Last week I decided to make a soufflé for dinner. We had some eggs and a really lovely Saint Agur blue cheese that needed eating up. We both felt like something light. So a soufflé seemed like a good idea.
I know these wonders of kitchen magic tend to have a reputation for being difficult to pull off. But my soufflé history has been pretty positive. Until now.
The thing I didn’t take into account was that most of my soufflés successes have been desserts like these berry soufflés or these heavenly chocolate ones. Since I didn’t have a good savoury soufflé recipe in mind, I did a quick search of my cookbooks and came up with a good sounding option.
My first mistake was not reading the recipe through before I started. To cut a long story short, our blue cheese soufflés were edible but only just. And boy were they ugly – I think my camera would have gone on strike if I had thought about photographing them.
Reflecting on my soufflé nightmare, I realized I made a few rookie mistakes. So today I wanted to share with you the 4 steps I should have taken.
I’m working on a foolproof soufflé recipe but since its not ready yet, I have one of my favourite never-fail broad bean recipes for you. Don’t worry, if it’s not Spring where you are now, you can easily make it with frozen peas (or frozen broad beans).
4 steps to avoid kitchen nightmares…
1. Read the recipe fully before you start.
I’m guilty of just scanning a recipe or worse, only reading the ingredients list to make sure I have everything. I’d say 90% of my kitchen disasters start with me skipping this step.
2. Visualize in your mind how it is going to work.
This helps bring the dish to life before you begin. Especially important if you’re making a few different dishes and need to coordinate for the one meal.
3. Think about potential pitfalls and make a plan to avoid them.
This helps you to focus on the areas that are the most likely to go wrong and be ready for them.
One thing I do for my students at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School is include a ‘Problem Solving Guide’ with each recipe so this step is already covered. I’ve had so many students tell me that this has been super helpful for steering them away from nightmares and into kitchen success land.
I’ve included an example with the broad bean recipe below to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
4. Unless it’s a complete failure don’t point out any imperfections.
I learned this from my days designing chocolate biscuits. I noticed that when we had a big tasting where the whole team was together, if I pointed out all the little flaws with the samples before we began, everyone would rate the samples lower in most attributes. But if I kept quite and let everyone taste first, everyone would be more enthusiastic about the samples. Even when I’d share my concerns after the fact.
This is all about the power of suggestion. After observing this at work, I made a rule for myself not to point out the flaws in my cooking when I had people over.
video version of the recipe
addictive broad bean pesto
Every spring I get super excited about broad beans and asparagus and this year artichokes as well. I tend to cook them so much that by the time Summer rolls around, I’m happy to give them a break until next spring.
The only problem with broad beans is that they are a lot of work. The best solution is to share to load. Pour a few glasses of wine and pop the broad beans down in the middle of the table and make it a social thing.
1.2kg (2.5lb) broad beans unshelled
2 large handfuls finely grated parmesan
squeeze of lemon juice
4 sprigs mint, leaves picked and finely sliced
1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, remove broad beans from their cozy pods.
2. Simmer broad beans for 3-4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of really cold water. Allow to cool.
3. Bribe your helpers with wine and remove the pale green skins from each bean to reveal the bright green treasure inside. You’ll end up with about 200g (7oz) after all that work.
4. Pat the precious beans dry then take a large handful and chop finely.
5. Return to the bowl and stir in cheese, lemon juice, mint leaves and enough extra virgin olive oil to give you the consistency you want. If serving as a sauce I go for more oil or if serving as a dip I use less.
6. Taste and season generously with salt and more lemon juice if it tastes a little flat.
not Spring? – use frozen broad beans. You’ll need about 350g (12oz) These can be added straight to the pot of boiling water.
short on time? – then broad beans definitely aren’t for you! Replace with 200g (7oz) frozen peas (no need for any peeling – just simmer to defrost then you’re good to add the cheese etc.
dairy-free / vegan – replace Parmesan with finely grated Brazil nuts or almond meal.
more pesto like – add in a small finely chopped clove of garlic and serve with a handful of roasted pine nuts.
different herbs – I love mint here but fresh basil leaves are also great or try flat leaf parsley.
broad bean sauce – whizz everything in the food processor until you have a smoothish purée.
PROBLEM SOLVING GUIDE
bland – seasoning is important here. Try a little more salt or lemon juice. Sometimes more Parmesan will be what you need.
watery – it’s important to dry the peeled broad beans well before adding the oil etc to avoid having a watery mess.
too crunchy – I like my broad beans ‘al dente’ like well cooked pasta. Best to taste a broad bean before draining from the pot to make sure they are tender enough for you.
mushy broad beans – this means they’ve been overcooked. Make sure you pat them dry with paper towel before adding the other ingredients to get rid of all the excess moisture. Next time check them earlier in the cooking process.
I tend to either serve as a dip with crusty bread or as a salad/ sauce to accompany BBQ meat (lamb cutlets are especially good but so is steak) or fish. Will work pretty much anywhere you’d normally use pesto like pasta or on top of soups.
Looking for an easy way to improve your healthy cooking habits?
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