celebrating with cauliflower & colette

 

twice baked cauliflower & gorgonzola soufflés with walnut & celery salad

When I was little, I always wished that I had a twin. I’m not really sure why. As a girl with three younger sisters and a younger brother it wasn’t like I was short on siblings. Something about having someone the exact same age who was experiencing the same trials and tribulations was very appealing to my small mind. And while that dream was never to be realized, I have been lucky enough to be an almost twin and share a parallel career path at times.

My dear friend Colette and I met when we were both studying food science but it wasn’t until we both decided to major in food microbiology for our honours thesis that our friendship and twin career paths were cemented. We became mates over agar plates and Bunsen burners as we shared a bench in the micro lab. But when we handed in our work: Colette’s an investigation of the microbial ecology of bean sprouts; mine of blue vein and camembert cheese, neither of us would have predicted that our professional destinies were to remain closely linked.

When we rocked up to start working in the same department of a multi-national cereal giant on the very same day, I must say I was glad to have found a twin of sorts. From our humble shared desk beginnings we were there for each other over the next few years. And although I had a detour year traveling in Europe and Asia, I returned to the cereal fold as soon as I was back.

The link did not stop there. When we were looking for new challenges we both freakily landed a job with another food industry monolith. But just when things were looking like we were going to be sharing another round of first day nerves, fate stepped in and I ended up renegging and accepting the counter offer of the cereal giant to stay put.

With my decision to dabble in the world of winemaking, the likelihood of our careers being paralleled once again seemed like an increasingly distant chance. Even my return to cereal world didn’t seem to make a difference. Then the other day I called Colette for a chat only to learn that we’d both been made redundant in the exact same month. Redundant and overjoyed at the outcome, at last we were back on the same page.

To celebrate this coincidence, any excuse for a get together really, I recently cooked dinner for just the two of us in my new spacious gas and dishwasher equipped kitchen. Gossiping over red wine and freshly shelled pistachios, we had a fine old time. Colette keeping me entertained while I whipped us up a couple of soufflés based on her almost namesake vegetable, cauliflower with some piquant Gorgonzola to keep things interesting. A celery and walnut salad provided much needed freshness and crunch. All inspired by the talented Emma Knowles in this months excellent edition of my favourite food mag: Australian Gourmet Traveller.

Knowing my almost twin as a big dessert fan from way back, I do tend to first think chocolate when cooking for Col. But on this occasion we ended up with warming thoughts and individual rhubarb and macadamia crumbles teamed with not too sweet but intensely vanilla homemade icecream served as the finale to our celebration meal….all good things.

A redundancy celebration dinner
pistachios in the shell
twice baked cauliflower & gorgonzola soufflés
walnut & celery salad
rhubarb & macadamia crumbles with super vanilla icecream

twice baked cauliflower & gorgonzola soufflés
serves 4
Inspired by a mash up of Emma Knowles’ blue cheese soufflé and her double baked cauliflower and gruyere soufflé published in the July French issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

My first encounter with the concept of twice baked soufflés was with the great Stephanie Alexander. They make an excellent dinner party main course as you can prepare and bake the first time in advance and then just pop them in the oven for a second go while your guests are enjoying their first course. While you don’t get the same amount of rising on the second bake, they are a lot less stressful than

The usual procedure is to turn the soufflés out into a gratin or baking dish after their first turn in the oven and then drizzle with cream and cheese just before baking again. The problem then is that your soufflés loose their shape and tend to become more of a non descript mound. This time I let the soufflés cool in the ramekins and rebaked and served them in the same which made for a much prettier presentation and also meant that the soufflés kept their heat for longer.

Cauliflower and blue cheese are tasty partners in crime. I love the intensity of gorgonzola piccante but if you prefer your blue in more subtle measures, feel free to go for a milder option.

2T olive oil
½ small brown onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
150g cauliflower florettes
1/2C (125mL) chicken stock
40g butter + extra for greasing
1T wholegrain mustard
40g plain flour
250mL milk, warmed
3 eggs, separated
100g gorgonzola piccante, crumbled
1/2C (125mL) pouring cream
60g parmesan cheese, finely grated
walnut & celery salad, to serve

Grease 4 one cup capacity ramekins or coffee mugs and preheat oven to 200C. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook onion over medium heat until golden brown and softened. Add garlic and cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally for approx 5 mins or until cauliflower is starting to brown. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for approx 15mins or until stock has evaporated and cauliflower is softened. Puree cauliflower in a food processor and season well.

Heat butter in a medium saucepan until melted. Add mustard and flour and stir until well combined. Cook over a medium heat, stirring for a few minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the warm milk. Return to the heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook for 5mins or until thickened. Stir through cauliflower puree and egg yolks. Gently stir in gorgonzola chunks. Whisk egg whites to firm peaks and delicately fold through cauliflower mixture until just combined. Gently divide between prepared ramekins and bake 20-30mins or until risen and golden. Allow to cool then cover and refrigerate until needed.

When ready to serve. Heat oven to 200C and pour 2T cream over each ramekin. Top with grated parmesan and bake for 20-25mins or until puffed up, golden and sizzling. Place on 4 warmed dinner plates and serve immediately with salad passed separately.

walnut & celery salad
serves 4 as a side salad
Adapted from Emma Knowles’ accompaniment to her blue cheese soufflé in the July 07 Australian Gourmet Traveller.

The refreshing crunch of this lovely little salad makes for the perfect counterpoint to a feather light but cheesey soufflé. It would also make an excellent meal in its own right if served with a generous crumble of some creamy blue cheese.

4 sticks celery
1 celery heart
75g (3/4C) walnut haves, toasted
1T Dijon mustard
2T tarragon or white wine vinegar
½ clove garlic, finely chopped
4T extra virgin olive oil

Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave celery sticks into long ribbons and place in a bowl of iced water. Finely slice celery heart and reserve pale yellow leaves. In a large bowl combine mustard, vinegar, garlic and oil and season well. Drain celery ribbons and toss through dressing along with the sliced celery heart and leaves. Arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle over walnuts.

rhubarb & macadamia crumbles with super vanilla icecream
serves 4

There’s nothing like a good crumble with icecream as a warming winter dessert. Rhubarb is one of my all time favourite vegetables that feels more like a fruit and it bakes down into a lovely tart flavoured base to support a nutty crunchy crumble topping.

If you’re like Nigella and aren’t into single serve dishes feel free to make in one large dish but I really think that individual crumbles make much more sense. No arguments about who got the most topping or the biggest serve and everything keeps it’s hat longer if served in the dish it was baked.

500g rhubarb stalks, approx 1 large bunch
1 beurre bosc pear
4T brown sugar
75g butter
75g plain flour
75g sugar
125g macadamia halves
vanilla icecream, to serve

Preheat oven to 200C. Cut rhubarb stalks into 4cm lengths and cut pear into quarters lengthwise, removing core then cutting each quarter into thirds. Combine in n oven proof dish, sprinkle with brown sugar and cover with foil. Bake for 20mins. Remove foil and stir. Return to the oven uncovered and bake for 20 – 30mins or until fruit is soft and the excess liquid has evaporated. Cool and divide between four 1 cup capacity ramekins or tea cups.

Whizz macadamia halves in a food processor until the largest pieces are about pea sized. Transfer to a bowl and then pulse butter, flour and sugar until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Combine with nuts then divide topping between the ramekins. Bake at 200C for 20-30mins or until toping is dark brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges. Serve hot with a scoop of icecream.

Note: for vanilla icecream recipe click HERE.

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