May 08, 2006

Mushroom Soufflé Roll

There are few sentences where the words ‘soufflé' and ‘reheat’ reside happily together. And you can forget about ‘fail-proof’. Here is one of those precious few:

If you think my mother’s fail-proof mushroom soufflé roll is good, try it reheated - it’s fantastic.

It’s one of my mother’s tried-and-true brunch dishes, where egg and vegetables metamorphose into something elegant and addictive. Imagine: a buttery, sautéed tangle of mushrooms and onions, enfolded into a cocoon of melt-in-the-mouth, crisp-crusted soufflé. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

The recipe comes from a cookbook by Phillippa Cheifitz, a well-known South African cook who develops simple, tasty recipes for cookbooks and food magazines. Soufflé roll variations include spinach (with ricotta and sour cream) and smoked salmon (salmon, ricotta, sour cream and caviar), but I think the best version is the mushroom one. Here it is:

Mushroom Soufflé Roll

Soufflé layer:

4 TBS butter
½ cup flour
Pinch salt
2 cups milk
1 tsp sugar
4 eggs, separated

Preheat your oven to 160C/325F. Grease a jelly/Swiss roll tin, or a big brownie tin, and line with unwaxed parchment paper.

Beat the egg yolks to combine. Set aside, next to the stove.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and salt and stir for one minute, being careful not to brown the flour. Gradually add milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the butter-flour has dissolved, and has thickened the milk to the texture of smooth mashed potatoes. Congratulations – you have just made béchamel, a thick, bland base sauce. Remove from heat. Stir in the sugar.

Using a ladle or measuring cup, add a little béchamel to the egg yolks, and stir quickly. Add a little more, and whisk briskly. Continue doing this until the yolk mixture feels quite hot (test with the tip of your pinky; it should be hot, but not at all uncomfortable). This should take a couple ladlefuls of béchamel, and tempers the eggs, so they won’t turn scrambled on you when you do the next step.

Take the egg yolk mixture, and pour it into the pot containing the rest of your béchamel. Whisk like mad to incorporate.

In a clean bowl, whip your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold this into your béchamel. Gently pour this mixture into your parchment-lined tin. Use a spatula to spread it into an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden. Turn out onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the original parchment paper.

Mushroom filling:

2 med onions, chopped
2 TBS oil
2 TBS butter
400g/13oz. mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 TBS lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped chives

Melt the butter with the oil in a large frying pan. Sauté the onions until tender and lightly coloured. Add the mushrooms, and fry until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat, and stir in the lemon juice, and 3 TBS of the sour cream. Season to taste.

Spread this mixture over the soufflé layer. Use the parchment paper it lies on to roll the soufflé layer around to form a roll, and onto a waiting serving plate. Don’t worry if it cracks a bit; it just makes it look a bit more rustic. Sprinkle with chopped chives, and serve the roll sliced, with a dollop of sour cream on each serving. It should feed six to eight as part of a brunch, or as a starter.

According to Mum, this freezes well, and I can personally verify that it’s even better when reheated for ten minutes in a warmish oven: the surface of the soufflé gets ever-so-slightly crispy, which contrasts beautifully with the tender, creamy soufflé texture. Yum.