Courgette, dill and ricotta quiche with a rapeseed oil crust

I have a very large plastic tub in my lounge. One of those tubs that parents keep their kids’ toys in perhaps to prevent the inevitable and very painful Lego brick stuck between your toes and the plastic farm set from being sucked up the hoover. Yes one of those 2L ones. It has my stash of magazines in, Good Food magazines, and I cherish them all. Ever since my first, December 2012 to be exact, I’ve had a monthly subscription and my Good Food magazine delivered to the door at the end of the month as it’s just rolling into the next one.

Rummaging through you will notice which ones enclose the beloved recipes. Dog eared pages splattered with tinned tomatoes or oil drips and the front cover slowly slipping away from its hinges. Typically these recipes are family favourites, a one-pot tagine, a riff on a shepherds pie, curries and sides to roast dinners to keep things interesting. Come Christmas time every single one of the December issues become my bibles when I’m on the search for the ultimate roast potatoes, and what on earth to do with all that leftover turkey. Turns out there’s way more meal ideas than a turkey and stuffing sandwich or eaten cold with chips, pickled onions and gravy.

Always up to date with the latest food trends, in the most recent issue (August 2017) there’s talk of charcoal in food, alcopops (the frozen ones and a hella better than the tween faves of WKD and Bacardi Breezers), recipes for those health nuts who can’t cook a meal without using a spiralizer and ones for those who don’t even know what a spiralizer is. They cover alllll the bases that’s for sure.

One thing I always look forward to are the recipes coming from Rosie Birkett. Those you of you who aren’t aware of Rosie, she is a food stylist, food journalist and recipe creator hailing from London (find her on Instagram here). She has written a number of books, A Lot on Her Plate, being one of them and writes for newspapers and magazines across the UK. Her food ethos centres around seasonality, nothing chosen for their certain health properties or current trends, just things picked when they’re at their best, most sweetest, succulent and delicious.

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So in a flick through the July issue I came across this quiche recipe. For a while now I had been in the mood for a quiche. It’s pastry, I would eat it every day if I could, until my body mainly comprised of the flaky stuff. How can you go wrong really? Served at room temperature with a lemony dressed green salad, that’s all you need. Ok perhaps I did do a little faffing and roasted some spiced squash and carrots for on the side also, for me that’s keeping things simple, one pots aren’t in my repertoire. Plus the leftovers to look forward to for #notasaddesklunch or pack up and go on a picnic in the sunshine (oh how hard I wish for that this summer).

So I had courgettes in the fridge, some feta, an out of date tub of ricotta (sealed may I add, it was still fine), a bulb of fennel and loads of herbs. Perfect, no need to go shopping and using up all the odds and ends! That’s my favourite part. My heart sinks when I have to throw some forgotten item from the back of the fridge away. #wastefreeissexy

The original recipe calls for a spelt pastry flecked with pumpkin seeds. I love spelt pastry it’s so much shorter and crumbly than your typical shortcrust due to the lower gluten content, but I was wanting to attempt an oil based crust, substituting rapeseed oil for the butter. Cutting the quantity of fat by over half and substituting it for an unsaturated fat too which is proven to be more beneficial to our hearts than the saturated kind. Pastry that’s good for me? Well kinda…

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Half wholemeal to white flour brings the best texture, I used half wholemeal wheat flour and half plain flour, but any spelt or rye or even a bit of buckwheat would do here. We want something heavier than a white shortcrust and the nuttiness from the wholemeal flours pairs beautifully with the cheese. Don’t forget about the much needed fibre from wholegrains, got to sneak that extra bit in at every opportunity!!

If you’re scared about making quiche, don’t be! It’s far from difficult just requiring a little resting time for the pastry, pre-baking, and cooking and cooling of the filling before mixing it all together. If pastry really does give you the heeby jeebies, buying a good quality one from the shop is fine too, try to get an all butter shortcrust, or failing that call up your Nan!

Courgette, dill and ricotta quiche with a rapeseed oil crust

Loosely adapted from Rosie Birkett’s recipe in the July 2017 edition of Good Food magazine

Pastry Ingredients

  • 20g pumpkin seeds
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 100g plain flour (or a white spelt or rye)
  • pinch of salt
  • 50ml rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 75 ml cold water

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 courgettes, halved lengthways then slice on the diagonal
  • 1/2 fennel, sliced thinly
  • 1 lemon
  • Big handful watercress, roughly chopped
  • Big handful dill, chopped
  • Big handfull parsley, chopped
  • 150g ricotta
  • 4 eggs
  • Good sized chunk of feta

Directions

  1. First make the pastry. Put the pumpkin seeds in a food processor and blitz until they are coarsely chopped. Then add the flours and salt, pulse until combined and pour in the oil blending until a breadcrumb consistency is formed.
  2. Add the water in a slow stream until it starts to clump together in a ball. Tip out onto a floured surface and squidge together into a ball (try not to be too heavy handed).
  3. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 mins. Can be made 1-2 days ahead.
  4. Preheat the oven to 160C/140 fan. Get a 22cm tart tin (a metal one with a removable base will make life easier). Once the pastry has rested, roll out on a floured surface into a circle, bigger than your tart tin and around the thickness of a £1 coin.
  5. Transfer to the tin, not worrying too much if it splits as you can patch it up later, and ease it in gently, pressing in the fluted sides with your finger. Roll a rolling pin over the top edge to make a nice finish and prevent it from shrinking inwards.
  6. Scrunch up some baking paper and line the pastry case, fill with baking beans or rice or dried beans. Place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes until biscuity and the base is dry.
  7. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large frying pan then add the fennel seeds, cook for a few minutes until they smell fragrant. Add the garlic, courgettes and fennel and cook on a low-medium heat, stirring often, until starting to caramelise and turn slightly golden and the courgette and fennel have softened. This will take between 15 – 20 mins.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped herbs and the watercress, alongside the zest of the lemon and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Leave aside until cool.
  9. In a bowl whisk the ricotta and eggs until smooth and season well with salt and pepper.
  10. Pour a thin layer of custard over the pastry base, fold half of the courgette filling with the rest of the custard in the bowl and spoon into the case.
  11. Dot the rest of the courgette mix over the top, pressing it down lightly. Sprinkle the feta over the top.
  12. Place in the oven (still on the baking sheet) for around 35 minutes until the edges are set and there is a slight wobble in the middle. Leave to cool slightly before eating, it tastes best at room temperature.

I’m jetting off soon for some much needed time in the sun, Rethymno in Crete being my destination. Obviously I’m super buzzed about sampling all of the Cretan food (particualrly some of those Cretan pies – one a day being an obligatory thing and will be scheduled into my itinerary), the seafood is meant to be some of the best and I’ve read Rethymno is a real stunner too. If anyone has any Crete, Rethymno ideally, suggestions and recommendations send them my way, whether it be food, drink, sight seeing and must-dos all is much welcomed.

So there should be another post hitting here before I’m far and away, another to add to the dip devotion series. Stay tuned!!

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A sexy sultry salad

I’m starting to believe that I can convert any ‘salad-phobe’ to be a plant lover. LETTUCES UNITE!

No I’m not starting a new superhero team made of vegetables high in antioxidants which fight free radicals (however sounds a pretty good concept, any takers?) 

Maybe that’s a rather strong statement. But why should it be. Vegetables shouldn’t be an afterthought, who was it that said meat should always take the limelight.

I’m becoming a big lover of having friends or family over and throwing a dinner party. I don’t know what it is that excites me most about them, planning the menu, shopping,  or spending all day cooking to then be rewarded by making people smile. I’ve discovered I am a giver and a feeder. So beware.

When I was younger I would spend hours watching episodes of Nigella Lawson. Even then I used to dream of having a larder, even a fraction of the size of hers, and I would be happy. Little titbits of pointless kitchen gadgets, mismatched crockery and findings from travels, unknown ingredients from far flung stretches of the world, god knows what else she keeps hidden in there. I reckon I’d enter and never leave. She is a bit of a flirt, that’s what makes her even more entertaining. Never have I seen someone pour frozen peas out of a packet like Nigella does, and who knew that dressing gown clad and sleep crusted eyes of early mornings, whilst flipping out pancakes for the whole street could be made sexy. Well somehow she manages it. 

Every episode seemed to result in a dinner party, typically with different people every time (that woman must have TONNES of friends, I don’t know where she must find them), and it was always performed with such ease and calm. She held the dinner parties that one can only dream of, with no mess and washing up either, that’s a bit of a mystery to me the word home economist springs to mind. I think it’s from all that time spent watching Nigella, ever since I’ve been trying to hone my hostessing skills. 

It doesn’t always go to plan, yes I have cried many times over a failed pavlova or some dry lamb. The food isn’t the be all or end all though, it’s about spending time with loved ones and having a good old chat and giggle. That’s what I really love about them.

I’m starting to learn the best ways for staying calm when cooking for the masses (well anymore than three people), things I’ve only learnt by making mistakes and going wrong in the past. First, always cook things you know and like, stick to easy help yourself dishes like a big one pot and a big salad platter (keep on scrolling for a recipe), and don’t go too out there. I wouldn’t advise serving granny and grandad a raw vegan burger experiment or a massaged kale salad (it will get stuck in their teeth), serve crowd pleasing food but make sure the flavours are BIG and  BOLD.

I like to base a menu on a certain cuisine, and try and stick to a theme, but a curry night or something with a Moroccan influence is always my fall back. This is where this salad steps in. It would go perfectly alongside a tagine, or some slow cooked meat such as lamb, or as part as a buffet or mezze. Even add some form of protein like chickpeas or halloumi and you’ll have a lovely light but filling salad.



This is perfect for if you grow your own vegetables and have a glut, of beans (any type will do, runner, string, French, broad beans), squashes, courgettes, aubergines, any late summer veg will fit in perfectly here. I used a mixture of runner beans, French beans and broad beans and butternut squash but don’t feel like you have to stick to that. I made enough to serve around four people, but it could easily be scaled up to serve a crowd or make to keep in a Tupperware for desk lunches throughout the week.

Crammed with different colours, textures, and flavours. will add beauty to any dinner spread

 
Green beans and spiced squash salad

Ingredients

  • Big handful French beans
  • Big handful of runner beans 
  • 2 large handfuls of broad beans (I used frozen, if using ones in the pods you’re going to need a lot of pods!!)
  • 1/2 a large butternut squash
  • Ras el hanout
  • Tbsp ghee, coconut oil or rapeseed oil
  • Punnet of cress
  • 1/4 pomegranate
  • Rose petals

For the dressing

  • 1/2 lemon 
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp sumac

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or 180 degrees fan
  2. Peel the butternut squash half, and scoop the seedy centre out if using the bottom half. Chop into 2cm cubes, place in a roasting tray along with the ghee (or coconut or rapeseed oil), sprinkle with salt, pepper and the Ras el hanout
  3. Place in the oven for around 30 mins, stirring to make sure they don’t stick, until slightly caramelised on the edges and soft all the way through. Leave to cool
  4. Trim the French beans and chop in half, then steam until tender but still with a bite. Leave to cool
  5. Trim the runner beans and slice on the diagonal 1cm wide, and steam again until just cooked and leave to cool
  6. If using frozen broad beans pour boiling water over them, leave for a couple of minutes then pour away the water. Peel the broad beans and put to one side. If you have broad beans in the pods, take the broad beans out of the pods, then follow the same process as before. The fresh broad beans may need steaming briefly if you find them too raw
  7. Add the roast squash, broad beans, runner beans and French beans to a large bowl. Add the cress and sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds
  8. For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients and pour over the salad. Toss together, and if you want to be cute sprinkle over rose petals

Get in on that mingling cress action


I challenge you to find someone who doesn’t enjoy this salad, perhaps at your next dinner party. Serve in abundance, and follow Nigellas lead, make it a sexy one!

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