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parmesan leeks fennel

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Almost Spring sunken Soufflé

COURSE
Starters 
SERVES
PREP TIME
under 20 mins 
COOKING TIME
under 30 mins 

INGREDIENTS

  • 20g butter
  • 3 medium leeks
  • 2 bulbs fennel, reserving the fronds
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 90g Parmesan  or Gran Padano cheese, grated
  • 100g butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 350ml warm milk
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 pint of double cream
  •  
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C. 
     

METHOD

Trim the leeks of their outer leaves and cut them half way down from the green end.  Wash the leeks thoroughly in cold water between the leaves to wash away any earth.  Shake them of excess water and finely chop them along with the fennel, whose outer layer you have also discarded. 

Melt 40g of the butter in a medium saucepan and grease 6-8 small ramekins with half the butter (a pastry brush is the easiest way).  Add a good dash of extra virgin olive oil to the rest of the butter, turn the heat to medium and add the leeks and fennel, cooking them for about ten minutes or until they start softening and turning translucent.  Add the garlic and thyme, season well with salt and pepper and continue to cook until the vegetables are completely soft.  Finely chop the fennel fronds and stir them into the vegetables with all but a few heaped tablespoons of the parmesan and 2 tbsp of milk.  Whiz the vegetables up to a smooth puree and set aside.

Meanwhile melt the rest of the butter in a pan and stir in the flour.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time and then gradually add the rest of the milk stirring in between each addition to give the flour a chance to cook out its ‘raw’ flavour.  Season the white sauce with salt and pepper and simmer for a few mintues before adding the fennel and leek puree and finally beating in all but one of the yolks (save it for breakfast in the morning).  Using a clean bowl and whisk, whisk the egg whites until they turn white and creamy and fold them lightly into the mixture.  Pour into the moulds, smooth their surfaces and put them in a baking tray with enough boiling water to come two-thirds of the way up their sides.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until they are set and puffed up.   Remove from the oven and after a few minutes run a knife around the sides of the soufflés and gently ease them out of their moulds and place upside down on a baking sheet.  Cover with clingfilm until you are ready to eat.

When you’re ready, pour the double cream into a saucepan and season generously with salt and pepper.  Bring to simmer point and reduce by about a half, so that the cream becomes thick and indescribably good.  When you are ready to eat, pre-heat the oven to 180C again and cover with the double cream and a sprinkling of parmesan.  Bake for 15 minutes until they are puffed up and golden.  Serve with a green salad and some fresh bread.

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