Friday, 19 October 2018

Soufle de bacalhau rising to the occasion

That iconic Portuguese ingredient with a touch of the French cuisine
Nothing comes with a trickier reputation to make than a soufflé. But I've since discovered the truth about soufflés: their reputation for being disaster-prone and finicky is undeserved. Don´t be put off, you can rise to the challenge.There was a time when the idea of making a soufflé was the furthest thought from my mind. Just seeing the words "eggs, separated" was enough to ward me off. Though how a thick white sauce with beaten egg whites folded into it ever became the most intimidating recipe in the world has always puzzled me.Silly, I know, but I remain amazed and delighted when a mixture of cheese or whatever and hot air works. It feels more like magic than cooking.The simple combination of eggs, milk, cream, seasonings and air, given the ­Montgolfier treatment with a blast of hot air, is one of the great culinary milestones.Make soufflé when you have guests, certainly,not least because it adds a certain theatre to the proceedings. Throughout food history, soufflés have been given a bad rap. They have been called difficult to make, and fall or collapse at the slightest touch. This is not entirely true. Soufflés can be time-consuming, but they are not altogether that difficult to make. The myth about them falling when there is a loud noise or a slight bump is entirely false. Soufflés will inevitably collapse, not because of being bumped, but because the air that is whipped into the egg whites, which has been heated by the oven, cools, so the soufflé falls. That’s why they are best served immediately. There are three main parts to a soufflé – a base, flavouring ingredients, and egg whites. The base is heavy and starch-thickened, usually a pastry cream or white sauce. If egg yolks are used in the recipe, they are usually usually included in the base. The flavouring ingredients,in this case salt cod, are also added and cooked with the base.There is something inherently thrilling about pulling a light, barely quivering souffle from the oven: on the one hand so pure, on the other so wanton. Souffles are ingeniously versatile, and make all sorts the stars of the show, from all things savoury to all things sweet. And the results always look fabulous. Most of all, a souffle is a brilliant bet for a low-cost, delicious dinner, as here, where cured fish is offset by the acidity of  creme fraiche.Codfish Soufflé is a sophisticated way of cooking codfish, an ingredient that is indisputably one of the symbols of the Portuguese gastronomy.This Codfish Soufflé is an exquisite recipe that combines the iconic Portuguese ingredient with a touch of the French cuisine but has that je ne sais quoi pas a bout de souffle.
Codfish Soufflé
200 g of codfish
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 cups ( 500ml milk )
50 g flour
50g butter
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 tbsp creme fraiche
Nutmeg, paprika, butter, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Butter and flour the inside of a souffle pan, or 6 individual ramekin dishes
Be sure to soak the salt cod for at least 2 days in the refrigerator, changing the water several times. Flake the fish into small pieces and sauté briefly in 1 tsp of butter, until the fish is just done, about 2-3 minutes.  Set aside until ready to use.
Sauté the onion in the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan until the butter has stopped bubbling.  Add the flour, stirring the mixture together until it is a smooth consistency and just begins to change color.  Add the warm milk slowly, whisking more or less constantly, and cook until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.  Remove from the heat.  Add salt (if using salt cod, add carefully: you may not need more), pepper, and nutmeg. Let cool for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the egg whites.  Beat the cold egg whites with an electric mixer until medium firm peaks form. Take the egg yolks, separately, and beat roughly with a fork.
Add the yolks and the cod to the flour-milk mixture, stirring them in to blend.  Fold in the egg whites gently, allowing the air to remain in the whites.  Turn the mixture into the souffle pan or ramekins if using and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top is fluffy and lightly browned.

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