Do I detect Spring in the air? I can’t believe I have actually been able to leave the house without a coat this week. The daffodils are finally blooming, the trees are beginning to blossom in abundance. It has been a long winter!
I love this time of year……. The light is bright but subtle, the colours are beautiful and fresh and the air is crisp with a hint of warmth. I am blessed to live in a coastal town, within a 5 minute walk of the sea. In the evenings, the light and the last rays of the sun play on the clouds, making the sky an ever changing kaleidoscope of pinks, yellows and blues. Whether the tide is in or out, the reflections are mesmerising and truly beautiful.
As we move towards summer, thoughts turn towards the pleasure of picnics and eating in the garden……
One of my favourite warm weather lunches is quiche and salad. Simple and straightforward, but very tasty and nutritious. Made fresh is best, but it can always be prepared and stored in the fridge or freezer, ready to eat warmed at the table or cold on a picnic.
My daughter’s favourite quiche is cheese and bacon, but when she was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, finding a recipe for a good pastry that would remain crisp, short and hold together was not easy. Eventually I was told (by a colleague of mine) about a book called ‘How to Cook for Food Allergies’ (Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne (2007)). It has some really helpful information on substituting ingredients for a whole range of allergies and intolerances and in amongst its pages, I also found a fantastic recipe for Rice and Almond Shortcrust Pastry. I have amended the quantities of flour and almonds for my own version and added a little xanthan gum as I felt it needed something to help it bind a little better. The end result has produced consistently delicious quiches, sausage rolls and fruit tarts, over and over again. It needs a slightly different process and handling to traditional wheat-based shortcrust pastry, but once I accepted the new ‘rules’ and avoided any temptation to over-handle or chill before rolling out, I had no trouble producing pastry which is versatile, tasty and has a wonderful texture and bite.
I have used it here to make the cheese and bacon quiche that my daughter loves. There is nothing fancy about it……But it is tasty and delicious…… Not over rich and not over wet. Perfect for those warm summer days…..
Rice & Almond Shortcrust Pastry (my version) – lines one 10-12 inch (25-30cm) flan tin
130g brown rice flour
50g corn flour
40g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
110g cold butter (cubed)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cold water
Dough Method – by hand
- Weigh and sieve the flours, xanthan gum and salt into a large bowl and stir together with the ground almonds.
- Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and then pour into the crumb mixture.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the crumb mixture using a table knife until it begins to clump together.
- Bring the dough together with your hands and press into a ball. Knead very briefly to ensure ingredients are fully amalgamated.
by food processor
- Weigh the flours, almonds, xanthan gum and salt into the food processor bowl and pulse briefly to mix together and remove any lumps.
- Add the cubed butter to the mixture and pulse again until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and then pour into the food processor with the crumb mixture.
- Turn the processor on and mix until the ingredients form a smooth dough. This will not require any further kneading.
- Roll the pastry out straight away (do not chill in the fridge), using corn flour on the work surface and rolling pin to prevent any sticking.
- Carefully lay the rolled pastry over the flan tin with the support of the rolling pin and ease into the base, gently moulding into the sides of the tin.
- Trim the pastry edge flush with the top of the tin, using a sharp knife.
- If there are any cracks or holes in the rolled pastry base, use the trimmed remains to ‘repair’. – Roll and trim to size, and using cold water, dampen both the area around the crack/hole and the down-side of the ‘patch’ and gently press together, smoothing the edges with a finger dipped in water to seal and tidy.
- Place the prepared flan pastry in the fridge for half an hour to chill prior to baking.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200⁰ C / 400⁰ F / Gas 5.
- Scrunch and then flatten a piece of baking paper large enough to lay inside the flan base so that it is more flexible and then base-fill the pastry case with baking beans.
- When the oven has reached temperature, blind-bake the pastry with the baking beans for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- Whilst the pastry base is cooking, prepare the filling ready for use.
Cheese & Bacon Quiche Filling
8 rashers (about 200g) back bacon (cut into small pieces)
110g mature cheddar cheese – grated
250ml double cream
3 large eggs
a handful of chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
salt and pepper to season
- Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4 (or turn down to that level when the pastry bases are cooked and removed).
- Gently cook the bacon in a small non-stick pan, stirring frequently, until it is golden brown but not crispy. Then set aside on some kitchen towel to drain any excess moisture.
- Beat the eggs, cream, milk, parsley and seasoning together in a bowl until well combined and airy.
- When your pastry cases are cooked and ready, sprinkle the bacon in an even layer at the base of the case, followed by a layer of grated cheese (reserving a small amount of cheese to sprinkle on the top).
- Pour the cream mixture over the top of the bacon and cheese and sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top.
- Bake immediately for about 30 minutes until the top is firm and set and there is no ‘wobble’ to the wet mixture.
- Remove from the oven and eat hot or warm or cool for later.