Top London Restaurant List (I’m hoping that’s a really google-able title)

So roughly twice a week I get a request for restaurant suggestions and being the busy and slightly impatient man that I am, I send them a list (which was far too long and largely impenetrable). This is the new and improved list and I’m hopeful that it’ll be the first spreadsheet to go viral ever.

It should be noted that 2 is still a good restaurant it’s just that a list which has the very best restaurants in London needs a decent level of scale. Nothing on here isn’t tasty it’s just that some are better than others.

What I have here is an effort to catalogue the restaurants in London that you ought to be going to i.e. not Bimimbap. If anything didn’t make the list then it’s one of:

  • Crap
  • Not notable
  • Unknown to me
  • Overrated
  • Less good than an equivalent on the list
  • Or just plain forgotten
    For that reason please do get in touch if you feel I’m missing anything but be aware that I will judge you based on any and all suggestions.

The other thing to note is that I’ve not been to all of the restaurants that I believe to be worth trying so if you think you can accurately appraise a restaurant on this list then do let me know (or let me know if I’ve messed up on a rating). I’ve also included location, cuisine, specialities and general comment to help guide your gastronomic journey.

Rough prices are as follows (for one person as I’m a lonely fool):
£ – Cheap, under £15
££ – Moderate, £15 – £30
£££ – Getting pricier – £30-£45
££££ – Pretty damn expensive – £45-£70
£££££ – Crazy money but so worth it – £70+

I’ll do my best to keep this updated as I try and hear of new places so you know where to go for the latest in restaurant news.

Peace Out,
Will

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Confit Salmon with Mustard and Parsley Mayonnaise and Roasted Beetroot

It’s amayo-zing (I was really pushed to come up with a good pun here and that was the best I could do)…
No wait, I can do better:

As beautiful as the (sal) Monalisa!

This is a seemingly sophisticated recipe that’s actually incredibly simple and can be done by anyone. If you want to impress someone (i.e. a date) but have little to no cooking ability I recommend this dish. The beets could easily be replaced by something else like fennel or green beans or perhaps some samphire. Personally I love to have the salmon and the mayo with toast points. Trout works just as well as salmon here so if you prefer trout then use that instead.

Confit Salmon
(per person)

1 Salmon Fillet
Groundnut Oil
8 Black Peppercorns

Show me the sal-Money!

This is a foolproof way of cooking fish perfectly.  You can cook more or less any type of fish using this method except it doesn’t give you crispy skin so remove the skin after cooking. My recipe uses peppercorns but feel free to be a bit more creative with your spices. Fennel and star anise go really well with salmon and you could bung a bay leaf in there or some lemon thyme.

Place it in a saucepan which fits the salmon snugly, add enough oil to cover and add 8 peppercorns. Depending on the thickness of your salmon this can take from 15 minutes to 30 minutes to cook. All you have to do is turn your hob on at the lowest setting and leave it for a while. This method won’t overcook your salmon as it’s a very gentle method of heating. Let it rest for 5 minutes on some kitchen towel to drain the oil once it’s done and remove the skin (which should peel off nice and easy). You can serve the dish hot or cold. If you serve it cold you can do the whole dish ahead of time (leaving you with a stress free dining experience).

Mustard and Parsley Mayonnaise
(per person)

1 egg yolk
80 ml olive oil
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp finely sliced parsley
Salt (for seasoning).

It's making me all emulsional.

This is so easy and so delicious that there’s really no reason not to make it. It’s honestly so much better than conventional mayonnaise so make sure you make plenty and have some bread on hand to mop up any extra. You can find a comprehensive guide on making mayonnaise here.

Try to have all your ingredients at room temperature before you begin. Start with the yolk in a medium sized bowl and add 1 tsp of oil to the yolk. Whisk until the oil and the yolk are thoroughly mixed. Then add a tablespoon (or 3 teaspoons) of oil and whisk again. Add some more oil and repeat until all of the oil is incorporated into the yolk. The mixture should be quite stiff but not as thick as shop bought mayonnaise. Add in the mustard and lemon juice, a little at a time so you can adjust the balance to your liking. Season with a touch of pepper and a liberal seasoning of salt before finally adding the chopped parsley. Serve alongside the fish (the warmth of the fish can cause the sauce to split so try not to let them touch when you plate).

Roast Beetroot
(per person)

1 beetroot
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

While this does take an hour to cook it’s actually very light on labour and once the beets are done you can just leave them at room temperature until ready to serve.

Wash the beets and rub with 1 tsp of the oil and 1 tsp of water as well as a bit of salt and pepper. Wrap them up in foil with the base of the beet in the centre of the foil sheet so the opening of the foil points up. Place them in the oven at 190⁰C for an hour and a half or until tender (you can check how tender they are with the tip of a knife – they should offer no resistance).

Rub each beet with some kitchen towel to remove the skin – it should come off easily. Cut the beet into quarters then halve each quarter to make eight segments and place them in a bowl. Add the remaining olive oil and the balsamic vinegar as well as a bit of salt and pepper and leave to marinate for at least half an hour. You can leave this for up to a day in the fridge if you want to prepare it ahead of time just remember to bring it up to room temperature before you serve it. Serve the segments along with a bit of the marinade.

 

Tada! Easier than pie.
I leave you with that for a while, I’m off to pick a fight with a bakery blogger.

On Mayonnaise

The ins and out of mayonnaise and a guide on how to make it and fix it if you break it.

What is it?
Mayonnaise is an emulsion formed from eggs and fat seasoned with lemon juice or vinegar and salt.

What’s an emulsion?
If you don’t want to know the science behind emulsions then skip to the next section to learn how to make it.
An emulsion (in the culinary sense) is a mix of water and oil droplets. Since the oil droplets are much larger and slower moving than water molecules their movement is impeded and this creates a thick, creamy consistency. The problem here is that emulsions are made from two liquids that are incommensurable (two liquids that can’t be dissolved into one another). You’ll know this from any experience looking at oil and water. When mixed the oil will disperse into smaller droplets which coalesce into a large mass of oil if left for a few seconds. So emulsions are unstable in nature.

The reason the oil congregates in one mass is due to surface tension. When liquids can’t mix the liquids arrange themselves in a way that minimises contact with each other. They form a single large mass which minimises surface area and therefore has less contact with the other liquid.

Mayonnaise Under an Electron Microscope

So in order to form an emulsion we need to seriously break up that mass of liquid. When you whisk a tablespoon of oil into mayonnaise it’s broken up into roughly 30 billion separate droplets. Those droplets will be approximately 3 thousandths of a millimetre in diameter. A blender can make them smaller and an industrial homogeniser can break them up to smaller than a thousandth of a millimetre across. This is important because smaller droplets are less likely to merge together and cause the two liquids to separate.

There are two things that are important factors in the ease of forming an emulsion. The first is by using a more viscous water base as this drags harder on the droplets and allows the shearing force from the whisk to be transferred from the whisk more effectively. The second is the use of emulsifiers which coat the surface of the droplets and prevent them from merging into one large mass and separating.

Great, why do I care?
Because the science is important for understanding what needs to be done or why something went wrong. There are a few laws that apply to making any emulsion:

  1. The first material in the bowl should be the water based ingredient and some emulsifying or stabilising ingredients. To this the oil is added as the oil has to be dispersed in the water base.
  2. The oil should be added very slowly at first. Once the mixture has developed some viscosity the oil can be added more quickly. This is because initially it is easy for large droplets to avoid being dispersed and as you add more oil this will pool with the large droplets causing the liquids to separate as the large droplets merge.
  3. The proportions of the two liquids need to be kept in balance. The volume of the oil shouldn’t exceed three times the volume of the water base. The more crowded the droplets are the more likely it will be that they will be in continuous contact with each other and might coalesce. When the emulsion becomes stiff it’s a sign to either stop or add more of the water base.
  4. If it went wrong and didn’t emulsify it’s almost always because:
    1. The oil was added too quickly.
    2. The mixture was too hot or too cold.
    3. Too much oil was added.

Once you’ve made your emulsion you might want to store it. This is done chiefly by keeping it at the right temperature. If it’s too hot the oil droplets will move around energetically making them more likely to coalesce and split the emulsion. At low temperature surface tension increases making neighbouring droplets more likely to coalesce.

How to Rescue Your Emulsion
When an emulsion separates there are two ways to re-emulsify it. The first is to use a blender’s sheer mechanical force to force the droplets apart and break them up. The second more reliable technique is to acquire more of the water base in a separate bowl and slowly whisk the broken sauce into that.

Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is the most tightly packed emulsion  and as much as 80% of its volume can be oil. This can be achieved as egg yolks are full of natural stabilisers and emulsifiers. When making mayonnaise have everything at room temperature allows the emulsifiers in the yolk to attach to the oil droplets more easily.

You can make mayonnaise from more or less any fat be that olive oil or leftover chicken fat from a roast. Bear in mind that if the fat you’re using solidifies in the fridge then the fat crystals can rupture the emulsifying layer and cause the emulsion to split when brought to room temperature. Be careful with refrigerated mayonnaise otherwise as some oil may have escaped its droplets. Stir gently with a few drops of water to re-emulsify.

Yum yum mayonnaise yum.

Lounge Bohemia – the coolest bar you’ve never heard of

This is my favourite cocktail bar in London ever. It’s ridiculously cool and the cocktails aren’t tired variations of classics (I’m looking at you mojito). Go check it out but there are two things you should know:

1. The dress code specifies no suits.

2. You’ll need a reservation, it’s quite busy usually.

When I say “hole in the wall” I’m not even remotely exaggerating. It is simply a doorway next to the kebab shop at 1 Great Eastern Street (you can go there afterwards. I did; it’s not very good). Stepping inside the hole you can’t help but feel a bit disoriented as only a few metres from that gritty street corner is well, this…

shazzam!

As you can see it’s pretty damn atmospheric but often atmosphere isn’t enough for a bar.

Therefore I proudly present my elementary theory to Cocktail Bar Selection (or CBS for short). I’d like to add that this is a preliminary draft so is likely to need alteration but it’ll suffice given no alternatives.

Given the choice between two or more cocktail bars choose according to the following set of criteria:

  1. Make sure it’s a cocktail bar and not a regular bar.
    Usually this is pretty obvious as they’ll have a significantly larger portion of the menu devoted to cocktails than to beer or wine.
  2. Originality of Cocktails
    The Cocktail menu should show some cocktails which are very uncommon to the extent that they’re unrecognisable. This shows that the bartender has some level of creativity and implies and understanding of cocktail mixing (or as they rather ridiculously call it – mixology).
  3. Noise Level
    This really annoys me. If I’m in a bar with no dance area and everyone is seated why is dance music being played and why is it so loud that I can’t hear anyone speak? If I wanted to dance I would go to a club or a bar/club (but I have my own problem with those too). If I’m sitting down with a nice cocktail in a bar which really only has room for seats I kinda want to chat. If I can’t talk then I’m left sitting amongst a group of people utterly unable to join in any form of conversation and what the hell is the point of that? Would you go to a restaurant where the music was so loud you couldn’t hear anyone on your table speak? No, so why should you put up with it when you’re trying to have a drink?
  4. Number of Cocktails on the Menu
    This is arguably the best distinction between actual cocktail bars. Try to avoid bars with over 40 drinks on the menu. Bars with too few cocktails are either extremely specialised at creating a handful of well known cocktails or they aren’t really cocktail bars at all. Bars with too many cocktails spread themselves too thin. Avoid, “With over 200 different choices on the menu” at all costs. In the case where the menu has over 100 cocktails that means that not enough time and effort has been taken to develop a really excellent cocktail. This also means that even if they have any masterpieces on the menu you are less likely to choose them.
  5. Types of Alcohol
    Flavoured vodkas (such as pepper or lemon) and brand names such as Bombay Sapphire and Wyborowa or Grey Goose are a sign that you’re on the right track. Unusual alcohols such as umeshu and elderflower liqueur are generally hints too.
  6. Peer Reviews
    These are pretty mixed and a positive review can be a reason not to go. For example: “Let’s go to Freud’s, you can really taste the alcohol in their drinks”. The assumption was that since you couldn’t taste the alcohol in the cocktails we were drinking at Detroit (exceptional quality cocktails, less good atmosphere) that there wasn’t any. For me this was a reason to discard any further reviews of food or drink from this individual.

Where 1>2>3>4. By the time you work your way through the other criteria and finally get to peer reviews you should probably be down to one or two bars to choose from anyway.

Japanese Light LunchSo with the theory out of the way let’s get back to the review. I can happily state that Lounge Bohemia satisfies all criteria and probably beats most other cocktail bars on almost all of them. I mean they have black forest ham bourbon so I doubt they can be topped on types of alcohol. The peer reviews are top notch, you can Google them if you want – I’ll wait – done? Happy? Good. You can’t help but feel just a little bit sad that these achievements aren’t noticed more often but you understand once you take note of their creativity and originality which are good enough to deserve a new paragraph.

Often when people use the term “paradigm shift” it’s misused (a slight understatement) for instance when someone buys a new frying pan or different fabric softener. Thomas Kuhn is likely spinning in his grave. All of these past injustices almost seem to be put right when you refer to the cocktails at Lounge Bohemia as “paradigm shifting”. Not only do the cocktails somehow manage to transcend the bounds of cocktails but those of drinks as well. This glowing praise can’t help but sound like hyperbole to anyone who hasn’t seen what I’ve seen. When I explain that the tasting menu contains toothpaste (well not toothpaste but… well … toothpaste) and cocktail noodles then you might start to understand. When they brought out a tree made of Campari I was pretty sure that Thomas Kuhn would have died happy had he seen it.

If I haven’t convinced you to go then show this review to someone else, hopefully they will. For those that wish to go then let me give you a few recommendations to get you started. The cocktails I would recommends are:

Sgt. Pepper – a lemony peppery martinii delight
Tea for Two – Vodka and lemon and Earl Gray in a teapot for two
Some sort of chocolate thing – don’t know what this was called but despite having no cream it was rich and indulgent.

So those are your (relatively) run of the mill drinks (at £6-7). If you want something a bit more Willy Wonka then you need to order off of the molecular mixology menu (at £10-11) or order one of the tasting menus. If you don’t mind the taste of alcohol then go for the 5 course tasting menu at £25 (the drinks are designed to show off alcohol at its apotheosis). If you want to get a tasting menu then you need to give them 24 hours notice as well. I don’t want to spoil the surprise (and it is definitely a surprise) but some of the drinks are unbelievable. The bohemian breakfast, a fat duck  inspired ham and maple syrup cocktail cooked before your very eyes, is truly a marvel.

So yeah there you have it. This little gem on the edge of Shoreditch is miraculous to the extent that any future cocktail bars will just seem tragically ironic.

Find the limited website and phone number at:
http://loungebohemia.com/
07720 707 000

Can you credibly call yourself a cook?

The kit list of a real cook

It’s hard to define the exact difference between a person who can cook and an actual cook. For instance how many times a week would one have to cook from scratch? If we said say 3 times a week then this might seem fine but there are three immediate problems with this:
1) It’s a bit arbitrary isn’t it?
2) What if there are other factors that should be accounted for e.g. they work really long hours but cook dinner on the weekends
3) What do we call someone skilled in cooking who cooks less frequently than this, they’re certainly more than someone who can cook.

For this reason I think it’d be easier if I listed some of the properties required of a cook so we can say who, at least, could be a cook. So today I’m going to run through a list of equipment that every person who calls themselves a cook ought to (or at least intends) to own. If you call yourself a cook and lack any of these then you might want to take a good long look in the mirror. Worry not those who turn out to be people who cook, by defining cooks you’ll know exactly what needs to be done to become one.

Note that this list shows who’s not a cook, not who is. If you have all the equipment then you could be a cook and are more likely to be but not that you are for sure.

N.B. This is a list designed around my European cooking background so I might be missing something vital for say Korean cooking. I apologise if this is the case and if you want something added to the list present your case in the comments.

So without further ado I bring you a list of equipment that every cook owns:

1) A good knife – this is by far the most important. One of the most effective indicators that someone is not in fact a cook is that their knives are all either blunt or tiny. You just need one knife to be a cook but the condition is that it’s functional. So it has to be sharp enough to slice soft vegetables without bludgeoning them and the blade should be at least 18cm. You can buy a Victorionox knife at £20 (so there’s no excuse) but if you want a knife that’ll last you a more than a few years then go for Wusthoff or Henckels. If you have loads of cash then I recommend MAC (unfortunately not widely available in the UK) or Tojiro Senkou, they’re magnificent. I can’t stress enough that you don’t need masses of rubbish knives, you just need one good knife.

2) Two saucepans and one frying pan – These are pretty much the bare minimum for when you actually do the cooking. Having more than this will make your life infinitely easier. I recommend having a decently sized saucepan too as they come in handy for, well, bigger recipes. If you have crap hobs then get heavy bottomed pans as they’ll distribute the heat more evenly and you’re less likely to burn parts of your food. Even if you don’t then still get heavy bottomed pans as they’re just better and kinda necessary if you want to make more heat sensitive dishes like custard.

3) Chopping Board – Chopping on plates isn’t cool and it never will be (like corduroy).

4) Whisk – you can technically whip cream with a spoon but you can’t beat egg whites so it’s a must.

5) Sieve or Strainer – if you’re not making dishes that require a strainer at some point (i.e. potatoes or veg or pasta or sauces which have to be strained) then you are most certainly not a cook. The finer the mesh in a sieve the better but at the same time the harder it is to clean.

6) Mixing Bowl – most recipes are too large to mix in regular bowls so you’ll need one of these.

7) Baking Tray/Dish – you more or less can’t bake without one and you definitely can’t roast without one.

8) Weighing Scales – if you want to make desserts you’ll need one of these.

9) One of Blender, Food Processor, Mortar & Pestle or Spice Grinder – realistically it should be one of the first two but I realise that in certain cuisines blenders aren’t needed but in those same cuisines mortar and pestles or spice grinders are often just as useful.

Other cool stuff that you might want to get:
Grater – For cheese and rosti.
Chinois (a super fine sieve) – I love mine, absolutely vital for high end cooking.
Ramekins – for Crème brûlée, soufflés, individual portions or presentation.
Pastry Cutters – you can use these on more than just pastry.
Tart Tins – having a decent quality loose bottom tart tin will revolutionise your tart production.
Muffin Tins – for mini tarts, cupcakes, savarins and muffins.
Cake Tin – for bigger ones of those things I just said.
Thermometer – for accurate cooking of heat sensitive dishes and checking if your meat is cooked (they’re actually really useful in preventing overcooking of roasts).
Potato Ricer/Mouli Legume – because mashers leave chunks.
Mandolin – unless you’re amazing with a knife you’ll need one for really thin/fine chopping.

Slow Cooked Eggs – They’re eggsellent and I have little to live for

Thanks to the whole Easter dealie I thought I’d show you something cool with eggs.

Water baths and immersion circulators are now used in the majority of high end restaurants (they’re those things they used to have in your biology labs but for cooking). These nifty gadgets allow chefs cook anything at all at a precise temperature. The idea is that if you have water at a stable temperature and drop your food in (in a sealed bag) then the food will rise to that temperature itself and then go no further. Since overcooking is almost exclusively caused by overheating something (and not cooking it for too long) this means that overcooking is no longer an issue. It’s not really much use if it only stops you from overcooking food as you’d hope that a professional chef wouldn’t overcook something anyway (if only) but the really awesome bit is that it can cook say steak to medium rare all the way through or cook at stew at exactly 60⁰C overnight – that’s pretty special.

Anyway I digress. I doubt that anyone has a water bath at home. You can imitate this effect (albeit not overnight) with a saucepan of water and a thermometer. This is quite a lot trickier but I find that if you use a large enough pan of water and the lowest setting on your hob you can usually walk away for 20 minutes (which is enough time to cook meat or fish). If you want to cook meat or fish throw it in a sealable bag, pour in some sort of fat like butter or olive oil, add any herbs or spices you want as they will infuse the meat through the fat, seal it up (try and get as much air out as possible) and place it in the water. Be sure not to let any water into the bag (I usually leave the seal sticking out of the water). And you can rock and roll. This is ridiculously impressive and definitely worth doing if you have high end ingredients (fillet steak) as you can have it perfectly rare all the way through then quickly sear just the outside in a super hot pan with butter (this will take about 30 seconds).

Anyway, it just so happens that if you take eggs and cook them at 62⁰C for about 30 minutes (enough time to cook all the way through) then you get these jellified whites and a yolk with the consistency of whipped cream (but denser). It’s well worth doing at least once and if you’re trying to impress someone then it’s a sure fire winner (providing that someone likes eggs and you can pull it off) as very few people will have experienced this before. The Japanese have been doing this for a while by cooking them in natural water baths and they call them onsen tamago.

I wanted to make a recipe for onsen tamago on Japanese rice porridge that I’d seen a week prior on Top Chef. I have to say it’s not only delicious but incredibly easy. You’ll need yuzu kosho, dashi and umeboshi plums but you can get the plums and dashi from most supermarkets (in the form of paste and stock powder) and yuzu kosho and can be bought from the Japan Centre or can be substituted for wasabi paste mixed with a bit of chilli (which you can also get from most supermarkets).  It’ll take about 20 minutes to make and you can even use leftover rice. If you can’t be bothered to make a slow cooked egg then poach one instead as it’ll work and this dish is best described as a hug for your gastrointestinal tract. If you’re poaching your egg then I don’t possibly see how you can mess it up. Ridiculously tasty with no risk, that’s as awesome as Charlie Sheen.

Oh and if you don’t know how to cook rice then here’s how I do it:

  1. Measure out rice in measuring jug (100ml per person is about right)
  2. Pour rice into your saucepan and wash it two or three times with cold water (this is to stop you poisoning yourself).
  3. Try and pour as much of the water from washing the rice away as possible (don’t worry too much about this).
  4. Measure out the same volume of water as you had rice.
  5. Add water to saucepan.
  6. Put a lid on the saucepan, place it on the hob and bring it to the boil.
  7. Once it’s reached the boil turn your hob down to its lowest heat and leave covered for 10 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat and stir. It’s ready.

A soufflé of fresh air

All the tips for making a soufflé you’ll ever need. Contrary to popular belief they’re really very easy and quite impressive if you get them right. All you need is some ramekins, a whisk, an oven and two bowls.

At the restaurant their dessert speciality was the soufflé. Over my time there I was taught all of the tricks that you need to know to make the perfect soufflé. With these even the most incompetent cook can make a professional standard soufflé. I’ll be focusing on dessert soufflés but these tips can be applied to savoury soufflés as well but I don’t see why you’d bother really (I suppose if you were going for a 1970s themed dinner that wasn’t particularly impressive then you could make a cheese soufflé).

First let’s go over a little soufflé theory. There will be three basic parts to your soufflé:
1. The base – flavour country this will be where you put your rhubarb/peach/chocolate or whatever. It’s effectively intense compote.
2. The egg whites – you need to whisk these to stiff peaks to make the soufflé.
3. Sugar

If you have a recipe then follow it but as a general rule you need to whisk your eggs with your sugar until stiff peaks form. If you have 100g of egg white then I recommend 40g of sugar as a guideline. Once you’ve done this you can add your base and mix them together. If you’re using 100g of egg white then you can afford almost 100g of base – you can add as much as you want depending on taste really. People will make a big fuss about being exact and while I’d say the novice needs to do this it’s not really important when it comes to quantity of base (within reasonable levels).

Once you’ve done that you can bake. Other cooks will tell you that you need a super-hot oven but in my experience an oven at 170°C does the trick and higher temperatures will yield a grainy soufflé. The soufflé will rise gradually and then brown at the top. Once the top is brown it’s generally a good indication that it’s done.

I’ve separated these out into the order that you’ll be making the soufflé. You don’t have to use them all, pick whichever you want but hopefully this will be a comprehensive guide on how to cook great soufflés.

Base:
The flavour of the base needs to be strong as it’s going to be diluted. Bear in mind that if you use sugar to make your base (many bases are very close to coulis) your soufflé will be quite sweet as it will combine with the sugar used with the egg whites. Consider something sour to balance it out a bit like lemon juice in the base or a less sweet ice cream or coulis when you serve it.

The consistency should be roughly that of a coulis or compote. It should be about as thick as ketchup (but denser). There’s no shame in using cornflour to thicken your base, it’ll make the soufflé more stable. If you’re cooking your base then it’ll be much runnier before it cools so allow for that. I cook my fruit in stock syrup (equal parts water and sugar) then blend them with a bit of cornflour until they have a consistency like that of yoghurt. Once they’ve cooled then they’re ready to use, reserve for later.

N.B. Cornflour thickens when heated so don’t add loads then stick it on the heat. Add it gradually. Cornflour also has a tendency to create lumps especially when added to something hot so in a separate cup or bowl mix the quantity of cornflour you want to add with some of the liquid (with a ratio of about three parts liquid to one part cornflour) then add it to the rest. This is a great tip for gravy or other sauces too.

Prep:
All of this can be done prior to cooking to make your life easier. You can separate the eggs beforehand, sugar’s not so important and I highly recommend you make your base ahead of time.

In order to get airier whites follow one of the three following options before whisking:
     1. Use week old (or older) eggs.
     2. Add some of acid such as cream of tartar or lemon juice. Just a few drops will do.
     3. Whisk the eggs in a copper bowl.
Don’t combine these options as they all counteract each other’s effects, just pick one.
Your eggs should also be at room temperature. 

Grease kills bubbles and will prevent you from having fluffy whites so make sure everything is clean.

If you want professional looking soufflés this next step is important. Whisk some butter in a bowl then liberally (using a brush or kitchen towel) coat the inside of the ramekins with it. Next get some sugar (icing sugar works too) or bread crumbs (we used spiced bread crumbs at the restaurant) and pour them into the buttery ramekin. Take this ramekin and rotate it as you pour your crumbs/sugar into the next ramekin. This will mean that the inside of your ramekin is now coated. Repeat with all of the ramekins and then tap them out onto a hard surface (this is messy without kitchen towel) to dislodge any extra crumbs or sugar.

Whisking:
Mix your sugar and egg whites. Whisk (electric is fine) until they form stiff peaks. This takes ages if you do it by hand.

Mixing the Base and the Whites:
Take a maurice (a.k.a. “the rubber spatula” pictured right) and scoop 1/3rd of your whites into the base (doesn’t have to be exact). By running the Maurice around the outside of the bowl and tilting the bowl towards you you’ll gradually mix the two without getting rid of the air. Resist the temptation to mix. Once that’s done pour it back into the remaining whites and do the same until it’s homogeneous. Taste it, that’s fairly close to how your soufflé will taste.
Note that if you lack a Maurice then a large metal spoon is also fine.

Baking:
Make sure you pre-heat your oven.

Pour your mix into the pre-prepared ramekins and overfill them so that the mixture piles up over the brim. Take a long object with a flat side – card or the back of a knife or a palette knife would be perfect – place the flat side on the ramekin rim and scrape across knocking the extra mix back into the bowl with the rest. Do this in both directions and you should have a perfectly level soufflé top.

Now grab a piece of kitchen towel run it around the rim so that you can see the rim and it’s clean. This will allow your soufflé to rise into a perfect cylinder.

Once it’s brown on the top and risen an inch and a half you’re done. Only the top will be brown unless you’re using bread crumbs, the sides will still be pale.

You can open and close the oven door without them collapsing and you can make loud noises. There’s a small risk of them deflating but i’ve never seen it happen before.

Serving:
Be quick, soufflés wait for no man.

Don’t just serve them plain. I like to have a scoop of ice cream on a spoon, thrust it into the top of the soufflé and then serve it like that. Coulis or custard is quite common but really you can add anything at this point. Dusting with icing sugar is also a nice cosmetic touch.

Post your successes and failures in the comments section and feel free to ask for any additional advice.