One of stalls I look forward to visiting at the local Farmer's Market is the hydroponics stall. A variety of leafy plants are on offering - all of them legal. Amongst the bunches of peppery watercress and vibrant coriander sits another one of those second-class citizens of the vegetable world, Silverbeet.
Perhaps Silverbeet needs a better PR agent - Spinach has become the darling of the Amaranthaceae family especially in it's baby form. Everywhere you look you'll find some kind of baby spinach leaf lurking about.
Maybe it's those large stalks that put people off but they shouldn't. The stalks are an especially delicious part of the plant, cooked as my mother would, very slowly, in a mix of onions and tomato. A deliciously rich sauce would cling to the softened stalks, a wonderful dish for a winter's night.
This bunch doesn't have those large stalks and for the recipe I'm making they won't be needed. I've decided to utilise the soft and sweet leaves and knock spinach off it's high horse, making it the star of this soufflé.
Silverbeet and Parmesan Soufflé
1 bunch Baby Silverbeet
40 grams butter
2 tablespoons cornflour
1½ cups milk
2 eggs, separated
40 grams grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
freshly ground salt and white pepper
butter and fine breadcrumbs, for coating soufflé dishes
Prepare the Silverbeet:
Strip the leaves from the larger stalks - you can keep the stalk in the case of the really small leaves. Boil in salted water until just softened - this should take 2-3 minutes. Drain immediately and plunge in cold water. Squeeze all the excess water from the leaves and then roughly chop. Set this aside.
Make the Soufflé Base:
Place the butter in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Once the butter has just melted, add the cornflour. Stir this well to form a smooth paste.
There are a couple of ways to add the milk - you can add it slowly, constantly stirring until it re-thickens before adding another some more. Or you can dump the whole lot in, whisk to remove all the lumps then let it return to temperature. Stir to ensure no lumps form and by the time it's reheated it will be thick enough and cooked through.
Once it's thick you can add the chopped silverbeet, cheese, salt and white pepper (white pepper just looks a bit nicer) and the two egg yolk. Stir this well to make sure it's evenly mix. Place this to one side and allow to cool to room temperature.
Prepare the Soufflé Dishes:
I'm using ½ cup sized moulds and this mix will make 4 soufflés. Butter them well, base and sides then sprinkle in the breadcrumbs. To ensure an even coating, hold the mould at a slight angle while you rotate it - have a second mould sitting underneath to collect the excess breadcrumbs.
Finish the Soufflés:
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold a quarter of the whites into the cooled base to slacken then fold in the rest of the egg whites. It's important to keep as much air as possible in the mix.
Spoon this out into the moulds. To help with the lift, run your finger around the sides of the moulds to create an edge. This just separates the souffle from the side of the dish and should result in higher soufflé.
Place these in a preheated 200°C/400°F oven. It's important to have the oven well heated as the soufflé needs that immediate hit of heat to get it to rise. The other well known fact is that you should not open the oven door - this has more to do with the release of heat. The soufflé will take around 15 minutes to cook - keep the oven light on and look through the door to check on it's progress.
Once cooked, then serve immediately. This would be a perfect start to a meal and should be met with gasps of appreciation.
Tagged with Soufflé