Spinach-shiitake soufflé, guacamole, and other random things

So I experimented the other day with making a paleo soufflé. A normal soufflé, as you may know, has flour and typically cheese (for a savoury soufflé). I really love cheese but as I’m on a self-imposed paleo challenge, cheese was not on the menu.

For the first time ever, my soufflé did not rise! It still tasted fantastic, and I was obsessed with eating the leftovers for days, and actually I’m now obsessed with making it again. But I was upset by the behaviour of the soufflé so I researched why soufflés do not rise. Apparently the answers are something along the lines of the following:
• Under- or over-beaten egg whites (this was not a problem)
• Too much fat in the soufflé base [causes the egg white foam to collapse] (maybe but too bad, that coconut milk is staying because it’s heavenly!!)
• Failing to put something like flour on the sides of the pan for the soufflé to adhere to as it rises (yep, but still not sure what I can use in place of flour … will think on that one …)
• Using a vehicle with sides that are too smooth (guilty, used a pot because my furnished apartment somehow didn’t come with a soufflé dish, imagine that …)

In case you are interested, this turned up in the research: “The best consistency for egg whites in a soufflé preparation is stiff yet moist, glossy peaks. A stiff but dry foam is harder to mix with the base, while a softer foam is still coarse – so the soufflé texture will be the same – and may leave the mix so runny that it will overflow before it sets.”

So I have learned my lesson, I guess. I just need to figure out what I can use in place of flour and I should be all set. OR I could just do this as a frittata because I think it’s really the coconut milk that makes all the difference! Here goes:
Spinach-shiitake soufflé
• 10-12 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 packs of spinach, sliced relatively thinly
• 4 whole eggs, beaten
• 12 egg whites
• ~2/3cup coconut milk (I used the Shogun coconut cream 165ml size because it was the right size and the only one at Pick’n’Pay without added ingredients like Emulsifier E321 and Stabilizer S426)
• Toasted pecans (for garnish)
• Sliced avo (for garnish)
Sautee the onion until nearly soft. Add the shiitakes, and when those are nearly soft, add the spinach and cook until wilted. I suppose here you could season with salt, pepper, and any dried herbs you feel like tossing in, but I didn’t.

Whip the egg whites until the aforementioned moist, glossy peaks form.

Combine the whole eggs with the shiitake mixture and the coconut milk, then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Place into a vessel with walls that are rough enough for the soufflé to adhere to, and bake ~35 minutes until firm (and a knife comes out clean), at about 350F/212C.

Cathleen’s guacamole
Re-posting from Facebook for the strange people in this world who are not on Facebook.

My dear friend Cathleen taught me how to make guacamole many moons ago. I’m sure she still does it better than I do but here is the South African adaptation given the unavailability of certain ingredients.

Basically you do it by taste but this should get you to about the right place:
• 3 avos
• 2 lemons (or limes if you really want to splurge, probably need about 4-5 limes)
• 1 small onion, minced VERY fine
• 2 tomatoes, diced to about 1cm
• feta cheese (~ 1/4 of a large block of Fairview feta will do, or omit, of course, for the paleo version!), diced to about 1/2cm
• 2-3 serrano chiles (these are the small skinny green ones), minced and depending on how hot you want it, either remove the seeds or don’t … best probably to start without and then if you want more kick to add them back in
• coriander (dhania, or cilantro as we Americans call it, using the Spanish word (la palabra español)!), minced
• salt

So scoop out the avos, juice the lemons, and mash the avos with the lemon juice (you can mash them by themselves but I find that the lemon juice makes it easier).
Mix all other ingredients together.
Salt … this is the secret ingredient. Add maybe 1 teaspoon, and then more if you feel the need.

Sunday I went chestnut foraging. This was cool because we got to go to a private farm in Wynberg which was absolutely fantastically gorgeous. It’s also hard work to go chestnut foraging. I learned a lot, the main thing being to be picky with the chestnuts you decide to go after. Also, next time I will wear gloves. I still have some spikes in one of my fingers.

That afternoon and evening I spent with a friend. The timing was serendipitous, because she was able to offer me some good advice on the work I am doing at the moment. It’s really about how you take collaboration and co-creation to the next level when you are working with peers, and she really solidified a couple of my own opinions about how things do and don’t work best.

We were also talking about how people don’t learn things until they are actually ready, and this conversation made me realise also that the old saying that you don’t always get what you want but you get what you need is quite true. There are a couple of situations I can think back on now where I am very glad I didn’t get what I wanted at the time because either I wasn’t ready or the situation wasn’t right. Of course there are other situations where I did get what I wanted and, in part because the setup wasn’t right, things didn’t go as desired. No need to go into specifics; we’ve all been there. And hey, if you can think of a situation in which you think this applies to my life, you’re probably right, it just may not be the particular situations I am thinking of at the moment.

I finally finished watching The Social Network. Sean Parker is, indeed, the most interesting character but what I will say that I reacted to the most strongly is that sometimes it is, in fact, best for the grownups to be in charge. Not that you understand that at age 22 or whatever.

• “If we shine in our darkest hour, then we will be even brighter and more beautiful in our finest hour.” – Peter
• “That’s because you keep going around like a princess!” – Chris (he was telling me to harden the f*ck up)
• “For any startup you need five things: a visionary, a wizard, a wise man, a willing slave, and a dealmaker.” – Roger

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