Plum Soufflé with Cardamom & Orange. Serve with very cold runny cream, or with a dollop of ice cream – plopped on top, if you like, so it sinks slowly into the hot fruity clouds. Either way, the contrast in temperatures is blissful.
Plums are not particularly associated with the Middle East; however, we tasted some extraordinarily intense dried plum pastes and ‘leathers’ during our travels around northern Iran and Turkey, and they have an affinity with rosewater and many Middle Eastern spices, such as fennel, anise, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. They are one of the earliest domesticated and most widespread fruits available and, given the relentlessly productive nature of most plum trees, it’s a good idea to have a healthy supply of recipes for this tart, juicy fruit. This soufflé is one of our favourites.
French soufflés traditionally use variously flavoured crème pâtissières as a base for whisked egg whites. This simpler version does away with the crème pât and relies on nothing more than cornflour to provide the stabilising force to a fruity purée. It makes for a more intense soufflé and you can vary the fruit with the seasons (using the same 300 g/10½ oz weight of fruit purée). If you prepare the fruit purée well in advance – always a plus – it just leaves the egg whites to be whisked at the last minute.
60 g (2 oz) melted unsalted butter, for brushing
50 g (1¾ oz) caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for dusting
200 g (7 oz) egg whites (around 5), at room temperature
300 g (10½ oz) Plum purée (see below)
icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting
pouring (single/light) cream or ice cream, to serve
400 g (14 oz) plums (blood plums make for the prettiest colour), quartered and pitted
seeds from 3 cardamom pods
80 g (2¾ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
zest and juice of ½ large orange
20 g (¾ oz) cornflour (cornstarch) or arrowroot
1.5 litre (51 fl oz) soufflé dish, or six small soufflé dishes, around 150–200 ml (5–7 fl oz)
To make the plum purée, put the plums into a saucepan. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the cardamom seeds with ½ teaspoon of the caster sugar and add to the pan along with the rest of the sugar and the orange zest and juice. Cover and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15–20 minutes or until the plums are meltingly soft. Cool briefly, then, using a food processor or hand-held blender, blitz the cooked fruit to a purée and push it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any stubborn bits of skin. Measure out 300 g (10½ oz) of the purée (which will pretty much be all of it) and return it to the cleaned-out pan.
In a small bowl, mix the cornflour with a few tablespoons of the hot plum purée, then tip this back into the pan with the rest of the purée. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about a minute, stirring, until it thickens. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool completely. If making ahead of time, you can cover and refrigerate the purée for 1–2 days, but bring it to room temperature before combining with the egg whites.
When ready to bake the soufflé, preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) fan-forced/200ºC (400ºF). Use a pastry brush to grease the inside of the soufflé dish(es) with melted butter. Make sure you brush upwards, from base to top, as this does help the mixture to rise evenly. Dust with a little caster sugar, shaking off any excess, then refrigerate the dish to set the butter while you finish preparing the soufflé mix.
Put the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until they start to froth. Then, with the motor running, scatter on the sugar and continue whisking to medium-stiff glossy peaks.
Lightly whisk two large spoonfuls of the whisked egg whites into the plum purée to loosen it. Then use a large metal spoon to fold in the rest, making sure you cut through and lift the purée up from the base of the bowl. The aim is to incorporate the egg whites evenly, but to retain as much volume as possible.
Spoon the mixture into the soufflé dish(es) and smooth the top with a spatula. Use the tip of a knife (or your thumb) to run around the inside of the rim, creating an indent, which will also help the soufflé rise evenly. Place the dish in a small, deep roasting tin and pour in enough boiling water to come a quarter of the way up the sides. Bake for 20–25 minutes (10–15 minutes if using smaller dishes), or until the soufflés are well risen and a skewer comes out almost clean.
Remove from the oven, dust with icing sugar and serve immediately with very cold pouring cream or with ice cream.
+ Also Serve With
Honeyed yoghurt sorbet
Rose jam ice cream
Cream cheese ice cream
Chocolate-halva ice cream
This is an edited extract from SUQAR by Greg & Lucy Malouf published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $65 and is available in stores nationally.
Photographer: ©Alan Benson