I do not think the soufflé is truly part of the tradition of English cooking. I cannot find any dish nearer to it in early recipes than various forms of more or less soufflé omelettes. However, a cheese soufflé is, in many ways, a perfect savoury, and since every form of cold and hot soufflé graced Edwardian tables, I have fallen to the temptation of giving my own favourite recipe here.
This may be made either as one large soufflé or in individual soufflé dishes. A large soufflé will take 15 minutes to bake in an oven preheated to 450° F., gas mark 8. Small ones will take 8 minutes at the same temperature. The large one can be put in as you finish serving the previous course; the small ones just as you finish eating it.
Beat the egg yolks and mix into the warm cheese sauce, blending well. Season rather highly with pepper but only a little salt (because the cheese is salt). Set aside. Well butter the soufflé dish or small dishes and put ready.
The egg whites can be beaten a little before the soufflé is to be cooked, and given a final beating just before they are combined with the cheese mixture. They must hold a peak and be perfectly stiff throughout. Just before the soufflé is to go into the hot oven, fold them into the cheese mixture, lifting and stirring rather than beating, and making sure that they are evenly mixed in. Pile into the dish or dishes, so that they are two thirds full. Put them quickly into the oven about half-way up, and do not open it again until they should be ready. Carry the beautifully puffed and risen golden-brown soufflé quickly but smoothly to the table and serve. If it is waved about it may begin to sink. Start to eat it immediately.
©1975 The Estate of Elizabeth Ayrton