Friday, 7 September 2012

The Raymond Blanc Cookery Course-Part Two...

  I do hope people enjoyed hearing about my last cookery course at Raymond Blanc’s truly wonderful Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons.


As promised here is Part Two...

To begin with, can I continue on my stroll around the vegetable garden and show you more of the delights within it...


The gardens are full of beautiful sculptures...


And lovely views...

Even members of staff are commemorated in bronze

Though apparently this lady who provides the flowers for the house, is according to rumour, none too pleased about the portrayal of her chin...or chins...

Personally, I have to say, I thought it a rather magnificent and beautiful sculpture...though a little bemused if why she is so well known for providing flowers, she is seen here with fruit... 

Anyway I digress...

Back to the cooking...

One of the dishes I still have a fear of cooking, is a classic cheese soufflé.  I adore ordering one when out at a good restaurant and tucking into the wonderful towering edifice of a glorious cheese soufflé. 

However I dread to make it at home...And such is my anxiety that it will fail to turn out well and be a disappointment to myself and others, is that I simply avoid making it.

Mark Peregrine, our fantastic Tutor, explained that some of the myths around soufflés are sheer bunkum and he recommended the following...

Don’t open the oven door for the first five minutes but after that you can-the soufflé will not deflate-and he demonstrated this ample times!

The cheese used is highly important-Comte is the one Raymond would recommend but Gruyere would also work well plus if you wanted a dish with more ‘bite’ then try using a good Colston Bassett Stilton or Stinking Bishop.

Do try adding a spoonful of Kirsch- though I’m going to try it with some local Apple Brandy-for that little extra kick...

The following is a photograph of the soufflé made by Mark in his demonstration to us and Raymond’s recipe and his notes given to us on the course.

Comté Cheese Soufflé

Comté is my home, my village, my county; it gives me a sense of place. Maman Blanc would not cook her soufflé in individual soufflé moulds, but in a large shallow earthenware dish. She would place the delicate dish on the table for all of us to help ourselves. Sometimes the soufflé mixture would fill a flaky pastry tart. Of course, Comté only would be used. Never gruyerè or emmental.

Serves (Yield):                                         4 - 6                      Difficulty:                   ●●○
Preparation time:   20 mins        Cooking time:           30 mins
Special equipment: 1 x 25-30cm earthenware oval dish, electric whisking       machine, pastry brush
Planning ahead:                 
The soufflé base can be made up to 1 day in advance, covered with buttered paper to prevent crusting.

For the soufflé base:
50g                                   Unsalted butter
50g                                   Plain flour
250ml                               Whole milk
2                                         Egg yolks
100g                                Comté cheese grated
12g                                   Dijon mustard
2g / 2 pinches            Sea salt (*1)
1g / 2 pinches            White pepper

To line the soufflé dish:
20g                                   Unsalted butter, softened
20g                                   Breadcrumbs, dry.  

For the soufflé mix:
6 medium                        Egg whites
¼                                        juice of a Lemon
1g / 1 pinch                 Sea salt.

For the cooking of the soufflés:
20g of Comté cheese.

For the sauce, optional:
150ml                               Double cream
70g                                   Comté cheese, grated
4 turns of freshly ground white Pepper
Spoonful of Kirsch (optional)

Preparing the soufflé base:
Pre-heat the oven to 175ºC. Place a baking tray on the middle shelf in the oven.
On a medium heat in a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk until a smooth consistency; cook the roux to a blonde colour (*2).  Gradually add the milk little by little, whisking it to a smooth consistency.  Lower the heat; add the cheese and mustard, and continue to cook, stirring from time to time for 3-5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Add the egg yolks and stir until the mixture is consistent. Keep warm.

Lining the soufflé dish:
Line the earthenware soufflé dish with melted butter and the dried breadcrumbs, reserve.

Whisking the egg whites:
In a mixing bowl add the lemon juice and salt to the egg white and whisk until very soft peaks are formed, then continue whisking until you have firm peaks. (*3)

Making the soufflé mix and filling the dish:
For the soufflé mixture, in a large mixing bowl place the warm soufflé base and whisk in briskly ⅓ of the whipped egg whites to lighten the base. Then, carefully fold in the remaining egg whites; delicately cut and lift the mix to ensure there is a minimum loss of volume and lightness. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. (*4) Pour the soufflé mixture into the dish, smooth the top with a long palate knife and push the soufflé mixture away from the side of the dish by sliding your thumb around the edge.(*5)

Cooking the soufflés:
Cook in the pre-heated oven for 21 minutes, sprinkle the cheese on top of the soufflé and cook for a further 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Making the sauce:
Whilst the soufflé is cooking (optional) bring the cream to the boil and add the cheese and pepper, stirring continually. Once the cheese has melted, remove from the heat, taste. Of course a dash Kirsch would not go a miss. Pour the sauce into a separate sauce boat.

Place the soufflé and the sauce in the middle of the table; and let your family and friends help themselves.

Chef’s notes (*):
Salt does not help the coagulation of the egg white, it delays it. The salt helps to lengthen the whipping process. On the other hand the lemon juice does three things; it helps the coagulation of the egg white, prevents the graining, and makes the whipping of the egg white safe and easy. And as well, helps the flavour. 
By cooking the roux you make the flour much more digestible and also give a wonderful nutty flavour. In cooking the base for 3-5 minutes you are breaking down the starch molecules in the flour, which in turn will thicken the base and leave a creamy taste and texture.
For the savoury soufflé the egg white needs to be whipped a little firmer.
The Comte cheese, like parmesan holds quite a lot of salt, you should need little to none, additional salt.
To achieve a tall, even soufflé, thumb around the edge of the soufflé dish just before placing in the oven, this releases the mix, and helps the soufflé rise evenly.

The list of different cheeses to use for soufflés is endless; goats’ cheese, stinking bishop, stilton and gruyere are just a few.
As an alternative you can use individual moulds.4 x 5.5cm by 9.5cm moulds are perfect for this recipe.
If you use individual moulds, pre heat the oven to 200 degrees and cook for 10 minutes then sprinkle the cheese and cook for a further 6 minutes to achieve a great soufflé.

I have to say the soufflé made by Mark was absolutely delicious and I shall now be emboldened to make it again at home...fingers crossed!!

Another wonderful dish we made on the day and was then very fortunate to take home with ourselves wrapped up in a glorious box emblazoned with Le Manoir on it, was a tart made with in-season Swiss Chard...

And yet again I do have to highly recommend this, served warm or cold it is an absolute winner...and yes-it was most timely,  given the abundant growth of  Swiss Chard in all its glorious colours-ruby, white, green, golden etc that I have been fortunate to have had grown in my garden this Summer...

Gruyere Cheese & Swiss Chard Tart
The photo below is my own effort and the following recipe and notes given are Raymond’s given to us on the course. 

This dish is a tribute to the magnificent region of France where I come from, and one day you must make it part of one of your dinner parties!

Serves (Yield):               8 guests Difficulty:          ●○○
Preparation time:       30 mins   Cooking time:    30 mins
Special equipment:     2 tart rings 18 x 2 cm; a baking sheet

Planning ahead:                 
The pastry must be prepared at least 30 minutes in advance and refrigerated.
The tart can be made up to half an hour prior to the meal and kept warm.

For the pastry:
250g                                Flour, plain
1g / 1 pinch                 Salt
125g                                Butter, unsalted, diced
55g / 1                           Egg, medium organic

For the filling:
200g / 2 stalks          Swiss chard, peeled (*1) and cut into 4cm Batons
30g /2 tbsp                 Butter unsalted
60 ml / 4 tbsp             Water
100ml                               Milk, whole organic
100ml                               Cream, whipping
110g /                            Eggs, medium organic
200g                                Cheese, Gruyere
5 rasps                            Nutmeg - optional
2g / 2 pinches            Sea salt
1g / 2 pinches            Pepper, black freshly ground

Preparing the pastry:
First to make the pastry, place the flour and the salt into a large bowl.
Rub the cold diced butter in with your fingers until the mixture is even in colour and resembles fine breadcrumbs, and then add the egg in the middle of the well. Work the mixture with a pastry scraper, adding water if necessary, adding a little at a time, until the dough begins to hold together.
Bring the dough together with your hand and shape it into a ball (*2).
Push the dough into a patty shape, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Then roll the pastry to 2-3 mm thick between two sheets of clingfilm and line the tart tin and refrigerate for a further 1 hour(*3). Pre heat the oven to 190ºC.

Blind baking the pastry case:
Line the inside of the pastry with greaseproof and fill with baking beans. Blind bake the pastry in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove the baking beans and replace into the oven to ensure an even golden colour. Egg wash the interior of the pastry and place in the oven to set the egg wash.

Preparing the filling and baking:

Simmer the chard stalks in the water, butter and seasonings for 10 minutes until the chard stalks are soft and melting but retain their texture. In a large bowl mix together the milk, cream, eggs and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg (*4).
Sprinkle evenly the grated cheese and arrange the chard pieces on the base of the tart case.
Place the tart back into the oven and gently pour the mixture into the tart.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving to your guests.

Chef’s notes (*):
If the Swiss chard is young it will not require peeling. As the stalks become older they can become quite fibrous and may require peeling.
Do not overwork the dough, or the pastry will become tough.
This will prevent the pastry from shrinking when you cook it.
Gruyere cheese holds a substantial amount of salt, so take care when seasoning this dish.           

Gruyere can be replaced by Emmental, which is less salty.
Other fillings you could use are Roquefort and celery, Pumpkin and Spinach, Goats cheese and tomato.

I do have to say that travelling home to Wales after the course had ended with the warm quiche it in its lovely box on the back seat; the aroma in the car was mouth-watering!

My apologies but I do seem to have gone on a bit...

However I just wanted to share the pleasure and enjoyment I had from this course. The place is magnificent, the cookery school a delight to work in and the staff so, so pleasant and helpful. The recipes and the extra hints and advice were very good indeed and Mark Peregrine as Head Tutor is an exceptional and gifted teacher.

You leave the course not only with the fantastic quiche in its lovely box to take home and share but also a framed certificate which now sits very proudly in my kitchen and your own chef’s white jacket emblazoned with the Raymond Blanc’s motif and other goodies. The memories and experiences gained are truly wonderful.

Highly, highly recommended!!

Until next time...
Eat well and seasonally.

Ps. This is one snail I would love to have in my garden...


  1. delicious food, photos, and commentary

    1. Thank you David for your very kind comment-much appreciated!

  2. Sounds as if that was one of the best courses you have attended. I want Raymond's garden, please!

    1. Mark you would have loved to have strolled around there! Absolutely fabulous place and yes the cookery course was simply fantastic...

  3. Wow the garden and grounds are just beautiful. I would have to say I am a bit jealous. Thanks for sharing I really enjoyed the tour...

    1. Hi Dusty,

      Yes it is a lovely place. Although clearly a working vegetable garden providing produce for the restaurant, there is still an air of tranquillity about it.

  4. Both the cheese sufle and the cheese tart look mouth watering. Time to cook...!

  5. I am so jealous! The course sounds amazing, and of course, so does the food! Thanks esp for all those souffle tips!

    1. Hi Shu Han,

      Lovely to hear from you whilst you are in Singapore!
      The course is absolutely amazing-my best one by far! I am now going to be brave and make a cheese soufflé again...

  6. I love eating egg dishes but I always struggle to get them just right - lovely to get tips from a master!

    1. Hi Liz,

      I know what you mean!! Cooking time for my quiches varies so much as I don’t tend to follow a recipe and jut throw in what veggies, eggs and cheese I have to hand...

  7. That really does sound an excellent course. I have to admit I have never eaten a souffle or attempted to make one - something that really should be remedied. Your chard tart looks equally delicious.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      I must admit I love a good cheese soufflé which is why I’m always disappointed with my own. Still, my next attempt should-fingers crossed-be an improvement...

  8. How wonderful. Your souffle is making me hungry, I love comte. Your chef's notes are really useful!

    1. I must admit even looking at the photo of that soufflé myself make me feel hungry!!!

  9. How wonderful, as I read this post I was sure I could smell the soufflé cooking, of course I was mistaken, it was the cheese tart! I loved this post. I am, of course, deeply envious of that wonderful kitchen garden and the sculptures. What a wonderful course - and thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      I have to say on the way back home, the smell of the warm cheese tart wafting from its box on the back seat of the car was rather delicious!

  10. What gorgeous gardens and these are amazing sculptures. I do think that poor woman has been given a few too many chins! I would love a snail like that in my garden too. I also thought you couldn't open the oven door at all when you have a souffle in their. Thanks for the good advice xx

    1. Hi Charlie,

      The sculptures were beautiful and I only took photos of just a few of them. What struck me afterwards was that they all seemed very clean-i.e. no bird mess...I wonder if someone has a job ensuring they stay immaculate?

  11. Thank-you for this wonderful tour, parts one and two, it seemed a very special experience! I can smell the delicious aroma of the soufflé and chard tart making me very hungry now...

    1. And I get very hungry too when I read your lovely blog!!

  12. I have always been intimidated when it comes to souffles as well. I love to use my local farm eggs in as many recipes as I can. Maybe I will be brave and try the souffle. Great recipes!

    1. Glad I’m not the only one who finds soufflés intimidating-still...we can both be brave now!!

  13. The cheese dishes look very delicious... and nice garden views...

    1. Hi Lrong,

      It is a very tranquil and peaceful garden-an absolute pleasure to spend some wandering around.

  14. Beautiful place! I could spend hours walking about even before the class!

    1. Hi David,

      It was lovely just walking up through the gardens from the car park when I arrived. The main path is lined with lavender which perfumed the air as you brushed pass. The vegetable gardens were a feast for the eye as well as our stomachs!

  15. I'm sorry to be late in commenting but I not receiving any notifications when you post. Another wonderful day of cooking and learning. I always love all the notes that you give with each recipe...they are very much appreciated.

    1. Hi Karen,

      Many thanks for stopping by and your kind comments and hope you are having a good holiday in Europe! Not too sure why sometimes people get the notifications of a new post and not at other times-mysteries of cyberspace!!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.