It’s nice to have a new life to celebrate. My husband and I were approaching the age where birthdays consist of a nice dinner out, at a reasonable hour and forgoing the gift. But with a 2-year-old, the fun begins a new. Balloons are taped to the walls, paper Happy Birthday signs hung up and tubes of soap bubbles handed out as party favours.
I made the same chocolate cake I made last year. Only 85g of sugar and 4 tablespoons of cocoa, perfect for children. The cocoa powder exploded all over my kitchen when I was trying to close the lid. Nothing like a messy kitchen accident to get you completely off schedule.
The chickpea dish is a good one to know. It used to be a Melrose and Morgan staple 5 years ago, when Jane (who had previously worked at Sally Clarke’s in London) was the head chef. It’s a great dish to serve for lunch, particularly if the company is made up primarily of ladies (men tend to act like they are being cheated if there is no meat on the table). It’s simplicity itself to make this, especially as I used jarred chickpeas (which, if you get a good brand are even better than cooking them yourself), then all you have to do is roast some peppers, skin them and cut them into slivers. Toss everything together with a little balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with fresh coriander and drizzle with olive oil.
There were enough people invited to justify going to the trouble of making a Quiche. And if you are going to go to the trouble of making pastry, chilling it, rolling it, lining the tin and finally blind baking it – well then you simply owe it to yourself to make sure the filling ingredients are cooked just right. The onions must be sliced thinly, then cooked down until with the meerest of pinches, they turn to mush. If using tomatoes, dry them in the oven until they become sweet and chewy and give off most of their moisture (so you don’t later have a soggy bits in your Quiche). Lastly, don’t overbake your filling.
I like to scatter the onions on the blind baked pastry case, dot with fennel and tomatoes and interspersed spoonfuls of a young soft goat’s cheese. Then I put the tart shell in the oven and pour the filling in.
Roast tomatoes, fennel and goat’s cheese Quiche
For the pastry
170g plain flour
large pinch of salt
100g of butter, cut into 1 cm cubes
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of ice-cold water
For the Filling
1 large onion, thinly sliced
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 a fennel bulb, thinly sliced through the root
1 tablespoon parsley (they have tubs of pre-chopped parsley in the freezer section here in Berlin which is useful, see if you can find it), finely chopped
1 tablespoon chives finely chopped
150g soft goat’s cheese
45g parmesan, coarsely grated
3 eggs beaten
1. To make the pastry, either put the butter, salt and flour into a magimix and pulse until you have a mixture that resembles bread crumbs, then mix the yolk with the ice-cold water and drizzle through the feed tube until your pastry comes into a ball. Or, rub the butter and flour together until they look like breadcrumbs, drizzle over the egg yolk and water, stir together with a knife, use your hands to bring together into a ball. Shape into a disc and chill for 20 minutes.
2. Roll out the pastry, line a 8 inch tart tin, patch up any cracks with left over dough.
3. Chill until firm (about 1 hour). Blind bake for about 15 minutes until the dough feels ‘sandy’. Keep the tart shell in its tin.
4. Thinly slice the onion and put over a medium heat with plenty of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 20 minutes until the onions become translucent and soft.
5. Set your oven to 100°C. Oil a low sided tin, lay the fennel down, the halved cherry tomatoes on top, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper (some fresh thyme leaves would be wonderful here if you have them). Bake for about an hour and a half, until the tomatoes have shriveled up and are really sweet.
6. Spread the cooked onion on the base of the cooked Quiche shell. Scatter the fennel and the tomatoes. If using a soft goat’s cheese, use a teaspoon to scoop out dollops of cheese.
7. Break up the eggs, add the milk, cream, Parmesan, herbs, salt and pepper to taste (dip your pinky in and see if it’s sufficiently salty). Pour the mix over the vegetables in the quiche shell. Bake at 170°C for about 30 minutes or until the centre of the Quiche is no longer wobbly.
8. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.