Broccoli and cheese souffle with warm tomato salad

Who knew 3 eggs, a head of broccoli and some stinky, old Lincolnshire Poacher could be so delicious?

I come from a family who happily scoop a bit of mold out of the yogurt, or pick out the furry green bits from for a slice of bread.

Sell by dates don’t usually bother me.

My boyfriend, the frugal Scot, took this to extremes last week though. He decided to ferret away a big cut of lamb in my fridge. The idea was that it would be trapsed over to West Kensington to be ceremonially roasted at a friend’s house on Saturday.

All very well, but by Tuesday it was already humming. I tried to persuade him to do something with it, or chuck it, but he told me that it would probably be able to “hang on in there” until Saturday.

Well, in my opinion, it didn’t “hang on in there” until Wednesday. By Thursday, it was a bit furry…fleecey perhaps, and was completing a life-cycle by seemingly turning back into a sheep in my fridge. By Saturday, it was really quite potent – not the sort of thing I wanted to be sitting next to on a clammy morning on the Piccadilly line.

I humored him though, purely because I didn’t want to be ‘the girlfriend who made him chuck out the meat’. Luckily, we made it to his friend’s house who took one look at the lamb, gagged, through open all the windows, and made Tom go and chuck it in a bin outside. I expect there’ll be a very ill fox lolloping about North End Road right now.

The point of me telling you this is to explain why my fridge is bare. I spent a week holding my breath every time I opened the door, as a whoosh of air slapped me in the face with a rotting meat smell when I went to get milk for my morning cup of tea. Everything was tainted. And lamb is a smell that lingers. I have arranged various egg cups of bicarbonate of soda about the fridge to absorb the smell, but I can’t bring myself to put anything in there before the stench has totally gone.

So, last night when I was ambling home, wondering what I was going to eat for supper, I didn’t have much to work with – just store cupboard ingredients. I had everything I needed to make a treacle sponge. But with it being summer and bikini weather and all, I thought I’d better conjure up something a little more sensible.

These soufflés are a deliciously light Monday night supper – and best of all, you only need a few fresh ingredients to make them, and you have to eat them all that evening.

Mine didn’t rise spectacularly, but I wouldn’t say that they were deflated in too much of a disastrous way. They still tasted delicious – I think it’s a bit of a waste to avoid soufflés just in case they don’t rise. As James Beard said: “The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.”

(Based on Delia Smith’s recipe)
Ingredients (serves 4)

1 head of broccoli
50g potent cheese (grated)
25g butter
30g plain flour
150ml milk
3 large eggs
salt and pepper

It’s best to start this recipe with a bit of prepping, so you don’t get yourself in a muddle later on. Preheat your oven to 200°c. Boil your broccoli and grease your ramekin dishes by wiping them with the wrap from a pack of butter.

Once your broccoli is cooked, then drain it, and then puree – adding a drizzle of milk if it’s looking a bit lumpy.

Next, make a roux by heating the butter in a small pan, then adding the flour. Once the butter and flour have cooked for a minute, then slowly add the milk, beating with a balloon whisk, until you’ve got a nice smooth paste – your ‘roux’.

Season the roux heavily with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Next, add the cheese – I found a slab of gnarly, old Lincolnshire poacher which was so full of life, it practically grated itself…the stronger and more potent the better though. Stir in the broccoli puree.

By this point, you should be separating your eggs. Put the whites in an (ideally metal) mixing dish, and set them to one side for later. Pop the two yolks in with the roux, cheese and broccoli, and then stir.

Next, you need to whisk your egg whites. This should take about 45 seconds with an electric whisk.

The last stage is the one you’ve got to be careful with, and that’s “introducing” the broccoli mixture to the whites. Get a metal spoon, and stir one tablespoon of the egg whites in with the broccoli mixture.
Next, take a tablespoon of the (now slightly lighter) broccoli mixture, and “introduce it” it the egg whites – DO NOT beat it, or mix it in – use a gentle folding action. Carry on putting one tablespoon from each bowl into the other until the mixture in the two bowls are roughly the same colour and consistency.

At this point, you can pour the mixture from the two bowls in together. Now use the same metal tablespoon to dish the mixture into the ramekins.

Pop them into the bottom of the 200°c oven for a good half-hour.

When you take them out, the top should be browned, they should have risen and should have a spongy consistency. Don’t fuss though. If they haven’t risen when you take them out, no amount of putting them back in, prodding or poking will change this. Anyway, ‘the proof’s in the pudding’ and as long as they taste good, it doesn’t really matter.

As a final aside, I decided to make a warm tomato salad to accompany the soufflés. I’d bought a huge bowl of cherry tomatoes for £1, and they were starting to turn…(seems to be a theme in my kitchen at the moment) so I thought that roasting them would keep them a little longer (or at least disguise the off-ness).

Pop them in a roasting tray with 1 sliced red onion, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a good slug of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Put the roasting tin in the oven above the soufflés, so they’re also exposed to 200°c for about half an hour. By the time I took them out, the tomatoes had become a delicious, caramelized, flavoursome salad.

Serve by putting your souffle (still in ramekin) on a dining plate, and a scoop of the roasted tomatoes next to them. Enjoy!

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