RAISE YOUR GAME

Fresh eggs and a closed oven are key to a souf­fle.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FOOD, ANNA KING SHAHAB -

Don’t be fright­ened of a souf­fle. They’re easy. Make sure you have good, fresh eggs, and just fol­low the in­struc­tions. And DON’T OPEN THE OVEN DOOR.

This is the pud­ding I make when I’ve for­got­ten to make pud­ding – that sud­den mo­ment of re­al­i­sa­tion/hor­ror when you de­cide to have a spon­ta­neous din­ner gath­er­ing, you have ev­ery­one look­ing ex­pec­tantly over at you af­ter the main, and you haven’t got the heart to run down to the dairy for a Sara Lee.

It’s much eas­ier than it looks – I’ve been mak­ing it since I was a teenager. You can of course use any cit­rus you like; le­mon will al­ways be my first love, but lime is pretty de­li­cious, too. Make sure you save a bit for break­fast the next morn­ing; with a lit­tle runny cream when no­body is watch­ing.

A LE­MON SOUF­FLE

Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 15 mins Serves: 6

250ml milk

250g caster sugar

50g corn­flour

8 eggs, sep­a­rated

200ml le­mon juice (about 3 lemons), plus zest

Re­cently I en­joyed a South­east Asian-in­spired ve­gan tast­ing menu by Chef Alok Vas­anth and team at The Tast­ing Shed, an ex­cel­lent restau­rant in Kumeu, west of Auck­land. One of a se­ries of snacks we were served was a tamarind “rice wash” soup, a thin broth packed with flavour. Vas­anth had looked to the Philip­pines, where sini­gang soup is soured with tamarind, and fea­tures the starchy wa­ter from the sec­ond rins­ing of rice. “This means you’re not wast­ing the starchy wa­ter, which con­tains valu­able nu­tri­ents, and you’re also not wast­ing the wa­ter, which is a pre­cious re­source,” ex­plains Vas­anth, who es­chewed meat or other veg­eta­bles for his ver­sion, in­stead treat­ing the tamarind as both the main in­gre­di­ent and sour­ing agent.

The flesh from tamarind pods is used by cooks through­out South­east and South Asia, some parts of the Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Amer­ica, to add sour­ness. Vas­anth notes that its abil­ity to be stored is a bonus, es­pe­cially in trop­i­cal cli­mates – lime juice wouldn’t last a day with­out go­ing fizzy, whereas tamarind pre­serves well. (On that note, Vas­anth sug­gests try­ing tamarind in place of cit­rus in a vinai­grette.) As well as tart­ness, tamarind adds other flavour di­men­sions to a dish. “Darker notes of caramel,” ex­plains Vas­anth, “which helps it stand up to strong flavours like fer­mented fish or shrimp, and spices.”

This is why tamarind is of­ten paired with seafood – one fa­mous ex­am­ple be­ing Pe­nang’s as­sam laksa, where tamarind both bol­sters and bal­ances a gen­er­ous amount of flaked oily fish, and a spoon­ful of po­tent shrimp paste. My mother-in-law, Eman, makes an Irani-style char­coal-bar­be­cued mack­erel flavoured with a sweet-sour tamarind glaze. Its caramelly sweet­ness can be played up: a dish of tamarind prawns I once ate by the beach on the is­land of Koh Lanta in Thai­land saw palm sugar, fish sauce, shal­lots and tamarind com­bined to make a fan­tas­tic sweet and sour sauce.

Whereas cit­rus needs to be added at the very end of cook­ing (or heat will de­stroy its flavour and sour-fac­tor), Vas­anth says tamarind is best added three-quar­ters of the way through cook­ing.

There are op­tions when se­lect­ing tamarind to cook with. Buy the pulp, which comes in a dark-brown, com­pressed block, and needs to be soaked then strained to re­move the seeds and cre­ate a kind of paste to cook with, or in plas­tic tubs you’ll find ready-strained pulp, or a more con­cen­trated paste. Asian and In­dian gro­cers boast a se­lec­tion of can­died tamarind prod­ucts – go forth and ex­plore.

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