Ed Balls’ Christmas Day starter recipe

The former shadow chancellor’s step-by-step instructions for perfect individual crab and Gruyère soufflés

12 December 2015

9:00 AM

12 December 2015

9:00 AM

Cooking the Christmas dinner is my job in our house. And I love it. All those courses and juggling of logistics. The annual realisation that our oven is too small to cope with the scale of my ambitions. Ladling goose fat from the pan. And a family meal which — just once a year — can take as long as it needs to take, without kids rushing off to a rehearsal or to finish homework or even just to escape their relatives.

Every year I like to try to something new. Most recently a rich and marzipan-y German cake called a stollen (lesson, don’t leave it too long in the oven — it dries out). The year before, a really proper beef gravy, starting from baking the bones, which was 36 hours brilliantly well spent.

This year, with rather more time on my hands than usual, I’ve made my first-ever proper Christmas puddings, with grated quince and everything. (Question: do 20p pieces really need to be wrapped in foil before going into the mix, as Yvette has insisted?)

But there is one Christmas culinary challenge I’m still trying to crack — how to deliver a really good seasonal starter for Christmas Day. Over the past few years, I’ve tried a range of ideas; I did a chestnut risotto, but it was really much too filling; a turkey and ham terrine, which, though it looked fabulous, was a bit dull; and a salmon mousse — tasted OK, but lacked pizzazz.

Last year I decided to drop the Christmas theme and go for something fancy and flavourful, but light rather than heavy. And it worked. So if, like me, you’re still grappling with menus as the big day approaches, this is my starter suggestion: individual crab and Gruyère soufflés.

Yes, soufflés — and please don’t just throw your Spectator across the room in disgust. Because for all the hype, soufflés are actually really easy and reliable. They always work for me. And you’re bound to have a few ramekins sitting around on the top shelf.

So here we go…


2 tbsp grated Parmesan
6 eggs
1 large knob of butter (35g)
Same volume of plain flour
350ml whole milk
140g Gruyère cheese, grated
300g crabmeat (white or a mix of white and brown: basically a large dressed crab)
Dash of Tabasco or half tsp of red chilli, finely diced
1 tsp tomato purée or
Dijon mustard (optional)
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill or parsley (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 180˚C/Gas mark 4. Butter eight ramekins and sprinkle the insides with the grated Parmesan. Separate the six eggs, keeping all the whites and four of the yolks.

Melt the knob of butter in a saucepan and add the same volume of plain flour. Whisk together and cook for a couple of minutes, then slowly add the milk, stirring all the time until the sauce boils and thickens.

Take the sauce off the heat and allow to cool slightly; three minutes will do. Then stir in 100g of the grated Gruyère (holding back the other 40g for later). Stir in the crabmeat. I would also add the dash of Tabasco at this point, or the finely diced red chilli. But that’s a matter of taste of course. You could also add some tomato puree or Dijon mustard, though I don’t think they are needed. But do stir in the four egg yolks, and some salt and pepper.

In a separate and clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form what cooks call stiff peaks — i.e., peaks which stay stiff. Use an electric mixer — a hand-whisk works but takes a long time!

Transfer a third of the stiff egg whites into the crab and cheese sauce and stir it all in. This makes the next ‘folding’ step much easier. Pour the thick yellow sauce back into the gap in the egg white bowl you’ve just created and sprinkle the other 40g of grated Gruyère on top. If you are feeling ‘cheffy’ you could add some chopped fresh dill or parsley — totally optional.

Now carefully fold the stiff egg whites and the cheesy crab sauce together, using a gentle figure of eight stir, until it’s all properly combined. Finally, spoon the mixture into your eight ramekins. I would cook them for 25 minutes until they are nice and brown, but another five minutes won’t do any harm.

And there you have it, a fancy Christmas starter. I hope they work for you. I will admit though, I’m still hankering after a further ‘Christmas-y’ touch this year. Crab, Gruyère and cranberry? I’m not convinced…

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Ed Balls teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School and King’s College London and was shadow chancellor from 2011 until this May.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • davidshort10

    Ha! Ha! So good to see this grotesque person has so much time on his hands. He’d better get used to it.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Presumably he holds the Ted Kennedy Chair of Ethics in Government jointly with Alistair Campbell.

  • ballsmonkey

    Best thing you’ve ever produced Ed.

  • Chingford Man


  • lookout

    How will your Syrian lodgers get on with Christmas Ed ?

  • cdvision

    Who paid for the ingredients, and did you claim twice?

  • William Matthews

    Take one Stalinist, a Communist and a pinch of Trotsky. Blend well with a spoonful of soap dodging anarchists. (Pick them up at your local Fortnum & Mason or your local food bank) and simmer on the front bench until completely unelectable. Make sure you have removed all the Ed’s floating around at the top, if you find some, just spoon them out. Use a bit of momentum to get them going. Et viola! Labour Party. I call it the Christmas Labour Comedy Spectacular. Wash it down with lentil soup and eat off a manhole cover for the full effect! Merry Multi-Faithmas one and all!

    • Jeffrey Vernon

      And there I was thinking the Labour party was just Stepford wives, twitterphiles and committee drones. You make it sound much more exciting – perhaps I’ll join.

      • William Matthews

        Don’t forget to wash the manhole cover — and take a picture!

  • Jenks

    First of all get the tax payer to buy the ingredients !

    ‘Mr Balls and Miss Cooper submitted regular claims for food, usually totalling up to £600 a month.’ (Daily Telegraph)

  • Yorkieeye

    I once did fruit de mer to start (lots of it) which was so spectacularly successful no one wanted to eat the turkey! My tip is not to bother with a sit down starter but have a selection of (small) canapés on hand to nibble on whilst we all (except the cook) do a Christmas quiz and treasure hunt. This has the combined virtue of keeping diners out of the cook’s way and occupied and moving around. When the great feast finally arrives we are mostly pretty hungry.

  • Oh God – NO! You’d think the Balls family would just disappear into obscurity after recent electoral setbacks, but no – the pair of them are resurrecting their talentless public profiles, him with his culinary advice and her, rabbiting on yesterday on the cursed Woman’s Hour programme on Radio 4 about some ‘feminist issue’ the exact nature of which escapes me, since as soon as I heard her dreadful droning voice, I was compelled to switch her off. Dreadful, dreadful publicity seeking wretches, the pair of them.

    • post_x_it

      It’s all going down the pan. The Hamiltons, the Bercows, the Danczuks and now the Ballses.

  • Terry Field

    Dear Mr Balls,
    I spent many long years grinding my teeth at the prospect of what further degradation you, Brown, Blair, and the rest of the true rat-pack could do to my beautiful country.
    Now, I miss your amateurish clowning.
    Corbin is the real deal.
    A true economic terrorist; a real monster of Soviet dimensions and intentions.
    You and your partners-in-grime were a prime reason I finally gave up and left the poor. poisoned Island.
    Now you after me compassion, fellowship, shared bourgeois hopes and……….souffles!!
    I love soufflés.
    I cook shuffles.
    I now live in a place famous for them.
    The ashes of my fiery rage directed toward you is slaked by your friendly offering.
    A very little.
    Sadly I am economist, and a historian. I can place context to the devastation visited upon the land of my birth.
    My poor country.
    While there is still time.

    • sfin

      I echo every syllable…

  • Sky Pixie

    How are the refugees in your spare room doing?

    • red2black

      The housing of refugees is controlled by the Central Committee.

      • Sue Smith

        As is any comment to be made about this.

        Enjoy the German stollen because it will be off the menu in Europe within a generation, as will Christmas itself.

        • red2black

          G’day. Good to see you’re in ‘The Party’ mood.

          • Sue Smith

            Well, I believe satire and parody are the only ways to treat the ‘invasion’ that is currently underway in western Europe.

            Today there’s a story here about Prince Fredrick of Denmark and his wife Princess Mary; she’s Australian. They are holidaying here with their 4 children and apparently the eldest boy had to be rescued from the surf today. There’s a picture of the whole family taken in Denmark, dressed to the hilt. I said to my husband, “isn’t that picture such a good look; go the attractive white guys”!!!

            I’m fighting back, and not ‘checking my privilege’. Looking forward to Boxing Day when my gay sister comes here ready for the annual political brawl – ‘progressives’ versus ‘conservatives’!!! The Conservative Army has been conscripted for the occasion.

            Hope you and yours have a very happy Christmas.

          • red2black

            We’ve got an extended Sikh family one one side, and a lesbian couple from Barnsley on the other. Apart from The Queen,
            no-one round here takes much notice of Royalty. Most likely I’ll enjoy a bottle or two of whatever’s on-board and watch the usual festive season’s offerings on the box.
            A bit of reading as well.

          • Sue Smith

            In Australia they notice, especially when one of their own is a ‘royal’ from Denmark!!! Mary, from Tasmania, is a peach as are her 4 beautiful children and handsome husband. They don’t belong to minorities, which is such a source of joy in itself!!

          • red2black

            Aren’t ‘royals’ a minority? People can’t really do much about being in a minority; that’s what they’re in. Prince Charles has been visiting people whose homes have been flooded.

          • Sue Smith

            European whiteness is not yet a minority, but people are working on it.

            It’s when the rights of minorities trump those of others – or have to ring constantly in everybody’s ears – that gets up my nose. They never stop yammering about how they’ve been underrated and exploited by the ‘dominant’ group. I’m over it.

            Poor Charles (“poor Tom”?). He’s waiting for Godot.

          • Terry Field

            How refreshing!
            Very merry Chrismas to you and your family. I suggest that you try Cliquot Really Rich, or Rich, both agreeably honeyed and between brut, and moulleux

          • Sue Smith

            Thanks so much!! Same to you. Our Christmas is over but Boxing Day will see me with 11 people. We’ve all been discussing pc and the Thought Police. My son’s boss is an extremely high-ranking member of our federal government and we’ve been talking politics over Christmas.

            See that the Cecil Rhodes Statue in SA is about to be pulled down. We’re absolutely over all this rubbish!! That man was a living legend.

            And I want 2016 to be free of the “all people are equal” cant. Nothing could be further from the truth!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Michael Simpson

          As a well endowed black man with model good looks and a bit of historical righting to get on with I fully intend to marry your son or daughter and then put you in a care home forever.

          • Sue Smith

            Now why doesn’t THAT surprise me??!!!

    • David Booth.

      They’re living alongside Nicola Surgeons refugees in “Never Never Land!”

    • Very VERY good!

    • post_x_it

      There weren’t any left after Cumberbatch and Geldof took them all in.

  • Bob Harris

    Balls has just coined a new term: The Soufflés Socialist!

  • Ryctus Grynne

    Wouldn’t faggots and peas be more appropriate, balls?

  • Sue Smith

    I love the idea he’s got Dills in the recipe. It takes one to know one!!

  • JOhn Mackie

    fat cretin

  • Chingford Man

    He can cook the books as well.

    • Slavosaur

      I don’t recall their being any major changes in the way government finances are managed between 2010 and now.

  • freddiethegreat

    “The year before, a really proper beef gravy, starting from baking the bones, which was 36 hours brilliantly well spent.”
    36 Hours of electricity consumption – for gravy? If you can afford that you’re definitely riding first class on the gravy train. Oh, and you just drowned the Maldives.

    • wycombewanderer

      That depends, I have a rayburn which is lit from end of sept to end of May for the heating.

      I get free hot ovens for that.

  • wycombewanderer

    Tis rthe season of goodwill so I will wish Mr Balls the seasons greetings.

    No doubt his soggy bottom, |Telemachus will be along soon to do likewise.

    I sort of miss Balls in a way you had to think about what he said before making a decision on wheter he had a point or not.

    The current incumbent of the job gives no such challenges.

    • wycombewanderer

      And it will be a very politically incorrect Foie Gras amuse bouche followed by seafood platter, then goose at Wycombe Hall this year as always

  • Kandanada

    Is this a wind up?

    • techfilz

      “Soufflés are frequently depicted in cartoons, comedies and children’s programs as a source of humor. Often this involves a loud noise or poke causing the soufflé to collapse, evoking the dejection of the character being served the anticipated dessert” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Souffl%C3%A9

  • Tom M


  • Trainspotter

    I have a recipe for this Marxist moron – get a large caliber gun, load it, stick in your gob, pull the trigger.

    Merry Christmas.

    • Slavosaur

      I don’t think he was Marxist in any way, shape, or form.

    • CouchSlob

      Sad really, that the internet gives voice to cretins such as yourself.

      • Serenitatis Serenitatus

        Sad really, that the internet gives voice to cretins such as yourself.

  • genetunneygent

    Somehow, though totally innocuous, this makes me despise him more.