This speck, potato and cheese souffle makes relatively humble ingredients into something special and delicious, with a lovely smoky speck flavor coming through.
I think I mentioned before that for more years than I can remember as a child, we went to Austria in the summer on vacation/holiday. My parents have always loved hiking and being able to hike in beautiful mountains with huts you could stop off in for some food and a drink along the way, not to mention generally pretty good weather, was instantly appealing. Funnily enough, I preferred it to the generally soggy walking and eating options in Scotland too. One of the main areas we went to was East Tyrol which is near the border with Italy, with South Tyrol the area just over the border.
We went into South Tyrol a couple times and it’s an interesting mix of some things clearly more Italian, others more like their Austrian neighbors. One South Tyrolean thing they share with Austria (and Southern Germany) is making and enjoying speck, a tasty cured ham I remember enjoying many times. So when I was offered to try and develop a recipe using Speck Alto Adige PGI as their March ‘speckulator’, I had a fair idea what I would be getting and was excited to create this speck, potato and cheese souffle. Using just enough speck to get it’s lovely flavor, it’s otherwise a very humble set of ingredients but ones that come together to make something delicious and quite special-feeling.
I first made a leek and potato souffle a few years ago using a recipe I picked up in a supermarket and was pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was. I almost want to say despite the ingredients, but that seems a bit harsh on eggs, potatoes, leeks and cheese but you know what I mean – they don’t generally jump out as making something that is almost fancy. However when they’re put together as a souffle, that’s just how they feel, and the combination of that feeling and the fact the flavors are pretty subtle is why I thought that general base would be great for a recipe with speck, and it was.
Speck Alto Adige PGI is made using traditional methods in South Tyrol, lightly smoked and cured in the mountains. It has some similarities to prosciutto and serrano ham, but I’d say it has a slightly stronger flavor; there’s a definite smokey taste which is delicious. It can be used in a range of recipes, like this, but it is also nice just thinly sliced and nibbled on – my toddler son and I have had some for lunch the last couple days (he was an instant fan – I’ve said before he has some good taste in food!).
Possibly not surprisingly, but one of the reasons the souffle makes the ingredients seem that bit more special is there’s a little more effort involved in bringing everything together than just putting them in a pan, but it’s not overly complicated.
A few tips for a successful souffle
- make sure you grease your souffle dish before you pour in the mixture. I usually (as in the recipe) then dust with cheese or something else appropriate to get a nice flavor as well as helping it not stick too much.
- use a spoonful or two of the beaten egg whites to loosen/lighten up the yolk-speck-cheese-potato mix before you combine them fully. It will help save the potato mixture just sinking to the bottom or you losing all the air from the whites as you mix.
- fold the whites into the potato mixture gently, and if anything mix less rather than more. You want to kind of scoop the mixture over itself rather than stirring (hence it’s called ‘folding’) and just get to a point where you don’t have obviously white clumps of white, but there are still definitely air bubbles and the potato mixture may not seem completely evenly distributed, but it’s also not all in one pile.
- unlike when you are baking eg scones, the souffle will brown mid-way through cooking but that doesn’t mean it’s done yet – it will need a good 25min or more for the centre to firm up a bit more.
- souffles generally lose their rise quickly, so serve it soon after you take it out the oven.
I know this might all sound off-putting, but really these are just things to keep in mind, and if you do, you really shouldn’t have any problems creating a great souffle. This speck, potato and cheese souffle has such great flavors and makes a lovely meal that really could work at any time of the day, depending on how you serve it – you could have it with salad, bread or on it’s own. It’s got a lovely comfort factor without being too heavy and the flavors are delicious. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.
A deliciously comforting dish that makes something special out of simple ingredients.
- 5 oz potatoes 140g
- 1/2 onion small
- 1/2 tbsp butter approx
- 2 tbsp parmesan approx, finely grated
- 1/2 cup milk 120ml
- 3/4 cup cheddar 50g, grated
- 1 1/2 oz speck 40g, in thin slices, trimmed of upper layer of fat/skin and finely diced
- 3 eggs large, separated
Preheat oven to 400F/200C.
Boil the potatoes until cooked - no need to peel before cooking nor cut. Drain and allow them to cool once done (this can be done ahead of time).
Meanwhile dice the onion fairly finely and fry in a little oil or butter until gently brown, around 5-10min, stirring now and then.
While the potatoes and onions are cooking, butter all round a 6in wide souffle dish then swirl around approx 1 1/2tbsp finely grated parmesan so that it sticks to the base and sides.
Once the onions have lightly browned, remove from heat and add the milk to the pan to allow it to take on the flavors as the onion cools.
After you have left it for a minute or two, peel the potato and coarsely grate them into the onion/milk mixture along with the grated cheddar and finely diced speck.
Lightly beat the egg yolks and add to the potato mixture, stirring to combine.
Whisk egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff.
Fold a spoonful or two of the whites into the potato mixture to loosen it then fold in the rest carefully (you can either do this in a separate bowl or carefully put the potato mixture into the side of the whites bowl before then folding in), folding the mixture just enough so combined and no big clumps of white. Carefully tip the mixture in to the prepared souffle dish and top with a little more finely grated parmesan.
Bake in oven around 25-30min until golden and it has risen well. Serve immediately.
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I received samples of Speck Alto Adige PGI ham for review and recipe development but was not financially compensated. All opinions are my own.
You can find out more about Speck Alto Adige PGI on their site.
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