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Survival Food!

What a tricky time we are all living in with a pandemic sweeping the globe? What to do? Well, we all have to eat and with half the world gone bonkers with panic buying we have to cook with what we have in the fridge, pantry and garden. So, for anyone quarantined at home I offer making this quiche. Why?

  • You will learn how to make pastry – don’t be afraid! WHY? – because once you have mastered a good shortcrust pastry it will add so many fantastic dishes to your repertoire. Not only all kinds of savoury tarts and pies, but gorgeous sweet things too – like fruit tarts and meringues. (I will put links to other recipes at the end of this post).

Some of my shortcrust pastry dishes

  • One of my pet hates are ‘soggy bottoms’ – (no tired jokes about loo paper shortage please) What I am talking about are those quiches you get served up where the pastry case has not been pre-cooked ‘baked blind’ before the filling is added – the wet ingredients are just plopped on top of the raw pastry, which then never has the chance to cook and ends up tasting like soggy cardboard. There are two main reasons why people do this: they simply don’t know about ‘baking blind’ AND they are short of time. Bear with me and I will help you to sort both of these out.

  • Home made pastry is infinitely cheaper and better for you than the commercial shop bought varieties. You just need flour and butter to make shortcrust pastry. I make it with organic wholemeal flour and good butter, but that is up to you – you have control over the taste and nutritional quality of the end product. I just had a look at some commercial sheets of pastry I have languishing in my freezer from when my daughter’s family was living her a while ago. These are the listed ingredients on the packet:
  • Wheat flour
  • Margarine
  • Vegetable oils (no details)
  • Emulsifiers 471 and 322
  • Antioxidant 307b
  • Natural colour
  • Food acid
  • Salt
  • NOW. Which would you rather have – something homemade, nutritious and delicious – or something that tastes and looks like you are eating by numbers?
  • The filling for this recipe uses up all of those ingredients that you may have lying around in the pantry and the fridge. You just have to make sure you have some eggs. For a large quiche of this size, which is 29cm, I used eight. The rest is up to you, but it always good if you have some fresh herbs to throw in like: parsley, dill, tarragon, basil, marjoram, and chives.

SHORTCRUST PASTRY

  • 180g butter
  • 240g plain flour – I use wholemeal
  • about 1 tablespoon cold water

METHOD

  • Turn on oven to 180o.
  • Cut the cold butter into about 4 and tip it and flour into a food processor.
  • Whizz up until the combined mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Slowly add the cold water until the mixture forms into a clump, then STOP.
  • If it is still a bit crumbly – add a little more water.
  • If you overdo the water and it looks like paste, you will have to add more flour and whizz up again until it forms a ball.
  • NOTE: This is not an exact science. How much fluid you need to butter/flour mix depends on quite a few things: air temperature, type of flour, fat content of butter etc. Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t go according to plan straight away – you can adjust it as you go.
  • Tip the pastry ball out onto a floured surface and form gently into a flattened disc – unlike bread, pastry does not need kneading. Use your hands to twist the disc around a few times until the edges are smooth.
  • Have the greased quiche dish ready. TOP TIP If you are making a smaller quiche, you can cut the pastry ball in half – form it into a disc, and put in the freezer (in a ziplock bag) for another day.
  • Flour your rolling pin and roll out the pastry to the approximate size of your dish. Stop a few times to pat the edges with your hands and to make sure that it has not stuck to the benchtop. TOP TIP Do not wipe benchtop down just prior to rolling pastry – it has to be CLEAN but also DRY!
  • Now to the fun bit. Have your greased quiche dish standing by. Now gently roll the pastry over the rolling pin – pick it up and lay out over dish. It may fall apart a bit but you can simple patch it up and mould it into the dish making sure you have pressed it into the rim – as in the photo above (in which you can see my finger marks all over the pastry!)
  • Pick up the lined quiche dish in one hand and twisting, with a non-serrated knife, cut off the surplus pastry from the edge of the lip. With finger tips you can go around the edge making pattern – these are things they don’t teach you in school any more – I’m not sure why – I think I spent a whole term on ‘fluting and crimping’?
  • NOTE: If you don’t have a food processor you can easily make pastry the way I was taught – with your fingertips in a large bowl and just follow the same recipe. It just takes longer and is messier.
  • ANOTHER NOTE: You may have read about ‘chilling the pastry in the fridge before you roll it – to rest it’? This is for the purists. I have never found that it makes any difference, but then I’m no expert.

  • Baking Blind. Line the pastry with non-stick baking paper. TOP TIP Don’t use foil – it sticks to the pastry.
  • Fill with dried beans or old pasta to weigh it down. NOTE: You can reuse these over and over again
  • Put in a preheated oven on 180o for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven. Gently lift out the baking paper with weight mix.
  • Pop back the empty pastry case in the oven for a further 10 minutes. Then remove. The pastry will feel firm and cooked and look like this. TOP TIP Don’t overcook the pastry by browning it because it has to go back in the oven again with the filling.

THE FILLING This is where, for all of us living through these very strange and unusual times, get to be resourceful and do something really satisfying – throw into this quiche whatever you have lying around in your pantry, fridge and garden. You could make it entirely vegetarian or add some smoked salmon/ham/leftover fish etc. What did I have?

  • One white of a leek – leftover from making soup. Any kind of oniony thing is good too – brown, red or chives.
  • Good handful of kale. I shredded this and tossed it in a saucepan with the leek and some butter first to cook it and soften it a little. You can also use spinach/chard/mustard greens etc. Always cook and soften the onions and greens first.
  • 1 can pink salmon (that had been hanging around the pantry for a while)
  • Bits of cheese that needed eating – brie, ricotta and parmesan – you can use anything.
  • Big handful of chopped fresh herbs – I had tarragon and basil – plus a few shredded zucchini flowers – well, why not? Dill and parsley are good together too.
  • 8 eggs – beaten up in the leek and onion pan to absorb the flavour. I also added some cream that needed using up – about half a cupful.
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • Arrange the ingredients first then pour over the beaten egg
  • Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and I added a yellow tomato – for the hell of it
  • Place back in the oven on 190o for 35-40 minutes or until the quiche is firm and light golden.

Now that you have mastered (mistressed?) the art of SHORTCRUST PASTRY – the world is, well – your pie-crust! Here are some more recipes from my website using the ‘baking blind’ method of pastry making.

Lime Papaya Meringue Tart

Salmon Quiche

Crostata – Rustic Fruit Pie

Sorrell and Goats Cheese Tart

Danish Apple and Berry Pie

POSTSCRIPT Since posting this recipe I have had some fun feedback. Firstly from my niece in Ireland who was thrilled at making pastry FOR THE FIRST TIME and said it was ‘delish’. Secondly, from a Mullum local, Neville, who said it was “the best quiche” he had ever eaten. And thirdly, my 14 year old granddaughter Leila, who was making pastry for the first time too, and panicking, but a few FaceTime sessions during the process got us over the line and a spectacular looking lime tart for dessert. Well done everyone – this makes me very happy and is the reason why I write this up – for you!!