Entries Tagged 'One Dish Meals' ↓

Doctor Sister Outlaw answers the question “can a soufflé rise twice?”

Who knows? They never last that long around here.*

The soufflé inspires dread in many a cook, probably because we all grew up with images of soufflé disasters. Chefs bursting into tears because someone opened the oven on their soufflé. Delicate soufflés deflating because someone makes a loud noise. Housewives bawling because the piéce de resistance of their dinner party is a big fat fail. So it is no surprise that soufflés have a formidable reputation as a classic, only achievable by the gifted.

But oh, the French, they are so very good at tricking people into believing their cuisine is complicated, when, in reality, it relies on simple processes that require little technical knowhow. If you read a French cookery book it would bang on about pâte brisée or roux, but you don’t need to know about those things. A souffle is nothing more than a white sauce, with some stuff added for flavour, and foofed up with some egg whites. That. Is. All. The best thing about them is you can make the sauce and the egg whites before your guests arrive and assemble the whole shebang quickly after opening the plonk, then drink quite a bit before blowing their minds by serving up something that tastes incredibly luxurious and clever. Which it is, because it is so simple.

Now that I’ve demystified the soufflé, it’s time to share this recipe, which I was asked for after boasting about it on twitter. It incorporates a few tasty tricks I’ve learned from a blissful year of making soufflés for friends and family. Try it, enjoy it, vary it.

Smoked Salmon Soufflé for four

Ingredients:
A bit of polenta, about 100g of butter, flour (gluten-free is fine), a cup of normal or low fat milk, a finely diced onion, four or five finely sliced spring onions (scallions), 70 grammes of grated parmesan, 4 eggs (separated – you only use three yolks), a pinch of cream of tartar, 200 grammes of smoked salmon (shredded roughly) or drained tinned salmon, a tablespoon of chopped dill, chervil or parsley, salt and pepper.

First, prepare the oven and the dish. Heat the oven to 180C and warm the dish. Melt some butter in the bottom of it and spread it around. Tip in a small handful of polenta, flour or semolina, and shake it over the butter so it dusts the bottom and sides of the bowl. This will form a tasty crust later (if you made a sweet souffle, you would do this with sugar).

Second, make le sauce. Put 50g of butter in the bottom of a solid saucepan and get it bubbling gently, but NOT browning. Add two heaped tablespoons of flour or gluten-free flour and stir it all about so the flour cooks (expands) in the butter (gently, no browning – this is called a roux and you can see, it doesn’t hurt a bit). Then add a cup of milk. Get a whisk and blend the flour mixture into the milk. Cook it until the whole mess thickens (no lumps!). You just made white sauce. (It’s also called bechamel, but you didn’t need to know that.) Mix in the parmesan and cook a little more. Now you have cheese sauce. Set it aside and let it cool off a little.

Next, le flavourings. In a separate saucepan gently fry the onion and garlic in butter, until soft. Add the spring onions then add the onion mixture, take it off the heat and chuck in the salmon. Let it all sit. Beat THREE egg yolks into the not-very-hot cheese sauce. Feed the extra egg yolk to the cat or compost it. Mix the onions and sauce together. Taste the mix and add the herbs and some salt and pepper. Take a break and cook the other things you want to eat. Talk to your guests.

Penultimately, ouefs. Get a good clean glass or metal bowl, add the four egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar and get beating. Make really good stiff peaks with lots of air in them as it’s the air that creates the rise and the volume of the soufflé. Let it all sit until you are thinking you would like to eat.

Finally, assemblage: Get a big spoon full of the egg whites and stir it into the cheese/salmon saucy mix. This will ‘lighten’ the mix. Then tip the mix into the egg whites, and fold it in with a spatula. Don’t beat it or the air will leave the whites. You’ll end up with a rough looking mix. Cool! Spoon it into the soufflé dish and pop it in the oven. Cook for between 35 & 40 minutes and you’ll have a fluffy body with a cheesy sauce; 40 minutes and she will be cooked mostly through, 45 minutes and you’ll have a savoury sponge. Connoisseurs like the first option, others don’t. It will rise! You can open the oven and slide a skewer in under the top crust, to see how it’s going. Do it many times. You’ll be right! (Don’t bang the door though, at least not hard). 

Before serving get everyone to sit down so they can see your majestic, high top creation. As soon as you crack the top with a spoon it will fall into a goopy mess of marshmallowy topping and saucy bits. Your guests will fall on it with ravenous passion. Everyone will be happy. Eat with bread, salad, spuds and other things. Never be afraid of a soufflé again.

* Actually, a soufflé doesn’t rise twice but is really good reheated in an oven, with a dollop of cream to make them even more sinful. You can also do this mix in 6 ramekins, which makes them even easier to reheat. Cook for 15-20 minutes only.
** This recipe is easily adapted for use without the salmon. Rule of thumb is one cup of additional flavours, be it spinach, peas, grated veges, herbs, more cheese. I often add paprika.
*** Some would add cream to the white sauce. I don’t, but if you do, reduce the milk accordingly.
**** Sweet soufflés are the same, but without the salt, pepper, veges or cream of tartar, and with caster sugar, chocolate etc. If you make one, the white sauce is sweetened, in which case it’s called a pate thingummy. Bon appetit!

 

 

Anthony’s Authentic™ Soupe ou Pistou

Mid-autumn in Melbourne coincided with a burst of hot weather, which meant fresh borlotti beans were in my green grocer’s at the same time I was contemplating how to cook summery meals. My thoughts turned to soup. Now normally, in Melbourne’s peak temperatures, the only soup that attracts is a cold and garlicky gazpacho. But my second favourite warm weather soup is soup au pistou. This is basically a pretty bland soup based around (ideally fresh) shelled beans, some pasta, potatoes and summer vegetables (zucchini, green beans) which is enlivened by a spoonful of pistou (which, as we’ll see, is just the Provençal version of pesto) stirred into bowls at the last minute.

I was first introduced to this soup in Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, but have more recently followed a recipe of Patricia Wells, which I adapt below.

The success of the soup as a summer tonic lies of course in the pistou. And the secret of a good pistou is a mortar and pestle, not a food processor. Patience Gray in her remarkable book Honey from a Weed has a whole introductory chapter on ‘chopping and pounding’. There she writes: ‘Pounding fragrant things – particularly garlic, basil, parsley – is a tremendous antidote to depression…Pounding these things produces an alteration in one’s being – from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated’.

Before I get to the recipe, I just want to reiterate what a peculiar — in a good way — cookbook Gray’s book is. She co-wrote an earlier cookbook, published as a Penguin paperback, with Primrose Boyd in the 1950s, called Plats du Jour, then she absconded to Europe to make a life with a Flemish sculptor for the next forty or fifty years, living in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia: in effect, chasing the marble that a sculptor needs.

One remarkable aspect of her book lies in the subtitle: ‘Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cylcades and Apulia’. Not only does the word ‘fasting’ rarely appear in connection with contemporary cookbooks, but here it is given priority of place before the word ‘feasting’.

Many contemporary cookbooks on regional cuisines are embedded in some sort of narrative — explicit or implied — about The Quest for Authenticity. It is not enough to know that we are going to use olive oil in a recipe; we need to be told that the dish was originally tasted on a hiking trip near Carrara, using oil obtained from the first pressing from the gnarled trees of a domestic grove of a poor but honest Italian farmer and so on. This Quest for Authenticity along with a persistent nostalgia coalesces to give us the Mediterranean Diet as Culinary Pastoral. Yet what we today evoke as the Mediterranean Diet probably bears little relation to how most Mediterraneans ate for most of history. Up until relatively recently, the Mediterranean diet was one of long seasons of malnutrition, interspersed with episodes of famine.

Gray’s book is one of the few Mediterranean cookbooks to acknowledge this in its overall approach. She captures what the anthropologist Carole Counihan, writing about rural Sardinia, observed when referring to an ‘iron clad ethic of consumption: daily consumption took place within the family and was parsimonious; festive consumption took place within society at large and was prodigal’, there being a ‘rhythmic oscillation between these two different modes’.

So yes, Gray’s cookbook-cum-travel memoir does play the authenticity card, but without the reassurance and comfort and warm fuzziness that comes with most books of this genre. At one stage she watches, and describes for the reader, a Greek islander woman’s method of cooking fresh haricot beans into a soup over an outdoor fire. When Gray takes some of the surplus soup to a neighbour, the neighbour ‘believing them to be cooked by me and foreign in consequence, later threw them to the pig’. The Mediterranean diet, like Tolstoy’s ideal of love, can be a harsh and dreadful thing.

Anyhow, the promised recipe for La Soupe au Pistou:

If you have access to fresh borlotti beans, buy half a kilo which will come down to around 200 – 250 g shelled beans.

Warm some oil in a saucepan with chopped garlic and some thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs and a bay leaf or two. Add the beans and cook for a minute or two. Add a litre of hot water and cover and simmer for around ten minutes.

In another pot, start the soup: oil, onions and garlic sweated over a low heat. Add chopped carrots, chopped potatoes and again more bay leaves, some thyme and parsley sprigs. Saute all this for ten minutes or so, stirring regularly, to build depth of flavour.

Then add the beans and their cooking liquid to the vegetables with some diced zucchini and some tomatoes (fresh or from a tin, whatever’s at hand) and another litre of water. Simmer gently until all is cooked. Add some small pasta shapes and cook until the pasta is cooked.

Serve the soup hot, passing both pistou and grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese to swirl into the soup

Pistou:

For pesto or pistou, I’d go with a cup of basil leaves pounded together with a tablespoon of pine nuts, a clove of garlic, half a teaspoon of salt and four tablespoons of olive oil. Enjoy.

The Case of the Devil’s Kidneys, by Sir Arthur Conan Nabakov.

compleat bachelor fare archive

It was on a cold and dreary night in November 1892 that I was first introduced to yet another of the singular talents of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, talents with which he was wont to so often surprise those that thought they knew him well.

Welcome

The fire was blazing in our chambers at 221b Baker Street and I was seated comfortably in an armchair, browsing through the privately published memoirs of a Ruhr industrialist visiting Siam in incognito. Meanwhile Sherlock Holmes sat listlessly at his desk with his commonplace book open before him but ignored. Once again it was clear to see he was in the grip of one of his queer humours.

Looking across, I recognised of old that glint in his eye that signaled a brooding determination to break loose of his lethargy. I feared his gaze would soon turn to the drawer that held his vials of five percent cocaine solution, or worse still, to his violin case.

Suddenly Holmes leapt to his feet and began to pace about the room. “I feel like something spicy and gamey,” he ejaculated.

an ejaculation

“Why my dear Holmes, whatever could you mean?” I murmured, rising to feet and closing a chapter on a stimulating account of nubile hermaphrodites in Indochine.

“The Devil’s Kidneys, Watson! That’s what I mean,” he curtly exclaimed.

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Sister Outlaw on single women’s (good) food

I am very good at cooking for other people, but very bad when I am by myself. Other people get lavish meals like lamb shanks in Middle Eastern spices on preserved lemon couscous with carrot, beetroot and parsnip roasted in brown sugar and olive oil, followed by lemon delicious pudding. But when I am child-free and left to my own devices I eat crap. Some nights I’ll just get chips and gravy for tea, or cook pasta and cheese, or fried eggs on toast (NB: no veges). I also have an unhealthy obsession with dukkah (sesame seeds and nuts and spices like cumin with salt) and have been known to eat half a jar of the stuff, stuck with olive oil to most of a loaf of fluffy white bread (gosh, I’ve been wanting to own up to this for ages, it feels good to get it off my chest). It was delicious, but I did not feel so good the next day.

Recently returned to a single state, I have resolved that I simply have to devote as much attention to cooking nice things for myself as I do when cooking for other people, or I will become lardy and unhealthy. As we know, being lardy and unhealthy is inimical to dating but, more importantly, leads to permanent ill-health and it’s hard enough to meet a bloke in Katoomba without confining yourself to the hospital grounds.

But enough about non-dating in the Blue Mountains. This post is about how virtuous I am for cooking even though I didn’t really feel like it, how I managed to work dukkah into the meal without overdosing on the stuff, and how it’s important to just get going and do stuff for yourself, because the results are really special. And it doesn’t take much effort, or cost much.

This week, I made a VERY yummy celeriac and parsnip soup, which was dead easy. You just take a celeriac – a funny lumpy vegetable that manages to be like celery, potato, cauliflower and ginseng all at once – and chop the tops and bottoms off it. Then you quarter it, eight it, peel off the skin and chuck it in the pot with two quartered onions, two or three cloves of garlic, some water, some dry white wine, two peeled parsnips, a bay leaf and some thyme. Cook it until the veges are soft (about 20 minutes) and then blend it to bejeesus, add some soy milk or stock to get it to the consistency you want and warm it through with some salt, pepper and a vege stock cube if it’s not savoury enough. Serve it with some crumbly parmesan on the top and drink the rest of the wine while you eat.

But the nicest dinner of the week incorporated green veges AND enabled me to eat dukkah. I just love simple pasta dishes like grated zucchini or pumpkin tossed through spaghetti. Tonight, I fried an onion with some small pieces of sweet potato, garlic and a finely sliced piece of preserved lemon (my most specialist secret ingredient). When that was rocking I shredded a small bunch of silverbeet into the frypan, tossing until the colour brightened. I mixed it up with some fetta, a bit of butter, a smidge of cream and a small handful of coriander leaves. Then I mixed it into hot, fairly wet pasta (so the pasta water made a kind of sauce) and sprinkled dukkah over the top.

DSC00894

It came out lemony, with plenty of bite in the silver beet and the salt of the feta and nuttiness of the dukkah hanging perfectly off the sweet potato. I even had enough left overs to ensure that I don’t have to buy lunch tomorrow, which is good in these global financial crisis-ridden times.

I am really interested to hear about other people’s eating vices so invite PDP readers and writers to share their sins against fine dining. However, to ensure we honour the goals of this blog, perhaps it’s best to temper stories of vice with tales of how we have managed to redeem ourselves by cooking clever and artful food, even when we is by ourselves. So, c’mon contributors and commenters, share.

Kirsty Presents: Short and Sweet

Unlike Zoe, I don’t know if I can attribute my lack of participation in blogging lately to my daily use of Twitter. I was a fairly early user of the short message medium that has recently taken the mainstream media by storm, and for at least two of those years I managed to continue to blog with enthusiasm.

I think the source of my exhaustion arises rather from the fact that for much of the university teaching year thus far I’ve been reading and marking 50 blogs per week, all written by students enrolled in subjects to do with new media.  If Twitter is to bear any responsibility for my failure to blog in any substantial way either here, at Sarsaparilla Lite, or at my own blog, then it’s because one of the other pieces of assessment that I’ve spent the semester  drowning in has been the Twitter workshops I’ve co-ordinated in lieu of the usual face-to-face tutorials. All of these pieces of assessment have rendered me barely capable of reading, never mind making a comment on those blogs by people who like to write and engage in discussions for the sake of it.

Anyway, you’re not really interested in my work-a-day woes are you?  It’s all about food here at  the Progressive Dinner Party. And no doubt you’ll be pleased to know that it’s because of food that I bothered to mention Twitter at all in this context.  It’s due to Twitter that I came to know of my most recent food obsession, when one of the people I follow declared that she was going to make 5 minute ice-cream for which she posted a link.

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Dr Sister Outlaw live blogs experiment in extreme slow cooking of beef and barley Middle Eastern influenced stew

One of the things I really like about my house is an old Glowburn wood heater, which I’ve just lit up for the first time this year. A friend chided me for using it, muttering something about global warming, to which I responded that I am only interested in the warming of my lounge room, but in any case I don’t really contribute to global warming because I go to great lengths to source waste wood from local arborists. That means all I’m doing is accelerating the carbon cycle of dead wood and I don’t have to feel bad about burning 300 year old Ironbarks, which is something to feel guilty about.

So, while I was sitting in front of the toasty Glowburn this afternoon, supposedly writing, I decided that it would be wasteful to burn fossil fuel by firing up the gas cooktop or the electric oven to cook the stew I had planned for dinner. Why not use the wood heater? Would it get hot enough to actually cook a beef stew? Only one way to find out, and tonight I am child free and my intended dinner guest doesn’t mind waiting if it turns out to be a slow meal. So I decided to do it and, because I really should be writing something else, to blog the results of this experiment in fossil-fuel-free cooking.

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A better kind of lemon chicken

One of the joys of Canberra is the four distinct seasons, and of all of them Autumn is my favourite. Although this summer wasn’t as bakingly hot as it has been for the last couple of years, it was still hot enough that I’m enjoying the beginnings of briskness in the mornings and snuggling in a warm bed at night.

If you try to eat seasonally, particularly if you grow some of your own food, Autumn is the best time of year. I live in a cul-de-sac of eleven houses, four of which have veggie gardens, and it’s quite common to see someone or other ambling across the road with a handful (or a box) of excess produce. It was our turn last week, when our neighbour Kev dropped in with two lovely early butternut pumpkins from his patch. I’m hoping for some figs, as our tree is tiny. It’s one of three in this street and the next grown from a cutting from No. 8′s magnificent tree.

One of the best arrivals with the cooler weather is lemons. Meyer lemons seem to be the most commonly grown variety locally because they tolerate cold fairly well, but I spotted the first fresh thin-skinned Eurekas of the year at Choku Bai Jo last week. While they’re very common and often cold-stored to sell over the summer, freshness really brings out their appetising sharpness. I love their colour too which is more “lemony” than intensely yellow.

 
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And then we ate the hare

Today my sister, her partner Anne and their kids Ciara and Reece joined us for The Eating of The Hare. They took our bigger boy out to lunch and Owy went to cricket, so I had a couple of hours of uninterrupted kitchen time to potter while our smaller boy slept. There is nothing nicer than feeding people that you care about, and to be feeding them food which they’d been responsible for increased the pleasure. Anne is a bit of a spoiler, so things kicked off with spiders made with sexy ice cream and Cascade soft drinks:

spider

I’m not sure if that’s sharing or territorial pissing that you’re seeing in that picture, but that’s five year old boys for you.

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