Ditch the Christmas pudding and serve up souffle this Christmas

Blackberry soufflé

Blackberry soufflé - Credit: Archant

Mix up these delicious desserts for family and friends at Christmas, says chef Stephen Bulmer

Stephen Bulmer, chef director at Swinton Park Cookery School, sprinkles icing sugar over cooked car

Stephen Bulmer, chef director at Swinton Park Cookery School, sprinkles icing sugar over cooked caramel soufflé - Credit: Archant

A soufflé masterclass wasn’t my first thought for our food pages this Christmas. Something easy, something traditional, something to comfort, I thought would suit you. But I hadn’t reckoned on the force of nature who is Stephen Bulmer, chef director at Swinton Park Cookery School, Masham in North Yorkshire. ‘Oh, come on it’s easy, and something different and so versatile. I’ll show you a Christmas pudding soufflé, you’ll love it,’ he coaxed. And that was that. We were off to make a series of different flavoured soufflés in the beautiful and so-organised cookery school kitchen. ‘Once you master the basics you can add any flavour you like,’ said Chef.

Who am I to argue with a man who has over 20 years’ experience at Michelin level restaurants throughout Europe, including several years as a senior chef de cuisine at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. He has mastered different skills and styles of cooking throughout his career, cooking Italian cuisine at Zafferano, Knightsbridge; Thai cuisine at Nahm, London and Japanese cuisine at Nobu, London.

Back in his early days he was a Young Chef of the Year finalist in 1992 and 1993 and reached the semi-finals of the Roux-brothers scholarship competition. Since then he has appeared on various television programmes including Ready, Steady, Cook and tctTotal Fishing. He’s earned a reputation as one of the leading cookery school tutors in the UK.

He was chef director of the Raymond Blanc Cookery School for six years and also ran his own school at Brook Hall in Buckinghamshire. ‘I moved into teaching because I found my greatest pleasure was in sharing everything I have learned and then watching others, whether young chefs or home cooks, master new skills and achieve results beyond their expectations.’

Apple, orange and lemon soufflés

Apple, orange and lemon soufflés - Credit: Archant

He’s run his own restaurant but has never wanted a Michelin star badly enough to risk the havoc the pressure can wreak on family life. ‘I’ve seen families fall apart because of the pressure and the focus a chef needs to earn a star, then a second and a third. That’s not for me.’ His cooking may have taken him all over the world but Stephen is from Yorkshire. He spent his childhood on the North York Moors and started cooking at the Goathland Hotel before moving to the Box Tree in Ilkley. He’s glad to be back, bringing with him his expertise as well as his enthusiastic and energetic cooking style to Swinton Park Cookery School.

Our soufflé masterclass was over before we knew it and we reproduce just a few of the recipes Stephen demonstrated including the basic pastry cream with flavourings to suit different tastes.

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Find out more about the comprehensive range of courses for most levels of ability including programmes for children and teenagers right through to professional chefs looking for inspiration at swintonpark.co.uk, email cookeryschool@swintonpark.co.uk or call 01765 680969

Soufflé Pastry Cream

Makes 12 in size 2 ramekins


• 500ml Milk, full fat

• 1 Vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds scraped out

• 6 Egg yolks, medium

• 100g Caster sugar

• 25g Plain flour

• 25g Cornflour

• 1 tsp Caster sugar for dusting ramekins


Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the base of a large, heavy bottomed saucepan (TOP TIP: this will melt and coat the bottom of the pan to help prevent the milk burning).

Bring the milk to the boil with the split vanilla pod and seeds. Infuse at just below simmering point for about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and remove the vanilla pod.

Cream together the egg yolks and sugar and then whisk in the flour and cornflour. Ensure all ingredients are mixed well to ensure a smooth texture.

Pour approximately one third of the hot milk onto the egg, sugar and flour mixture and whisk until well blended. Pour back into the remaining milk, return to the heat and bring up to 86 degrees centigrade for 30 seconds (small bubbles will begin to come through), whisking continuously. Do not boil.

To store transfer to a bowl or container, cover with cling film directly touch the surface (to prevent skin forming) and cool down on ice as soon as possible (this prevents the growth of harmful bacteria). Seal with cling film and refrigerate. This basic pastry cream mix will freeze for up to two months.

Line soufflé ramekins Make sure you use oven-proof dishes. Fancy ones could shatter in the heat of the oven. Take each dish and brush the inside completely with softened butter (not melted). Chill the dishes for five minutes then lightly coat with butter once again. Tip a little caster sugar into each dish; roll the dish around tilting as you go, so it is evenly lined with sugar.

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