What’s the most important ingredient for a dinner party? Most people will say it’s the food, or the wine, or the table decorations.
But if you ask me, they’re all playing second fiddle to the most vital element of all. The host. That’s right…..you. If your guests simply wanted food and wine, then there’s plenty of great restaurants to choose from. But they haven’t done that, they’ve come to your place, to spend time with you.
So the central aim of the affair becomes clear – plan a menu that allows you to spend as much time with your guests as possible, not locked away in the kitchen for the whole evening. For this I usually recommend that not more than one of three courses should require preparation to order. This way (with most of the work done ahead of time) you’ll be unshackled from the stove and well-positioned in a comfy chair with a glass of wine.
But, that said, you still want a bit of show-off, don’t you? After all, then evening should be memorable. So after a homemade pate to start and a slow-roasted lamb shoulder to follow, how about the one a-la-minute dessert that’ll have them cheering in the aisles.
That’s right, soufflé!!
Don’t worry, it’s easier than you could ever imagine. Just follow the recipe below, and keep in mind some basic rules. Double-butter the ramekins to keep them slippery. Don’t over-whip the meringue – it needs some elasticity to be able to expand in the oven. The oven needs to be hot to seal the soufflé and trap the expanding air inside. And place the ramekins on a heavy-preheated tray to bake.
This last tip is the most important as soufflés cook from underneath. The best way to get this right is to use a preheated pizza stone or thick terracotta tile placed on the bottom shelf, then bake the ramekins on this.
Oh, and serve them quickly. The elegant and impressive puff of your soufflé is a miracle indeed…but a short-lived one.
Cocoa-crusted raspberry souffle