Cauilflower, Gruyère and Poached Egg Soufflé : A Summer with Elizabeth David

There have been some chilly mornings of late, as Autumn arrives. I love a little chill in the air.  It seems it was not so long ago that it was summer and I was spending relaxed mornings lying on the beach.
On my way I would grab a book from the shelf near the front door. My hand always seem to land on Elizabeth David; small, compact and you could open to any page and start a good read.

I truly love her writing. I used to get frustrated that she didn’t speak in more precise measurements but as I became a more confident cook I actually found it more useful. You can abandon the fineries of measuring out every ingredient and never ever changing the recipe for fear of it not working out. Elizabeth David provides you with inspirational ideas and leaves you to work out the details.

The obvious choice to take to the beach was ‘Summer Cooking’, first published in 1955. I seem to be particularly obsessed with her chapter on eggs. In it she has a paragraph entitled Poached Eggs in Cheese Soufflé. The first published version of this recipe was by Alfred Suzanne in his ‘Egg Cookery’, 1893. Elizabeth describes the dish so beautifully I read it over and over again.

I’m sorry I didn’t measure everything out at the time, so your going to have to roll with this one.

The Gruyère and Cauliflower 

Put a saucepan on medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and about 20g of butter. Once the butter is melted add 1/2 a finely chopped white onion or a shallot (or as they call it here a eschallot) with a large pinch of sea salt. Soften but do not brown. Chop half a small cauliflower head into small florets and add them to the pan. Pour in enough chicken stock, or water, to only just cover the cauliflower and bring to the boil, continue until you can push a fork easily through the floret stems. Spoon into a food processor leaving most of the liquid behind in the pan, and process until smooth. I like to add a large tablespoon of sour cream as well.

Separate two eggs.

The White Sauce

Rinse out the pan you just used and add about 20g of butter to the pan. Melt over medium heat, then add a heaped tablespoon of plain flour and stir together. After a minute of cooking add a splash of milk and whisk for another minute. Then slowly add about 350g warm milk and whisk to form a smooth white sauce. Then, off the heat, stir through your two egg yolks, add a very large handful of grated Gruyère cheese, the same amount of cauliflower puree and stir through. Check for seasoning. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

The Eggs

Whisk egg whites until you get soft peaks. Add a third to the cauliflower, Gruyère mix to loosen, then add the remaining, gently folding through.

While all this is going on you can poach an egg. I’m not great at this and I rarely get my hands on super fresh eggs, which you need for the straight ‘drop in simmering water’ method. I like to use the oiled gladwrap method, perfectly described here by Not Quite Nigella.


Butter your chosen dish well. I used a breakfast bowl, don’t feel like you have to search out little ramekin dishes, go big and rustic. Fill half the dish with the mixture then carefully place in your poached egg, do not break it! Cover with more mixture to fill the dish. Grate fresh Parmesan over the top for extra flavour and a crisp brown top. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 8-10 minutes. Remember not to open the oven door during this time or you will have a flat soufflé.

Makes one large serve or two modest ones.

Serve with a green salad and enjoy the runny yolk!