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Entries in cheese (13)


Ready and witty

It just so happens that two people, especially important people to me, are far away right now. One will be back soon enough, soon I'll be able to count down to their arrival on the fingers to one hand. But the other, well, for her return I would have to count all my fingers and my all toes many times over before the day comes that I can give her a proper hug.

That return feels every bit as far away as it is.

In the meantime, I'm keeping the wistful glances at the calendar at minimum by keeping occupied with the imagined agendas of that homecoming. I'm squirreling anecdotes and stories away in the back of my mind, ready and witty, for the conversations that we'll have.

This dearest friend is also with me in the kitchen, or at least her influence was, when I was making this baked ricotta today. Light but with a gentle creaminess, dotted with pretty green bits of herbs and zingy with lemon, it reminds me of so many meals we've shared over the years of our friendship. On a plate between us, a meal that doesn't mind if it's forgotten when the gossip gets really good.

You'll know this is for you when you read it, so I promise that when you're home I'll make it for you - don't worry, I'll leave out the chili. We'll eat it with garlic-scrubbed shingles of grilled bread, drink something sparkling and catch up.

It will be the best time. Keep safe until then. Hugs to you.

Savory Baked Ricotta
In testing for doneness, the cheese should not be completely dry in the middle. Similar to baking a cheesecake, the ricotta will swell slightly and retain a lazy wobble when set. As it cools, it will firm up some more, so keep that in mind while baking. Individual rounds can be made in muffin tins, and are pretty platemates to a simple salad.

1 garlic clove, a fat and juicy one is best
Olive oil for greasing the dish
8 ounces fresh whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
3 tablespoons minced mixed fresh herbs, I used (in order of most to least) chives, parsley, thyme
Zest from half a lemon
Pinch of red pepper flakes or minced red chili (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 large egg white, lightly whisked

Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C). Cut the garlic clove in half horizontally and rub the cut sides against the interior of a 1-cup capacity ramekin. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the inside of the dish with oil. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, Grana Padano, herbs, lemon zest and chili (if using). Taste, then season with kosher salt and black pepper. Stir in the whisked egg white. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the prepared ramekin and place on a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is puffed and almost set in the centre, and beginning to brown in spots, around 35 minutes depending on the dimensions of your ramekin. Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Serve either in the dish or run a knife around the edge of the cheese and invert onto a serving plate with crackers or bread alongside. And maybe some wine too. Surely one with bubbles. Best warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 baked round, serving 4.

I am simply without the words to express my feelings for those who won't be coming home after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. My heart breaks for those left behind.

If you are able, please consider giving to aid organizations working to help rebuild. Yele Haiti, Médecins Sans Frontières , UNICEF and CARE and are just some of the many organizations working tirelessly on behalf of those who need it most right now.

Julie is also spearheading a project to bring together food bloggers to raise funds; I'll share more details as they come, but read the announcement of Blog Aid here.

The Canadian government has committed to matching Canadian donations, dollar for dollar, towards the relief effort and I hope we take full advantage of their promise.


The appropriate welcome

November. It's been here for twelve days already, and I've yet to give it the appropriate welcome.

You'll find it standing just outside my door, arms laden with luggage full of fallen leaves most likely, softly tap-tap-tapping its foot as its waits with reserved impatience. Inside I'm running around frantically, with my hair in rollers and dirty dishes in the sink, not yet ready for its visit.

Those dirty dishes were for good reason I assure you, I've been making apple tartlets. Not just sweet but savoury-ish, with a mound of goat's cheese the tuffet for thin slices of apple, enamelled bronze by thyme-infused honey. They are mostly a task of assemblage, with little to do but cut, stack, brush and bake, but the opportunity to get out a rolling pin makes it seems as though you've done a some cooking. A fine dusting of flour across the hands always makes me feel I've been productive.

The tartlets came from the oven raised grandly at the edges, such is the miracle that is puff pastry. The layers of apple were curled and tanned lightly at their tips, finally adorned with ivory petals of Grana Padano. Though I'd intended something autumnal in spirit, this was almost downright festive. November, consider yourself greeted.

We tucked into these for a mid-afternoon snack, as is, full stop. Nothing more was needed. But if you were so moved, a crunchy pile of lightly-dressed bitter greens would be suggested my addition alongside.

But then, that would mean more dishes.

Apple and Goat's Cheese Tartlets with Thyme Honey
A more savoury spin on a recipe from Bon Appetit. Even though I have scaled back the original quantities of honey and butter, I still had more than enough - in fact, there was an excess. If I had to offer a guess, I would think that 1/3 cup of honey and 1 tablespoon of butter would suffice, but I have included generous quantities below in the case of the desire of a more luscious result.


1 package of frozen puff pastry (2 blocks or 2 sheets), thawed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup dark honey, divided
2-3 small thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
kosher salt
1/2 cup (around 4 ounces) fresh goat's cheese at room temperature
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white balsamic
3 small Empire apples
Shaved Grana Padano to serve

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. If not ready-rolled, roll out the puff pastry block to a 9-inch square on a lightly-floured work surface. Use a 4-inch cookie cutter or ring to cut 4 rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second block, cutting 8 rounds total. Using the blunt end of a 3-inch cutter firmly press into each round, without going through, to form a border. Freeze for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C). In a small saucepan over low heat, start to melt the butter. Once it's about halfway there, add 1/2 of the honey, the thyme sprigs and a pinch of salt. Stir gently until all the butter has melted and the honey is warm. Remove from the heat and leave the honey to steep while you get everything else ready.

In a small bowl, stir together the goat's cheese and the vinegar, seasoning again with a pinch of salt. Peel, halve and core the apples, then cut into 1/8-inch slices. Remove the chilled pastry from the freezer and use an offset spatula to spread a scant 2 teaspoons of the cheese mixture within the demarcated border. Top the cheese with a stack of apple slices. Brush the honey butter mixture over the apples and sparingly on pastry edge.

Bake in the preheated oven until the apples are soft and the pastry is golden and puffed, around 30 minutes. To serve, drizzle the tartlets with the reserved honey, the shaved Grana Padano, and some picked thyme leaves. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8.

• In the photograph, I toasted a meager 4 or 5 pecans and (as my Grandmother would say) "bashed the blazes out of them" for a final, crunchy flourish. They're not essential, but make a fine addition. Walnuts would be tasty too. If you have them on hand, bash away.
• Although I have not tried it, I am tempted to substitute a blue cheese for the goat's cheese, omitting the vinegar.


Moving without haste

When Sean and I were considering menus for this weekend, I gave him the declaration of "I feel like something Labour Day-ish" as my input into the proceedings. I always try to be helpful.

My description may have been cryptic, but it was the best that I could do. It is the last long weekend of summer, and no matter how we'd felt the week preceding, I wanted to take full advantage. I wanted summer sent on its merry way with every bit of its deserved fanfare.

And so we're laden with corn to be husked, peaches for pies and tomatoes (from our garden!) for jam. We're thinking of burgers and coleslaw and drinks so cold that they send shivers down your spine.

But even hours before a grill was lit, our celebrations were well underway.

You see, my Monday through Friday breakfast is merrily unvaried. Lately, with the day starting cooler, I chat with the boys over a bowl of steel cut oats, drowned with extra milk, finished with a palmful each of granola, pepitas and blueberries. It's filling and simple, and I like it that way.

However yesterday morning, instead of reaching for the oats I built towers of buttermilk pancakes. And then to begin today, we made something equally special.

Clearly, I define Labour Day weekend not by barbecues, but by breakfasts.

I am wary to christen these early meals brunch, for all its connotations of rubberized omelets and Hollandaise gone awry. But Saturday or Sunday breakfast, enjoyed with leisure, now there is a meal I can get enthusiastic about.Without the hustle to get everyone ready or out the door, we have the luxury of moving without haste. A long weekend's hours before noon, why, that's the time to revel inactivity.

Before I continue, I know what you're thinking. "Hold up here. Your discourse is all well and good, but that photo looks like Brussels sprouts. For breakfast? And this is supposed to be festive?"

I promise you, these sprouts feel fancy. And I'd be happy with them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Elevenses and tea, too.

These are not those grayed-out and useless Brussels sprouts, boiled within a moment of their lives and then left in their misery on cafeteria steam trays. These were shredded whisper-thin, jade and emerald strands wilted only barely by a warm slurry of bacon and sweet shallots. A slice of country bread charred in black tiger stripes by a grill pan, was tucked under the salad - but not before a smear of blue cheese had its opportunity to melt into its cragged surface.

The crowning touch to the plate was a simple egg, fried in butter and with frizzled, brown tips, its yolk still soft and lazy. Broken open, the yellowness provided sauce for all, its fat the vehicle for the aromatic notes of the cheese and opposition to the twang of vinegar.

Tomorrow morning is the last morning of the last long weekend of summer, and I'm planning my finale. I'm might even break out the water goblets.

Good times.

Eggs with Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad
Once the Brussels sprouts are in the pan, the cooking should take only 2-3 minutes to prepare - at most. The sprouts are treated as a warm salad rather than a cooked vegetable; their raw edge is tempered, but their crunch should not be completely lost.

1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned of their tough outer leaves
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 shallots, minced
1-2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons Gorgonzola Dolce, at room temperature
4 thick slices peasant bread
4 eggs
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Butter or oil for frying eggs

Using a mandoline or the slicing blade of a food processor, slice the Brussels sprouts finely. Toss through with fingers to separate into strands.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp - but not terminally so. You want crunch, but not bacon bits. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Reserve around 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan, discarding any excess.

With the pan still on medium heat, sauté the shallots for 30 seconds or so, stirring constantly. You want them translucent, but not scorched. Add the prepared sprouts, tossing them through the shallots and bacon drippings. Season sparingly with salt and pepper. Once coated, it should only take a few seconds, deglaze the pan with the vinegar, scraping up any sticky brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Continue tossing the sprouts until they are brightly coloured and barely cooked. Remove from the pan immediately, stir in the reserved bacon, and check for seasoning. Set aside.

Meanwhile, toast the bread slices on a grill pan or toaster. Spread 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola on each. Top with 1/4 of the Brussels sprouts.

Fry the eggs at the last minute to your liking, my suggestion is with the whites set and the yolks still quite soft. (Season with salt and pepper while cooking.)

Top the salad with the eggs and serve immediately.

Serves 4.


• The sherry vinegar can be substituted with white balsamic. For those wary of blue cheeses, Gorgonzola is on the milder side of the spectrum. If you would like an even more subtle blue cheese, I would recommend Cambozola, a cross between a Camembert and Gorgozonla - it also sometimes known as Blue Brie.
• If you prefer your Brussels sprouts softer, add a tablespoon or two of water (or chicken stock) to the pan with the vinegar to give them a quick steam. Keep stirring the vegetables until the additional liquid has evaporated.


Quick fixes; reviewing Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking and Everyone Can Cook Midweek Meals

Eric Akis' Skillet Mac and Cheese (yes, I know, I used penne and I served it in ramekins; I am quirky like that).

It is interesting how the world works sometimes. Just before our household grew from three to four, I was offered the opportunity to review not one, but two books on the subject of quick meals for busy cooks.

Everyone seems to be talking about how hard it is to find the time to cook. Sandra Lee has become a household name thanks to her "semi-homemade" mantra, Donna Hay has two books devoted to "instant" cooking and entertaining, and almost every magazine on the shelf is emblazoned with promises of "10 meals in under 10 minutes" or "faster takes on family favourites." Of course, there is also the juggernaut that is Rachel Ray, promoting under-30 minute cooking through her multi-media empire.

What is even more interesting is that, as it happens with any campaign, there are factions in the quick-cooking industry. Some believe it best to simplify the ingredients and methods while others make use of prepared foods to do some of the work for you.

As luck would have it, the two titles that came across my desk, Everyone Can Cook Midweek Meals (Whitecap, 2008) by Eric Akis and Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking (Ebury Press, 2008) by Delia Smith, each represent a side to these seemingly divergent approaches.

Because I received these books pretty much simultaneously, and because of their similar subject matter, I could not help but compare and contrast their styles as I looked over their content. And so, I thought it might be interesting to review these books side-by-side, as this really is such a huge market in the food world right now and this was an opportunity to study the two camps of this "fast" food movement.

I have chosen to break my analysis down into categories, for ease of quick comparison.

The authors and their philosophies
Eric Akis, food writer for the Victoria Times Colonist, seeks to inspire the home cook to tackle cooking after work or preparing meals ahead of time. His is straightforward and simple cooking, with (mostly) short ingredient lists and quick-to-prepare instructions. While there are a few intermediate recipes in terms of procedure and cuisine, Everyone Can Cook Midweek Meals focuses on giving the reader a repertoire of basic meals that allow for personal variation and are most likely appealing to a larger audience.

Akis positions himself staunchly against packaged and/or processed convenience foods. His introduction spells out his feelings quite specifically, mentioning his concern that too much sodium and preservatives in packaged foods can compromise the palate, and that the frequent use of what he calls "instant" meals colour children's perception of what food is supposed to taste like. His aim is to take the stress and worry out of midweek meal preparation, believing that with a well-stocked pantry and shortcut recipes even the busiest person can find scratch cooking a pleasure instead of a chore.

Six years after retiring from the cookery world, famed British cookbook author and television personality Delia Smith returns with the reworking of her 1971 debut How to Cheat at Cooking. In contrast to Akis' manifesto, Smith features recipes that promote grocery store shortcuts (specifically in the form of prepackaged foods and already-prepped ingredients) that are then used in the assembly of other dishes.

She considers the ability to produce meals, with minimal effort and time invested, a liberating experience. Smith encourages the use of the storecupboard and the freezer, seeing these to be invaluable resources to the hurried cook. Why stir slowly-caramelizing sugar, when someone else will make it into toffee and jar it for you? The same goes for slicing onions, grating cheeses and making tomato sauce. But this is only the beginning; Smith proudly dons the currently-unfashionable mantle of one who takes premade a step further, introducing the reader to tinned minced lamb, purchased pancakes, sachets of risotto and, what looks to be Smith's favourite ingredient - frozen mashed potatoes. She not only uses these ingredients, but she is also exceedingly particular about them; indicating the exact product, by brand name, that should be used in the recipe. Substitutions are frowned upon.

The books
Everyone Can Cook Midweek Meals seems to follow the style of the predecessors in the Everyone Can Cook series (it should be noted that I am not very familiar with the other titles). Vibrant colours and casual settings reinforce Akis' comforting home-cooking style. The photos, shot by Michael Tourigny and styled by the author himself, are cropped closely with the food usually filling most of the frame. Clearly laid out and easy to read, each recipe header includes the preparation time, cooking time and number of servings - a helpful tool for the truly time-starved.

Even though the book's sections can be a bit kitch in their titles ("Splendid Sides" and "Nifty Noodles", for example), they do cover a good deal of subject matter. Chapters on pantry staples, types of meals, various cuisines and cooking methods, offer the reader a well-rounded course in quick-cooking basics. That said, the more experienced cook may find this book to be too limited in its offerings. While it is not explicitly aimed as a book for beginners, notes on subjects such as what makes a vinaigrette and how to purchase fish might be redundant to some. Furthermore, dishes like breakfast parfaits are simple enough that they hardly require a recipe.

Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking is a very pretty book; the typeface, the layout and styling all work together beautifully to create a very modern, slightly spare aesthetic. It is beautifully designed by Vanessa Holden, and John Kernick's evocative photography accompanies almost every recipe. The result is a cookbook that looks pared down, refined, and very much in keeping with prevailing trends in cookbook and food publications.

After a lengthy section of introductions that outline in detail Smith's thoughts on shopping and cooking, the chapters are arranged in a loose interpretation of seasonal divisions and food for specific moods. For example, "Cool!" is the chapter containing recipes for the balmy days of summer, while "Capers in the Larder" explores the possibilities of the pantry. As to be expected, "Asian Express" and "Pronto Italiano" cover dishes from their respective cuisines. The book finishes with an extensive list of suggested ingredients to always keep on hand, and there is a repeated notation throughout the book that this list is kept up-to-date on Delia Smith's own website.

The recipes
Eric Akis has filled this book with dishes that would appeal to a wide audience. These are comfort-food basics, with few exotic ingredients or complicated techniques. Pastas, soups, stews and sweets are all well represented. Casual and satisfying, Akis' food is the sort you would want to eat curled up on the couch after a long day.

The chicken-fried steak with pan gravy is rich and hearty, with a simple white sauce as the decadent counterpoint to crispy double-dredged steaks (dried sage is a particularly nice addition to the coating mix). Chickpea Burgers are kept moist thanks to tahini and grated vegetables, and are well-seasoned with cilantro and curry. The fish tacos are family-friendly, especially when topped with the optional homemade guacamole. Fresh and bright with lime, the creamy spread goes beautifully with Akis' marinated baked fish. Tangy and creamy, the Easy-Peasy Lemon Pie would be far from daunting to the novice baker, and the results match up well against more complicated versions.

Of particular interest was the roux-less Skillet Mac and Cheese (pictured, above). Promising a cook time close to that of most boxed macaroni and cheese dinners, it comes together first on the stovetop and is then quickly blitzed under the broiler for a crust similar to long-baked recipes. While the dish did not offer the same creamy, savoury depth as more labour- and time-intensive versions, it was a reasonably good stand-in for a midweek meal.

While far from ground breaking, Akis' has compiled a solid set of recipes that can be prepared by a novice cook.

In Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking the recipes are far-reaching in their scope. Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Chickpeas appears alongside Caribbean Chicken with Salsa and Chicken and Leek Pot Pie. Asparagus with No-Panic Hollandaise turns the original on its head, opting out of the time consuming vinegar reduction and then emulsification for a tangy mix of crème fraîche, lemon, egg yolks, softened butter and cornflour. With less fat and no risk of splitting, the sauce did provide the unctuous mouthfeel of Hollondaise without the stress of its preparation. Sprightly Vietnamese Spring Rolls are stuffed with prawns, crunchy vegetables and herbs, and studded with peanuts; these are perfect for a light lunch or snack. Chocolate mousse is not out of Smith's reach; hers is made with ricotta cheese blended with crème fraîche for its base and is delicious but light. I had hoped to try the recipe for chocolate cake that called for 6 discs of mashed potatoes as an ingredient, but I could not find the kind required.

Herein lies the problem that comes up over and over again in Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking; as the author has been so adamant in her instruction to use brand name products, those in areas where these are unavailable are seriously disadvantaged. A worldwide audience may be unable to source products from the UK and Europe easily, rendering many recipes useless. Substitution is at times impossible as trademarked spice blends are used as the primary seasoning or the measurements are based on the portion size of specific products. If similar-sounding items can be found to swap in, it is uncertain how close result would be to the dish that Smith had intended.

This reliance on prepared foods sometimes seems unnecessary and almost creates as many problems as it solves. Although time is saved in the kitchen, even Smith herself admits that shopping takes longer as trips to multiple shops is necessary to find the particular brands.

Finally, the brand-particular favouritism inspires a new type of food snobbery (something Smith admonishes in her introduction); Italian packets of risotto are assumed to superior to a domestic product and onions sliced and softened in Spain are essential. But how can one with good conscience, in a world where concerns of carbon footprints and the support of regional agriculture are paramount, actively choose imported ingredients when local might be available and possibly taste better than those from abroad?

The conclusion
As much as I am tempted to consider these books mutually exclusive, neither truly are; there is a large middle ground. Though Eric Akis rallies against packaged foods, his stance is not without exception. He uses canned beans, pestos, curry sauces, bought stocks and tinned fish. While we may not think of these as convenience items, they do technically fall into that category and are likely to be staples in most homes. At the same time, Delia Smith includes recipes that are completely homemade and that simply employ tricks to expedite the preparation process. And in an ironic coincidence, these two books include recipes for the same dishes.

Everyone Can Cook Midweek Meals is a good beginner's guide to easy meals that can be prepared in a short time. Akis' approach is friendly and easy to follow, making it an accessible resource for those looking for healthy home-cooked meals. His tips are relevant and those packaged ingredients used are readily available.

Smith gives the readers time-saving reworking of well-known recipes, even as she expands the uses of prepared foods with the book Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking. Poshly presented, the book appeals to the foodie at heart, but one without the time, the desire or possibly the skill to prepare meals from scratch. She positions herself in a field outside of television cookery or vaulted art; Smith calls this an opportunity to "revolutionize your life" - with canned bisque firmly in hand.

Either way, it is evident that there is a desire to make food preparation faster, it is up to the reader (or the cook) to decide their speed limit.

Skillet Mac and Cheese
Excerpted with permission from Everyone Can Cook Midweek Meals by Eric Akis (Whitecap, 2008).

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 9-12 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

Here's a quick stovetop way to make macaroni and cheese and still have the heavenly crust of an oven-baked version. I serve it with whole wheat dinner rolls and a platter filled with raw fresh vegetables, such as celery, carrot and cucumber sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets and cherry tomatoes.

2 cups (500 ml) macaroni
2 cups (500 ml) milk
3 tablespoons (45 ml) all-purpose flour
1/4 (1 ml) teaspoon paprika
2 cups (500 ml) grated cheddar cheese
salt and white pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until just tender, about 6-8 minutes. Meanwhile place the milk, flour and paprika in a bowl and whisk until lump-free, Pour into a 10-to-12 inch (25 to 30 cm) nonstick ovenproof skillet and set over medium heat. Cook the mixture, whisking frequently, until it gently simmers and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Mix in 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of the cheese; season with salt and white pepper. Cook and stir until the cheese melts; reduce to low heat. Place an oven rack 6 inches (15 cm) beneath the broiler; preheat the broiler.

Drain the cooked macaroni well and mix into the cheese sauce. Stir in a little extra milk if you find the consistency too thick. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the cheese overtop and place under the broiler until it's nicely browned, about 3-4 minutes.

Eric's Options
• To add some protein to this dish, mix in a can (6 oz/170 g) of chunk tuna, drained well and coarsely flaked, or 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of cubed ham or cooked chicken.

Recipes from Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking

A selection of recipes from the book can be found here.

Cover art courtesy of Whitecap Books and Ebury Press, respectively.


Unto the breach

As a child of the 1980s, I have a deep affection for that era of roller skate - the ones with four wheels and the bright red, eraser-like stopper attached to the toe. I spent many an hour touring the neighbourhood in my skates, confident as can be.

Flash forward 20 years later and you can imagine my trepidation when my dear Sean strapped brand new rollerblades on me and assumed I would be steady on my feet. Facing the downhill slope of a rather steep hill, little did he expect the athletic debacle that would follow.

To make a long story short, I ricocheted off of a fence once or twice on my way down. Since then if faced with the slightest of declines, I am happy to veer off the road, sit myself down in the grass and watch the world roll by.

In this case I am all too happy to indulge my cowardice.

But one arena in which I have rarely shown fear has been the kitchen. Whether it was youthful exuberance or sheer naive ego, I would be hard pressed to remember a recipe that I have shied away from due to lack of experience. I will either place my confidence in quality of the recipe or in my own common sense, and then pray for the best.

That is not to say that errors have not been made; I could tell stories of some spectacular culinary failures that culminated in me laughing and crying all at once, as I reached for the phone to order takeout. But for whatever reason, these catastrophes have never fazed me. A simple shrug of the shoulder later, a wipe down of the counters and I am usually ready to tackle my next attempt.

It was with this touch of hubris that I made my first soufflé. Not smart enough to heed the many horror stories of fallen hopes, I happily whipped, folded and baked my way to airy perfection. Maybe it was assuredness that was the secret of my success. Maybe it was my assumption that all will be well was what made it so. Since that triumph, I have never looked back; both savoury and sweet offerings have graced our table. I have fallen in love with soufflés, with their luscious eggy density and slightly tender belly.

This corn and cheddar version has been a favourite since first taste. With a subtle background heat playing off of the sweetness of fresh corn, it is a wonderful balance of flavours for a light summer supper. The procedure is surprisingly simple and forgiving; stir the roux patiently, do not overwhip your egg whites, fold the batter gently. Bake until set without peeking in the oven, and your bravery will be rewarded with awe at the table. Who needs a greater ego-boost than that?

Sweet corn and white cheddar soufflé, with herbs and chili

Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn
1 medium onion or 2 large shallots, cut into small dice
1 small red chili, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the ramekins
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, separated
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup grated aged white cheddar
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (coriander)

Preheat oven 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease four 3/4 cup capacity ramekins with butter, then coat with Parmesan.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of the butter. Add the corn, onion and chili and cook, stirring, until the corn is tender and the onion is translucent. Remove the vegetables to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

In the same pan over medium low heat, melt the remaining butter. Whisk in the flour, cayenne and nutmeg, then cook this mixture for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to combine. Continue to cook, for about 3 minutes, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Turn off the heat, whisk in egg yolks, cheddar, remaining Parmesan and herbs. Stir in the corn and vegetable mixture. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff (but not dry) peaks. Using a spatula, fold one third of the egg whites into the soufflé base. Continue to fold each third in, only until just combined.

Divide the soufflé batter among the four prepared ramekins. Sprinkle with additional finely grated cheddar or Parmesan, if desired.

Gently place ramekins into a roasting pan or large casserole dish. Fill the pan with water from a recently-boiled kettle, until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until crowned and golden.

Serve immediately, makes 4.


• For a more impressive crown to your soufflé, rather than one that will just coyly peek over the edge of the dish as seen here, use a slightly smaller ramekin.
• When folding in the egg whites, I usually let a few streaks of white to remain for my first two additions as I know those will dissipate with the last addition. This allowance will prevent you from overworking the batter and deflating the volume.