Day 100: Raspberry Soufflé with Raspberry Sorbet
inspired by Lympstone Manor
It really was a no brainer when I had to decide what to cook today. To mark my 100th post.
It had to be a soufflé.
Not only because a soufflé represents a certain level of cooking skill. It’s renowned on programmes like Masterchef for being a risky choice for an amateur (which I definitely am!). It get’s it’s status not only from being delicious, but from being difficult.
Also because one of my pre-lockdown impulse purchases were some soufflé ramekins. I’m still not quite sure why I thought that was an essential bit of kitchen kit that I needed for months of home cooking. I think we all went a bit crazy that week before lockdown. At least I didn’t stockpile loo roll.
So now I have these ramekins I need to use them.
I have technically made a soufflé before. My twice baked goats cheese soufflé back on day 74. But a twice baked soufflé is cheating. You let it rise, and then sink, and then you bake it in the oven again. So if it doesn’t rise no one will no. It’s still delicious, but it has none of the wow factor of a single baked soufflé.
And I think we are all missing a bit of wow factor in our lives right now. Lockdown has not been great for wow factor.
Ask anyone who has celebrated a birthday, anniversary on any other life milestone during these past few months, it’s tricky to work out exactly how to mark the occasion. What makes yet another day mainly at home seem special?
So besides popping some bubbly in the fridge for later, here’s how I’m marking the day to celebrate my small blogging achievement.
I am having my cups of tea in my posh teacups. The ones that normally only get used when we have visitors. My 80p mugs from Wilko are out, my posh John Lewis mug is in. Today feels special already.
I’ve spent the morning having a wander around Borough Market, one of my favourite places in London. With the tourists and the hoards of people seeking street food absent, it was a quiet but immensely enjoyable affair. I could actually see the stalls. I didn’t have to queue or fight my way past selfie sticks once.
I’ve bought myself all kinds of treats. Clams, venison, broad beans. Some eye-wateringly expensive, yet beautiful, heirloom tomatoes. All now in my kitchen. All future blog posts in the making.
Becuase I do want this blog to have a future. Especially with restaurants starting to open up from the weekend a lot of people have asked if I will stop at 100. Call it a lockdown achievement and move on.
But I don’t want to. Partly because, like restaurants opening or lockdown easing, nothing at the moment is as simple as stop and start. We are gradually finding our new normal. So will I with my blog.
My new normal will be gradually slowing down to a few posts a week. Still the same concept, each will include a dish I cook inspired by a restaurant. This industry needs people championing it more than ever right now. And I will happily be one of them.
Plus as the world slowly unlocks itself, it becomes all the more apparent that my work and life will not be back to normal for a long time. Theatre has a huge fight ahead of it, in order to reopen. In order to survive until it can reopen.
I have needed this cooking blog. I’ve relied on it as a way to be creative, a way to challenge myself and a way to structure my day. This blog has taught me as much about myself as it has about cooking.
It’s also taught me it’s not a very clever idea to start a food blog when you don’t have a dishwasher. Seriously, I wouldn’t recommend it.
But I would recommend writing a blog. For anyone who thinks they might enjoy writing, but are too worried how to start, a blog is the perfect way to get going. Over the past 100 days I have written over 105,000 words.
Thats more than the first Harry Potter book. More than George Orwell’s 1984. I reckon I’m a couple of posts away from the length of Wuthering Heights.
Now I’m not for a second putting myself in the same league as these authors. I have no desire to write a novel. But it does show you that writing something longer is possible. Especially when you break it into little daily posts.
So piles of dirty dishes aside, this has been a truly amazing experience.
So I know what I want to cook for my 100th post. But the next question is where do I want to be inspired by? Who cooks a good soufflé?
The answer is lots of restaurants. But often they are the places that are destination restaurants, places that have dedicated pastry teams in the kitchen and time to cook them to order.
So somewhere pretty fancy. Somewhere you would go for a special occasion.
So I ask myself…. where would I like to go for a special occasion? Where else in on my restaurant bucket list?
I think of Lympstone Manor. A hotel and restaurant in Devon owned by chef Michael Caines. This michelin starred establishment looks amazing. The food, the hotel rooms, the setting. When I go onto their homepage I’m greeted by a picture of the sea. I would love to see the sea right now.
For now I’m much more interested in what’s on their menu. Low and behold on their A La Carte Menu is a soufflé.
Raspberry Soufflé, Raspberry Sorbet
So here goes.
First of all I make a sorbet. I blitz 350g of raspberries in a food processor with a squeeze of lemon. Next I pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds. I heat caster sugar and water to form a syrup and once it’s thick I mix it into the raspberry puree. Into the freezer.
That was yesterday. This morning I take my frozen raspberry mix out, let it thaw slightly and chop into chunks. Back into the food processor with a little bit of egg white and blend until it’s combined. This turns the sorbet from bright red to a lovely shade of pink.
I know using egg white might sound strange, but I’ve learnt it adds a lovely creaminess to the sorbet and also stops it forming into massive clumps of ice crystals. It also seems to defrost better, you’re not waiting hours and hours for it to be soft enough to scoop.
I am, however, waiting hours and hours for it to refreeze through. Impatiently pacing in and out of the kitchen, nervous about my soufflé.
In fact I am so worried this is going to be a disaster I’ve made a second pudding. A sort of here’s one I made earlier back up pudding. An understudy dessert, waiting in wings just in case my soufflé is a complete flop and I am left with nothing to write about.
Any confidence I’ve gained in the kitchen seems to have completely evaporated. I’m a nervous wreck.
With the sorbet finally back to frozen it’s time to begin.
I’m following this James Martin recipe for the soufflé. I’ve already made the raspberry jam which is waiting at room temperature, ready to go.
So all I need to do now is whip egg whites, butter and sugar a ramekin (whatever that means), fold in the raspberries and put them in the oven.
Turns out buttering and sugaring a ramekin is quite good fun. You put a bit of butter in a ramekin and rub it all over the base and sides with your finger. Then pour in some sugar and move it around inside, until it’s stuck to the buttered surfaces. Including my fingers. And my face. How did that happen?
Now to whisk the egg whites. Why, oh why, have I still not got an electric whisk?? My arm is literally about to fall off.
I’m meant to whisk until soft peaks form. I’m never entirely sure what counts as a soft peak. Is that when I’m meant to be able to turn the bowl upside down over my head and it not fall out??
I can’t bring myself to do that. Not because I’m worried about getting covered in egg (I mean, I’m already covered in butter and sugar). But because if I do get covered in egg that means I’ll have to start again. My arm can’t take anymore whisking.
I fold in the sugar and some of the raspberry puree. Into the ramekin and then into the oven for 10 minutes.
I’m back to playing pretend Bake Off. Staring into the oven desperately clutching a cup of tea (in my posh mug) with a look of impending doom on my face.
Five minutes in and nothing is happening. It just seems to be going a bit crusty on top.
I force myself to leave the room and stop looking at it. You know how a watched pot never boils? Maybe a watched soufflé doesn’t rise.
Three minutes later I’m back in front of the oven. It’s rising! It’s rising!
I am literally jumping up and down, shouting at my oven. Thank god Aidan is at work right now.
Out of the oven as soon as the 10 minute timer beeps, I dust it with icing sugar, and I tuck in, scoop of (still not quite frozen enough) sorbet on the side.
The texture is amazing. Apparently the correct soufflé should be like eating a cloud that dissolves in your mouth. As someone who has never eaten a cloud, it’s hard to tell for sure, but I reckon I’m pretty close.
I feel so proud of myself!
But you know what? I can’t finish it. It’s too sweet for me. Maybe next time (because there will be a next time!) I will not fold in the extra sugar. Maybe I’ll use a bit less of the raspberry jam or squeeze a bit of lemon in. Who knows.
As much as this dessert sums up my lockdown achievements in the kitchen, it’s by no means my favourite dish.
It just goes to show it doesn’t matter how fancy, how difficult or how pretty a dish is. If it tastes good and makes you smile, that is all that matters.
Food, more than anything else, should make you feel good. It’s as simple as that.