As the cold months nestle themselves around me, I find it’s time for some french-inspired comfort cooking…
There couldn’t be a more soothing remedy than a warm mouthful of billowing soufflé on a winter’s eve.
I have had the idea for a smoked Aubergine soufflé since I made Baba Ghanoush the very first time, blending the aubergine into a smooth whip that mimics the texture of a mousse of some sort – I knew that it would sit perfectly in a soufflé! Earthy, simple yet distinct flavours that balance out the rich cheesiness of a soufflé. If I do say so myself, I really hit the mark…
YOU WILL NEED (for 4):
- 3 tbsp butter (plus extra for greasing your ramekins)
- 1.5 tbsp flour (plus extra for flouring your ramekins)
- 1.5 cups milk
- 6 eggs – separated into whites and yolks
- 1 medium aubergine
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan, pecorino or other scrumptious cheese of your choice
- pinch of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
On an open flame (I just use my gas stovetop) place your aubergine directly on a high fire. Yes, nothing wrapped around it, not in a pan – just over the fire. Roast, turning every 5 minutes-ish until all skin is charred and black. Place inside a pot with a lid, and set aside – this is to allow the aubergine to steam in its own heat and soften further after the charring.
Now to embark on the soufflé journey – refined, simple, beautiful french cooking at it’s finest – make a basic béchamel sauce. Start off my making a blond roux: In a medium sized, thick-bottomed saucepan melt the butter over a medium-low heat. Add the flour, stirring intermittently with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes until th roux just turns golden – et voilà! Your blond roux. Pour in a tiny splash of the milk, just enough to soften up the roux and using a whisk, immediately stir to combine. Then, if you have the dexterity and hand-eye coordination, very very very slowly drizzle a stream of your milk into the mix, whisking vigorously with your other hand. This is the part where I always nearly tip the saucepan over from whisking excitement, and incoordination. Once you have poured all the milk in, continue to whisk and allow to cook for a further few minutes until you achieve a creamy smooth texture. Remove from heat and stir through cheese, nutmeg and S&P.
Prepare your ramekins – this is very important if you choose to remove the soufflé at the end (this is for twice-baked soufflé, which is optional – I will go into more detail later). Butter ramekins ensuring a smooth covering of entire surface. Then place a small spoon of flour in the bottom and over a sink, shake it, slowly rotating the ramekin to cover all of the butter with a thin layer of flour. Turn upside down and give it a good smack to remove excess flour. Ramekins ready for action.
Remove the burnt skin and stem of your aubergine and place all of that smokey soft flesh into a food processor (its fine if there are tiny flecks of charcoal left) – whizz until smooth.
Add the eggs yolks to the béchamel, 1/2 at a time, whisking between each addition. Add aubergine puree and whisk to incorporate.
In a clean dry mixing bowl, whisk your egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add half at a time to the soufflé mix, gently folding through with a wooden spoon until just combined. Spoon the mixture into your ramekins – up to about 3/4 full. Place the ramekins their hot bath – use a large deep baking dish, and pour boiling water up until it reaches about halfway up the ramekins. Immediately place in the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until soufflés look like they are about to pop their tops with fully delight!
Now, you have the option of eating them hot out of the ramekins, or alternatively you can let them cool for a few minutes, then flip them out (you may have to run a knife around the edges to assist this process). From here, place them back in the oven upside down on baking paper with a sprinkling of parmesan and a dollop of butter on top. You can also keep them in the fridge overnight, ready for the second bake – a quick and easy treat for the following day.
I served them with a fresh apple, fennel, hazelnut & puy lentil salad with yoghurt, lemon & honey dressing (the fresh apples where incredibly complimenting to the smokey aubergine!). But these beauties are perfect on their own, or with any side salad… Get creative!