I honestly can't say why I decided on the name Damien for the celebrity chef in my foodie-fiction Yes, Chef! Perhaps it stemmed from Damien Thorn the Antichrist and son of the devil in The Omen series. Chef Damien Malone certainly has some devil-like qualities. What I can say for sure, is that the character was not named after the wonderful Sydney chef Damien Pignolet.
A fellow Penguin author; Damien Pignolet is generally recognised as one of Australia's finest chefs. I met Damien last year when my current boss, chef Andrew McConnell (whom incidentally is also nothing like the chef in my book) invited him to present a cooking class on the tricky French classic - soufflés.
The word soufflé means to breathe, inflate or puff up. Damien tells me the success of a soufflé is creating a base or foundation which has sufficient body, while not being too heavy to support the lightness of the egg whites. If you're as confused by this statement as I was fear not, Damien assures me his recipe below for passionfruit and praline soufflé is one of the easiest to make (as soufflés go).
Passionfruit & Praline soufflé -
This soufflé can be made several hours in advance and kept in the fridge until required or frozen then thawed – Damien assures me it works perfectly.
75g blanched almonds
125g white sugar
For the praline, place the almonds and hazelnuts on separate baking trays and toast in a 150 C oven until the almonds are golden and the hazelnuts' skins begin to split. Remove the nuts from the oven and quickly rub the hot hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove as much of the skins as possible. Add the hazelnuts to the almonds and cover with a clean tea towel to keep them warm.
In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the 50ml of water over low heat. Bring to a boil and cook to a deep caramel registering 170 C on a candy thermometer. Immediately add the nuts, stir well and quickly pour the praline onto a lightly greased baking tray, spreading it out thinly. When it is cold, break into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until the pieces are about the size of a pine nut.
50g soft unsalted butter, to grease the soufflé dishes
caster sugar, to coat the greased dishes
360ml passionfruit pulp (from about 10-12 passionfruit)
120g caster sugar
300ml egg whites (from about 10 eggs)
pinch of cream of tartar
100g caster sugar
pure icing sugar, for dusting
whipped thickened cream (35% fat), to serve
Grease 8 chilled and dry soufflé dishes, each 240ml capacity, with the butter and dust with caster sugar.
To make the soufflé base, mix about ¼ of the passionfruit with the cornflour to make a rather wet slurry. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining passionfruit pulp with the 120g caster sugar and stir over low heat, making sure the sugar is dissolved before the passionfruit syrup comes to the boil. Off the heat, add the passionfruit and cornflour slurry to the syrup and cook gently, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes (it will become very thick). Pass through a fine sieve into a large bowl then allow the passionfruit base to cool until it is just lukewarm.
Beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat to firm peaks. Scatter the 100g caster sugar over the whites and continue beating until stiff peaks are formed. Beat ¼ of the egg-white mixture into the passionfruit base. Scatter 8 tablespoons of the praline over the remaining egg-white mixture then pour the passionfruit base on top and fold in quickly but thoroughly.
Fill the prepared soufflé dishes almost to the top, wipe the rims clean and refrigerate until required.
When ready to cook the soufflés, preheat the oven to 175 C. Bake the soufflés for 14 minutes, or until they are well risen. Remove from the oven, dust generously with icing sugar and serve immediately, accompanied by whipped cream.
For more fabulous recipes from this master of French cuisine, see Damien Pignolet's cookbook French published by Penguin Lantern.
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