Wednesday, 25 January 2012

quiche basics, or flan if you will

I cooked three quiches on Monday, it'll pass, and had to think a lot about the egg/milk magic that makes quiche work. It is a basic savoury custard, and even though when you put it that way it seems less tempting, bung it in a pastry shell, add a few other ingredients and stand back to watch people scoff it down.

Quiches, or mini quiches are standard fare at lots of gatherings. Make them and people imagine you are a culinary genius, and why not? Grab a packet of ready made pastry, use it to line some well buttered tart tins, shallow ones are easier, but make sure you get the pastry/filling ratio right. You can guarantee an easy exit by cutting squares of baking parchment (crumpled and flattened out again to make it sit well into the corners) to pop under the pastry. Hey, go ultra rustic and don't bother to have circles of pastry, cut it into squares and let people enjoy some toasty corners, just avoid burning them, because noone likes a charred pastry corner. Make your egg mixture, put in your other ingredients and pour it on top. Fill to just under the top of the pastry and cook.

Basic quiche filling proportions: one large egg to 100ml cream or milk

Add seasoning: pepper, salt, herbs

to vary the quiches you add some solid ingredients such as:

  • roasted veg, such as peppers and onions
  • cheese and ham (or bacon, cooked)
  • steamed broccoli florets 
  • spinach and goats cheese
  • mushroom and leek

These should be cut into suitable sizes to get variety in each mouthful, and vegetables need to be almost or completely cooked beforehand.

Cook mini quiches for about 20 minutes at gas mark 6/ 200 C/ 375F, or until golden and risen.

If you don't want to use pastry, line your quiche with thin slices of courgette, making sure to line the case with baking parchment, and perhaps to make the quiche mixture a little more eggy.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Lemon poppy seed cake

Lemon poppy seed cake
Lemon cake, when it has an acid bite, is a thing of great joy, all zingy pleasure as it hits your tongue, with a follow through of soft sweet cakiness. Adding beautiful grey blue poppy seeds lends an additional crunch and a light shade of nuttiness. It’s true that poppy seeds are tiny, hellish if spilled and they get stuck in your teeth. They aren’t something that most of us buy as a routine, but they are a small pleasure that is worth indulging from time to time.

On top of having more juice in than any other recipe I’ve found, this cake gets additional tang from a syrup that you pour over the cake when it is fresh out of the oven. I pour the syrup on to the bottom of the cake while it’s still in the tin, let it cool for a while and pour the syrup on to the top.  I find there is enough syrup left over to mix into crème fraiche, if you fancy it, which I do.

So when you read the recipe you may think it’s a bit fiddly, and it is, but only a little bit. This cake is a treat and the lemon cakiness peppered with the poppy seeds is lovely to look at as well as eat. So a little extra work pays off.

I’m going to try this with orange juice soon.

Photos follow.


  • ·         50g (1/3 cup) poppy seeds
  • ·         60ml (¼ cup) milk
  • ·         185g butter
  • ·         1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • ·         220g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • ·         3 eggs
  • ·         225g (1 ½ cups self-raising flour
  • ·         60g (½ cup) plain flour
  • ·         60g (½ cup) ground almonds
  • ·         125ml (½ cup) lemon juice

o   For the syrup
o   220g (1 cup) caster sugar
o   160ml (2/3 cup) lemon juice
o   80ml (1/3 cup) water
  • ·         Set the oven to Gas Mark 4/ 350F/ 180C/160C fan-assisted
  • ·         Grease 23cm cake tin thoroughly
  • ·         Mix poppy seeds and milk and set aside
  • ·         Beat the butter, rind and sugar together until light and fluffy
  • ·         Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are combined
  • ·         Add the dry ingredients and mix together
  • ·         Add the juice and the poppy seed mixture
  • ·         Spread into the greased tin
  • ·         Bake for about 55m or until a skewer inserted comes out clean

o   For the syrup
o   Put the sugar, juice and water into a small pan on a low heat without boiling, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved
o   Once the sugar has dissolved,  bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered without stirring for two minutes

Let the cake stand for about five minutes,  then stab gently here and there with a skewer, and spoon the syrup about a third of the syrup over while the cake is in the tin. Let the cake stand another five minutes and then turn it out carefully onto a rack set over a large plate or tray, then spoon over the rest of the syrup. Scoop up the syrup that isn’t absorbed and set it aside if you want to use it later. Let the cake cool completely before putting it onto a serving plate.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Simple soup - red lentils

I'm knocking up some red lentil soup using my dhal recipe, just adding liquid. Cheap, deliciouse and nutritious, and of course easy to make.