Sunday, 15 July 2012

Spinach, Penne and Cheese Spoufflé

Dish: Spinach, Penne and Cheese Spoufflé

Difficulty: Really bloody hard

Utensils Used: Sieve, Electric Whisk, Wooden Spoon x 2, Cheese Grater

Cock Ups: 3

Serves: 4

Recipe Book: River Cottage Veg Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Cooking: This dish was destined to be a disaster as soon as the heavens opened right as I was about to go out and buy ingredients. Cosmic foreshadowing? I think so.

It starts off relatively simple: chop half an onion, measure 300ml of whole milk (first mistake - we only had half, but that doesn't matter, right?) and put into a pan with a few whole peppercorns and bring to just below a simmer. Take off the heat and leave to infuse. Easy.

While that was infusing, I got on with the next parts of the recipe - cooking 100g of penne pasta al dente, and wilting 250g of spinach. Already the number of pans this required was starting to exceed my dishwasher capacity, but I figured I could reuse a few for different parts.

When the pasta was cooked it was strained and mixed with a little oil to stop it sticking. The spinach was similarly drained and left to cool. So far so good.

Next, 50g of butter needed to be melted into a pan, then mixed with 50g of plain flour to make a roux. Cock up one - my flour was so old it had mites in it. Fortunately, my parents don't live far away, and after a quick phone call, my sister came round - armed with an umbrella against the deluge outside - with some flour.

I mixed the flour into the butter to make the roux and cooked for a minute, simultaneously bringing the infused milk back to temperature. I shouldn't have multitasked. It was too much for my poor brain. Because the next thing I did was strain the onion and the peppercorns out of the milk - only saving the wrong bit. I'd poured almost all the milk down the sink before I realised what an idiot I was being.

I put the onion and peppercorns back in the pan. By now, I'd used the measuring jug to hold the three egg yolks I'd separated out from their whites ready for the next stage. My bid to save on washing up had come back to bite me.

Judging the volume of milk by the white lines on the pan, I sloshed some more in. A quick blast on maximum heat got it to boiling point, then I left it simmering rather vigorously in an attempt to speed up the infusion process.

Meanwhile, I whisked up the four egg whites I'd separated out (one egg yolk in spare - not sure what to do with a spare egg yolk. Ideas?) The recipe book said to make them into 'stiff white peaks.' My nan's method of testing egg white stiffness is to turn it upside down over your head. If you didn't get a face full of egg white, they were stiff enough, but given my current run of luck, I wasn't about to try that. So I whisked them for a bit, until they looked good and peaky.

Returning to the roux, I strained the milk, correctly, then mixed it in to make a 'very thick' béchamel sauce. I then had to squeeze the water out of the now cool spinach (okay, I helped it along a little with the cooling by running the cold tap through it) and chop it up.

In my now stressed state, there was something deeply satisfying and therapeutic about squeezing the excess liquid from the spinach. The spinach, along with 75g of grated mature cheddar, a pinch of 'freshly' grated nutmeg and the penne pasta (which had stuck together despite the oil) was then stirred in, making a lovely green slop. 

The egg whites were then folded in, then the whole lot was tipped into a buttered dish and cooked at 190 for 25 minutes.

Only after I'd put it in the oven did I remember I was supposed to season with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Oops.

Washing Up Required: Quite a lot, despite my best attempts to minimise.

Result: While the Boyfriend said it looked like a blueberry muffin, the spoufflé did at least rise and brown as it was supposed to.

Taste Test: The Boyfriend described the taste as a bit 'beh bleh bur beg bar buh gur', specifying that this meant it was a bit cakey.

Personally, I thought it tasted quite nice, though a bit bland without the proper infusion and seasoning. The texture wasn't bad, and it was nicely filling. Though I probably should have served it with some salad or something.

Overall Verdict: Not the easiest or the quickest thing to make, but quite tasty, and a bit different. Perhaps a bit on the ambitious side for my particular culinary talents...


1 comment:

  1. Looks really good - apart from the pasta - I'd want to pick that out.