Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Crab, lemon and cheese souffle (The Cornish house)

I feel affinity with Cornwall, and bought the Cornwall-inspired trilogy by Liz Fenwick purely on the basis of its titles. I knew nothing about the author or her novels. I really wanted to like The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick. I truly did.
I liked the cover illustration, the blurb sounded mildly interesting too.
I found the setting fascinating, an old house with a sad history, which keeps repeating in the devastating lives of its inhabitants. Old houses all have a tale to tell, and Trevenen has its share of tragedies and secrets, including a ghost.
Maddie, an artist, who was recently widowed, inherits a house in Cornwall (very conveniently, as looking after her dying husband has left her with a lot of debts, so she had to sell her house in London). Her step-daughter Hannah has severe behavioural problems. The relationship between two female protagonists is at the heart of this novel.
The story was quite cliched in many aspects. There's a handsome dark Cornishman (of course! are there any other in Cornwall?!), a love interest of Maddie. And another man: a viking with chiselled jaws. Love triangle develops under a watchful eye of a hating step-daughter. Well, add the whole village to it, as apparently everybody knows everything that goes on.
The village gossips who come across you in the pharmacy exactly when you buy a pregnancy test.
Knees go week. The earth moves after a kiss under a mistletoe, etc.
The best part for me was the story of the old house.
It's the characters I had some issues with.
I felt like slapping both Maggie and her stepdaughter Hannah. Hannah, for being so obnoxious that it was becoming too tedious. Maggie, for letting her stepdaughter treat her that way. She's an adult, and she should have set the boundaries. Hannah sounds like a teenager from hell, not very believable as a character, more of a caricature, of what an evil stepchild should be like. I also found hard to believe that Maggie would go along with her dying husband's decision. If she wanted a child that much, she should not have gone through what she did.
Her new flame Mark too. Most people do mistakes in life, and have tragedies too, but that doesn't make them behave like idiots, or at least not all of them.
I wanted to know more about the house than the main protagonists, who annoyed me one by one.
Tamsin? I cannot abide nosey people who think they have a right to ask everything about your life.
I think the only character I liked was Old Tom.

Saying all that, I now moved on to the second book in the trilogy, A Cornish Affair. So far it hasn't been connected to the first novel in any way.

There were a few mentions of the food in the novel. I liked the sound of the crab souffle.

"The souffle melted in her mouth. Maddie would love to know how the chef blended the crab, lemon and cheese in such a divine way.
"The starter please you?" Gunnar smiled.
"Very much so. It's so light yet so rich. Would you like a taste?"

Crab, lemon and cheese souffle
melted butter, about 30g, enough to coat four ramekins
breadcrumbs, 2-3tbsp
crabmeat of 1 crab (over 200g)
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp butter, melted
2tbsp self-rasing flour, heaped
150ml semi-skimmed milk
150ml double cream
75g grated Grana Padano cheese
1tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
salt, pepper

First deal with the crab. I bought a ready-cooked crab from Tesco, claws and all bits and bobs still there. For a fiver it was a big beast.
It took me a while to remove the meat from all the pieces. I don't have any special kitchen tools for crab eating, as I don't buy it often, and when I do, it's already dressed, i.e. it's just a big shell filled with meat, without any legs etc. I used heavy kitchen scissors to open the claws and a wooden toothpick to get the meat out.

If you don't want all the faffle, just buy a tin of crab meat in brine though the taste won't be as good.
Butter the ramekins with the melted butter and sprinkle with fine breadcrumbs inside. Shake off the excess breadcrumbs.
In a medium sized pan melt 1tbsp of butter, then stir in the flour, cook stirring for a minute. Pour milk and cream a little bit at a time, keep stirring until you get a smooth creamy consistency. Add the zest and grated cheese, mix well. remove from the heat and beat in the egg yolks. Add the crabmeat (I used both white and dark meat) and chopped dill. Season well.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until all fluffy, then carefully fold the egg whites into the crab-cheese mixture.
Ladle the mixture into the ramekins.
Place the ramekins into a big baking tray and pour enough water around them about halfway up.
Put the tray in the oven preheated to 180C and bake for 35+ minutes until they're golden brown and all risen.

My souffles looked pretty puffed and quite high when I took the tray out of the oven. By the time I found my camera, they went down, eeek.
One day I will bake a perfectly risen souffle and keep it that way until I serve it.

They were delicious, if not perfect in shape. I can imagine the hosts of GBBO would tut-tut at my semi-floppy souffle, but hey, my family is more forgiving.
I did read you need to add a bit of cream of tartar to the egg whites for the souffle to keep its shape better. Have you tried it? Any tips on making a perfect souffle?


  1. I love your review of the book - I often want to slap the characters in books too ! I think your souffle looks fabulous - I still have yet to attempt making souffle. I will one day !

    1. Thank you Cheryl! You and me both, lol. It tasted really good. It would be fab to watch a professional cooking a souffle and learn how to do it properly

  2. Brave to tackle a whole crab! looks delicious, I love souffle'!

    1. Not sure, brave or silly, it took quite a while. Though it was worth it. :)