I was stuck for something to cook last night but knew it needed to use eggs as we had almost a dozen in the house and more coming from the chickens every day. It's possible the children would have enjoyed a cheese soufflé more but as we have Jerusalem artichokes available in the garden, it seemed a shame not to use them. And apparently I'm the only one to suffer the inevitable consequences of too many artichokes. First-hand at least.
Raymond Blanc taught me how to make a soufflé. Talk about name-dropping! He was launching his first book years ago in Oxford's Blackwells bookshop, and one of the things he cooked for his very appreciative audience was a sweet soufflé. He made it look easy and approachable, so I have cooked them ever since, though not often enough.
Jerusalem artichoke soufflé is particularly lovely. Light but with the earthy taste of the artichokes, it somehow tastes quite sophisticated though as I said its effects are far from sophisticated so don't do this one for a dinner party - much better as a family supper when you have no plans for socialising.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soufflé from Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book
375g (3/4lb) large Jerusalem artichokes or 1/2kg (1lb) small ones
60g (2oz) butter
50g (11/2oz) flour
150ml (1/4 pt) artichoke cooking liquor
125ml (4 fl oz) milk
4 egg yolks
salt, pepper, cayenne
1 tablespoon chopped hazelnuts
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
5 egg whites
1 heaped tablespoon breadcrumbs
1 rounded tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Scrub the artichokes and boil them in salted water. Peel off the skins, and sieve the inside part. You should end up with about 200g (6-7 oz) of dryish purée. Be careful not to throw away the cooking liquor.
Melt the butter in a large pan, stir in the flour and leave it to cook for a few moments. Moisten with the 150ml (1/4 pt) of cooking liquor and the milk. Mix in the puree. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks one by one. Correct the seasoning, adding a pinch of cayenne, the hazelnuts and parsley. The flavour should be on the strong side, as the egg whites will have the effect of toning it down. Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites carefully, raising the mass with a metal spoon. Do not worry if all the white is not mixed smoothly in, a few smallish lumps do not matter.
Grease a 11/2 litre (21/2 pt) soufflé dish with a butter paper. Tip in crumbs and cheese and turn the dish about so that the sides and base are evenly coated; keep the surplus to one side. Spoon in the soufflé mixture. Sprinkle the surplus crumbs and cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. With soufflés, it is a good idea to put a metal tray into the oven when you switch it on: it makes a hot base for the dish.