Soufflé

There is a family story that tells of my Grandfather, Jim, dining at the Savoy in London and one evening ordering the soufflé for his desert. So unhappy was he, with what was served, that he wrote to the kitchen explain his disappointment. Unlike today’s apologetic vouchers or consolatory free meal, this was the 1940s and in order to settle the issue at hand he was invited back by the Head Chef to come back and make for them what he thought to be a good Soufflé.

He was known in the kitchen at home for making brilliant soufflés: delicate and airy lemon ones, incredible savoury gruyere cheese ones and a chocolate soufflé to die for. But I just cannot imagine a humble vicar of the Church of England standing before the professional kitchen of the London Savoy explaining what he thought to be the secret to a soufflé. Perhaps it was his station as a priest that allowed him get away with entry to such a kitchen and command an audience with such chefs.

It was a time where people were cutting corners in cookery. There was still food rationing in Britain which lasted nearly a decade after the war had ended. It took a while for people to come back around to fresh ingredients and more honourable cooking techniques.

Although I never saw him before his congregation (before whom, I am lead to believe, he was quite animated), I remember when I was a youngster that he carried himself with much stillness. So I permit myself to imagine that, at the moment of setting the soufflé down before the chefs, there was that same clear stillness in which you could hear a pin drop.

Whatever was said in the kitchen that day, I would love to believe that in some way for a while, Jim had an input into the way soufflés at the Savoy are made.

But I digress. In my Grandmother’s cookbooks of old, there are many handwritings but the ones that are always in fountain pen belong to Jim. A smaller jot, and a little more difficult to read when the ink marks have bled out into each other. But because his recipes are few and far between the pages of her collection and because I thought this story is so inspiring, when I came across a recipe for Grand Marnier Soufflé in my Grandfather’s pen – I couldn’t pass over it. I just had to give it a try.

The Grand Marnier
Ingredients:
2 1/4 oz sugar
1/2 pt milk
1 oz butter
3/4 oz fine white flour
3 yolks of egg
5 egg whites
1 liquor glass of Grand Marnier
Pour the sugar into the milk in a pan over a low flame and allow to simmer very gently until all the sugar is melted and the milk starts to thicken. In another pan melt the butter, add the flour. Mix well whilst gradually adding the sweetened milk until the the liquid is a thick cream.

Remove from the heat and as it cools add the glass of alcohol and then the beaten egg yolks. Beat well.

In to a clean bowl crack rest of the egg whites (five in total), leaving no trace of yolk or shell. Beat well until they are very stiff but not too dry. Introduce the whites, folding them gently into the main mixture.

Spoon the mixture very gently into some buttered soufflé ramekins. A trick to help them rise when baking is to run the tip of your finger around the edge between the soufflé mix and the ramekin wall, so that the top of the soufflé can rise evenly without sticking.

Place gently in a pre-heated oven at 190° for 16-18mins until the tops are risen and golden. Do not open the oven door before they are ready.

Dust with icing sugar, if you like, and serve immediately.



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