Soufflé au potiron

Pumpkin soufflé

This pretty, seasonal soufflé may be served as a lunch dish, accompanied by a salad, or as the starter for a more elaborate meal. There are several steps involved: cooking and puréeing the pumpkin, making a béchamel, adding grated cheese, freshly grated nutmeg, salt, pepper and a little garlic, and finally blending in egg yolks and beaten egg whites.

You can use either fresh or frozen pumpkin to make the soufflé, and the purée may be made ahead of time. For the cheese, go for Comté, Gruyère or a similar hard cheese. And as for the nutmeg, do grate it yourself. The flavor is totally different than powdered nutmeg. If you don’t have a nutmeg grater, use the smallest holes of a four-sided grater.

It’s best to get all the ingredients ready before you get started, as well as the equipment — a 1-1/2 quart (litre) soufflé dish, a fine-mesh sieve, a blender, a wooden spoon, a wire whip and electric beaters. You will also need three bowls, small, medium and large.

Preparation time is about 40 minutes, followed by 40 minutes in the oven, and voilà — your lovely soufflé is ready. Serve straight out of the oven, accompanied by a bottle of red. The soufflé will serve two people as a lunch dish, and four as a starter.

1 pound (450 g) pumpkin, rind removed
2 tbsp. water
4 ounces (110 g) Comté, Gruyère or a similar cheese
1 clove garlic
3 eggs

1/2 cup (75 g) flour
4 tbsp. (60 g, 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus a little extra for buttering the mold
1 cup (25 cl) milk
1 tsp. salt

freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper

If using fresh pumpkin, chop into large pieces and remove the rind, seeds and stringy pulp before weighing. Then chop into cubes.

Transfer the pumpkin, fresh or frozen, to a saucepan. Add the water, cover the pot and set over medium-high heat for about 20 minutes, until the pumpkin has softened.

Turn the pumpkin into a fine-mesh sieve and press down with the back of a spoon to remove the excess liquid. Leave to drain for a few minutes, then purée in a blender.

Grate the cheese. Peel and halve the garlic.

Separate the eggs — yolks in a small bowl, whites in a medium bowl.

Butter a 1-1/2 quart (1-1/2 liter) soufflé mold.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (400 F, 210 C).

Now you will make a thick béchamel sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it bubbles, add the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon for about a minute to allow the flour to cook.

Add the milk and whisk until the mixture thickens. This happens very quickly.

Add the grated cheese and, using your wooden spoon, stir until melted. Add the pumpkin and stir to blend thoroughly. Turn off the heat.

Stir in the yolks. Add the salt, grate some nutmeg over the pot and grind on some black pepper. Stir. Transfer the pumpkin mixture to a large bowl. Insert the garlic halves, leaving the ends visible for easy removal.

Now beat the egg whites until stiff.

Remove the garlic from the pumpkin mixture. Stir in 1/3 of the the egg whites to lighten the mixture. Now gently fold in the rest of the whites, lifting the mixture from the bottom of the bowl to the top until all the whites are incorporated with no more lumps.

Pour the mixture into your soufflé mold and set in the oven. Bake for five minutes, then turn down the heat to gas mark 6 (350 F, 180 C) and bake for 35 minutes more, or until the soufflé has risen above the rim of the mold and the top is a deep golden brown. You can test for doneness by inserting a toothpick, but be quick or the soufflé might fall.

Serve straight out of the oven. Serves 2 as a lunch dish, 4 as a light starter.

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