Friday, 7 March 2014

61. A Recipe for a Rich Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Mantled in Cream

for Adrian & Rosanna, Pete & Avril – who will enjoy this

And why do we act? this voice said
why, nothing strange, not once you know
but mainly fear, desire & custom
a lot of it vain attempts at establishing some mark
that may last longer than us or, too
just establishing companionships in our common voyages
often, say, by taking food together
I offer you this recipe you may well have eaten
with a taste for any luscious feast:
food, like flesh, variously coloured & delightful

This is what you’ll need
to get the applause & interest of your guests:
           200 g high quality plain chocolate (c 70%)
           175 g butter
           175 g caster sugar
           6 large eggs
             – of which you’ll need to
               collect the yolk & white separately
               true magic is to separate then mix
           1 tablespoon well-flavoured instant coffee powder
           2 tablespoons rum (maybe left from Christmas)
           225 ml double cream
           60 ml sour cream

Take a deep pudding basin (2 l or 3 or 4 pints)
& wipe inside with a little almond oil
where it shall wish to be hot & strange
then start like this
(not like some hillbilly king):
break up your chocolate into pieces
& pop into a small bowl
sit it on a steamer
in a little cup
dissolve your coffee powder in 2 tbsps v hot water
& pour (here photos can be difficult) into the chocolate
let it all very quietly melt above the steam
get that going gently
(like a wave towards the pebbled shore)

As this happens beat the butter into a pale cream
(spreading out as the prima primula)
beat in the sugar (with hands that are light) until fluffy
O alchemy, your serious but unstable play comes in here!
beat again each egg yolk in
– how it shall gild itself

Raise up your little bowl of chocolate, show it to all the rest
mix & fold it then most carefully into the golden mixture
making one dark luscious mess
(like this one that’s all about us)
the maiden lights her fire and hastens away
– just to set a large pot of water on the heat
with a trivet waiting to support your basin
like the branches of the pedunculate oak a nest

In another bowl whisk (with your hands)
the egg whites until stiff, then fold (w/ yr hands)
carefully into that dark mixture so they
will not withdraw
                  quickly fill
the prepared bowl (carefully as
a bloody crown upon thy gilded head)
happen just to smooth it down, then cover
with greased & unbroken cooking foil
pleated like a shirt or the sonnets of Petrarch
tie it & trim, let it rest as it should in the boiling water
half-drown’d & gently simmering
– you may need to keep up the boiling water
cover with a lid & keep the sleeves clear!

Three quarters of an hour it’ll take to truly transform
take it out & put carefully aside
let it cool – it is awfully clean now
and cool, let us say, as mushrooms

To serve, to truly serve
hopeful, dirty, noisy & shaken as we are
uncover the pudding & loosen its side
gently with a palette knife or such
carefully invert onto a shallow dish or trencher
whip the cream – it will
lighten a little but still should pour
covering this pudding but not completely
– the moist dark flesh peeping disordered
(we project) through the white & lacy coverlet
then eat, peaceably & agreeably as children do in fun
something simply good & tasty together

[I got his recipe from a cheap 80s recipe book for fine dining (Philippa Davenport[1], 100 Great Dishes Made Easy, Regent Books, 1985). She gave a toned down version of Robert Carrier’s “Negresse en Chemise”, a legendary dish. This was based loosely on continental models (French “Negresse en chemise”, Viennese “Mohr im Hemd”[2]), which tend though to be more cakelike, with typically flour, breadcrumbs, nuts, often ring-shaped rather than breastlike. Carrier’s name for this soufflé, introducing it to Britain, is a problem – the dish undoubtedly is dark, beautiful & fleshy, a mound of delight. A flirtatious sexuality unavoidably attends our eating, indeed, should do so. Questions of power and origin attend all our actions – often unavoidably. Negresse is rejected. But I can’t unname it or her. One would be a cretin to reject the pudding because of its original name. Names, words, can never be innocent – but what can? But puddings at least are never guilty[3].]

[1] Hmm. More poetic connections here?
[2] commemorating Verdi’s Otello
[3] unlike poets

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