I discovered soufflé during the, so-called winter of discontent. It was 1974 and I’d just set up home and had my first proper job, working albeit a three day week. My employer was having such a hard time, he asked us to prioritise calls because it was cheaper to phone in the afternoon. The current BBC TV series, The Real 1970s reminds me of those bleak times with fuel rationing, food shortages, inflation out of control, power cuts and total black outs.
I got through those cold, dark winter nights tucked up in bed reading by candlelight Elizabeth David’s, French Provincial Cookery book. Perversely, reading about food seemed the next best thing to eating it. She wrote about food for the soul, which was such an exotic idea compared to the ideas I’d got from cook books written by sensible women who called themselves home economists. Fantasising about foreign foods and experimenting with new recipes cheered me up no end. I owe Ms David, it was a revelation as well as an education. My favourite frugal meal, at the time was ED’s cheese soufflé. Having a dozen hens as neighbours and a generous owner helped to keep up my soufflé habit.
Back to the future, it’s the day before the next veg box delivery and I’m rummaging around the fridge for a meal: half a head of calabrese and three eggs. Inspired by my 1970s food memories it seems right to get out the soufflé dish from the back of the cupboard and see if I’ve still got the knack.
Take: a handful of calabrese (broccoli), 3 eggs separated, 25g butter, 30g plain flour, 50g hard cheese, 300ml milk, fresh grated nutmeg, seasoning.
Butter 1 litre soufflé dish. Pre-heat oven 200C, Gas 6. Make a white sauce, remove from heat, season. Add cheese, nutmeg and three egg yolks. Set aside. Cook calabrese, chop finely. Whisk egg whites to stiffness. Fold in calabrese followed by egg whites. Pour mixture into the dish and cook for 30 minutes until well risen and brown. Serve immediately. Super duper expialidelicious! As good now as it was back then.