Spinach and Ricotta Souffles with Anchovy Sauce
Having spinach in the garden is a perfect joy.
The very young, textured leaves are great in salads, and the taller, darker green leaves for cooking. I have collected masses of lovely spinach recipes over the years, but have only recently tried this one, which was, for about 20 years, one of the signature dishes of Langan's Brasserie, in London's Mayfair, one of my most favourite restaurants in the world. Here I have set out my own interpretation. As usual with soufflés, everything can be made well in advance and then all it needs is for the egg whites to be whisked and incorporated just before cooking.
This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine (April 2003) Serves 8 as a starter
To begin the recipe, butter the ramekins and lightly dust the insides with parmesan.
Then thoroughly wash the spinach in several changes of cold water and pick it over, removing any thick, tough stalks or damaged leaves. Next, press the leaves into a large saucepan, sprinkle in some salt (but don't add water), cover and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Just let it collapse down into its own juices and then give it a stir halfway through. Now drain the spinach thoroughly in a colander, pressing it very firmly with a saucer to extract every last bit of juice – it needs to be quite dry.
Then chop it fairly finely. Next, pour the milk into a saucepan, then simply add the flour and butter and bring everything gradually up to simmering point, whisking continuously with a balloon whisk, until the sauce has thickened and become smooth and glossy. Then turn the heat down to its lowest possible setting and let the sauce cook very gently for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Now beat the chopped spinach and the ricotta into the sauce, along with the egg yolks.
Then season with salt, pepper, a generous amount of nutmeg and the cayenne. Beat the egg whites in a large, clean bowl until stiff, then, using a large metal spoon, fold one spoonful into the spinach sauce to 'loosen' it. Now carefully fold the remaining egg whites into the spinach mixture before dividing it equally between the 8 ramekins.
Sprinkle the tops of the soufflés with a little parmesan and bake on the baking sheet for 25-30 minutes, or until well risen and slightly browned on top. While the soufflés are cooking, you can make the anchovy sauce. Put the crème fraîche into a small saucepan, bring it up to simmering point and cook gently for 5 minutes, then stir in the anchovy essence (or sauce), cayenne and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
The soufflés need to be served hot and puffy from the oven, and at Langan's, they make an incision into each soufflé with a knife and pour in a little sauce, then hand the rest around separately in a jug.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (180°C), and pop the baking sheet in to pre-heat, too.
You will also need 8 ramekins, 1½ inches (4 cm) deep, with a base diameter of 3 in (7.5 cm), and a large baking sheet.