Spinach and Ricotta Souffles with Fonduta Sauce
Everything in this recipe can be made well in advance and then all that needs to happen is the egg whites get whisked and incorporated just before cooking.
The souffles are served with an Italian fonduta, a creamy melted cheese sauce, and make a lovely starter. Vegetarians may like to know you can buy a Parmesan 'style' cheese from Bookham and Harrison Farms Ltd.
This recipe is from Delia's Vegetarian Collection. Serves 8 as a starter
First of all, 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.
For the souffles, 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. Now remove the pan from the heat and transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Next, beat the chopped spinach and the ricotta into the sauce, along with the egg yolks.
Now 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.
Whilst the soufflés are cooking, you can make the fonduta sauce. Put the crème fraîche into a small saucepan with the cheese and slowly bring it up to simmering point with the cayenne and a good squeeze of lemon juice, whisking as the cheese melts.
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.
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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.