Twice-cooked goat's cheese soufflé

Main course: Serves 4
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This has been a fixture on the menu at my Blandford Street restaurant in London since it opened in 1989. The notion of serving a soufflé unmoulded originally came from Peter Kromberg, chef at Le Soufflé in the London Intercontinental Hotel. From there it seemed logical to make it in advance and just heat it through and sauce it when it was ordered.

As various chefs came and went at the restaurant, they varied its presentation, but the soufflé remains the same. It can be made perfectly well with soft goat's cheese, but has more flavour with a mixture of soft and hard - that is, fresh and mature. And you can add any herbs to it you like, although I prefer it plain.

It needs a denser structure than a normal soufflé to withstand the unmoulding, but otherwise is quite conventional. This recipe involves making double the quantity of soufflé base - the thick sauce - because half of it will be used to sauce the dish.

550ml milk
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
a large sprig of thyme
12 black peppercorns
hazelnut or olive oil
25g fine stale breadcrumbs (done in food-processor bowl)
1tbsp finely chopped toasted hazelnuts (done in food-processor bowl)
50g butter
50g flour
3 eggs
100g fresh goat's cheese
50g mature goat's cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4tbsp grated Parmesan, Gruyère or Cheddar

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the onion, bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns. Heat gently for 15 minutes, but don't let it reach simmering point. Remove from the heat and cool a little. Pour the infused milk through a strainer into a jug, pressing on the debris with the back of a ladle or a large spoon.

Prepare 4 large ramekins or straight-sided teacups by brushing with hazelnut or olive oil and lining with the breadcrumbs mixed with the hazelnuts.

Melt the butter in a fresh large saucepan, add the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add all the milk gradually, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps forming. Measure off roughly half and reserve in another small pan, covered (this half is for the sauce). Pour the remaining half into a bowl and cool for 5 minutes.

Separate the eggs one by one, stirring the yolks into the cooled sauce base and dropping the whites into a large bowl. Stir half the fresh and all the mature goat's cheese into the base. Whisk the whites until stiff and carefully fold into the sauce, seasoning well just before you have folded in all the whites. Check the flavour and add more cheese if necessary.

Divide the mixture between the ramekins and place in a roasting tin filled 4cm deep with boiling water and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

Finish off the accompanying sauce by adding the rest of the goat's cheese to the reserved white sauce and season well. Thin with a tablespoon or two of milk or cream if necessary.

When the soufflés are cold, or cool, upend the ramekins and shake each soufflé out into your hand. Place them in a suitably sized gratin or baking dish or dishes, pour the sauce over and sprinkle with the Parmesan or other cheese (goat's cheese isn't good at browning).

Heat through thoroughly in the oven and finish off by browning under the grill.

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