy sweetness of its flesh complements the cheesy saltiness perfectly. You could also increase or reduce the amount of chilli you use to spice or de-spice this as per your palette.
1 corncob, steamed
125ml whole milk (½ cup)
1tbsp maida (all purpose flour)
2 eggs, separated
3 cubes of processed cheese
Or 60g of Emmental/Swiss cheese
1 large chilli
½ red bell pepper
This recipe yields two 4″ ramekins worth of soufflé.
- Butter the ramekins and freeze. Make sure you use upward strokes along the sides.
- Pluck the corn of the cob, you should get about a cup’s worth. If you have more, eat the remainder.
- Heat the butter and add the milk. Bring it to a boil and slowly add the tablespoon of flour. Stir and cook till the mix thickens just a bit. Let this cool.
- Add the two yolks to the mix once it is just mildly warm and stir to incorporate. Grate the cheese directly into this and mix it up after you grate each cube in.
- Slice the chillies fine. Flatten out the bell pepper flesh and dice finely. Toss this up with the corn kernels.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.
- Add the corn-chilli-bell pepper mix to the milk-flour-egg-butter-cheese mix and stir till evenly incorporated. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Whisk the egg whites until they’re nice and stiff (upside-down on head test it).
- Fold the corn mix into the egg whites gently without overmixing.
- Pour this into the ramekins. This should fill it pretty much to the brim.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the surface of the soufflé; once it starts to turn golden brown (this should happen around 12-15 minutes in), lower the temperature down to 170ºC.
- Serve as soon as you pull the soufflé out of the oven.