I’ve been taking packed lunches to work with me recently. Ostensibly, this is because I am trying to save money (and the amount of money I’ve been spending on disappointing sandwiches recently is frankly ludicrous). However, it’s also because I am a giant glutton. If I had my way, I’d be gorging myself on huge slabs of brownies and bowls of pork-laden ramen noodles each day. While these are always wonderful, woman cannot live on bowls of soup which contain deep fried eggs alone. Especially when said woman is attempting to train for a 10k. Ever tried to do a five mile run after eating your own bodyweight in Mexican food? I really don’t recommend it. Turns out that gyms aren’t fond of you threatening to do sneaky voms behind the rowing machine.
However, as anyone who has ever worked in an office will know, microwave space is at a premium at lunchtimes. By the time you’ve waited for a giant queue of your colleagues to heat up their Super Noodles at 12.30 each day, you’ve only got ten minutes to gulp your food down before you have to head back to your desk. So, I’ve taken to bringing my own pre-made lunches to work, much like the ones my Mum used to lovingly pack for me when I was a kid. However, instead of ham sandwiches and mini rolls, I’m feasting on giant tubs of salads and baked products like this Mushroom and (Smoked) Garlic Quiche.
Making quiche always fills me with a sense of pride, like I’m Bootle’s answer to Delia Smith. It’s the kind of baking endeavour that you do on a rainy Sunday afternoon while listening to a crap play on Radio 4, just losing yourself in an orgy of chopping, and sweating and pre-baking. I used smoked garlic for my quiche, mainly because I’d recently bought a bulb of it from the Manchester Food and Drink festival and was looking for a use for it which didn’t just involve sticking it up a chicken’s rear end. However, if you can’t find smoked garlic, ordinary garlic will do just as well. As always when you’re making anything involving pastry, the key is to keep everything REALLY REALLY cold. Use cold butter and ice water, and if it starts getting a bit messy, just bung it back in the fridge. Yes, it means the whole process takes that little bit longer, but at least you’ll be left with a pastry case that actually looks and tastes good, rather than one made out of tears and fail.
To make this into a lunch to remember, serve with a bowl of hot soup, or a nice salad. Do pair it with something substantial though. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself scoffing a giant slab of it for elevenses at work and be left wondering what you’re going to have for lunch now. Much like me. Oh well, at least my intentions were good anyway.
P.S. I’m off to the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards tonight to represent ‘Little Red Courgette’. I have nails the colour of a Disney villain and I’m wearing a dress which makes me look like a sexy witch with a fox on her crotch. Wish me luck!
P.P.S. I’ve also been nominated for a Blog North award which is doubly exciting. I find out the results on the 17th October, and will keep you posted. Wish me double luck!
MUSHROOM AND (SMOKED) GARLIC QUICHE (Serves Four)
You will need:
For the pastry
- 50g cold butter, cut into cubes
- 120g plain flour
- 25g parmesan cheese, grated
- A pinch of salt
For the filling
- 1 punnet of mushrooms, chopped into slices
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 100g crème fraiche (the full fat stuff please – go hard or go home)
- 1 tsp of thyme
- 25g cheddar, grated
- 25g parmesan, grated
- Rub the butter into the flour, then add the parmesan and salt. Add a tablespoon of ice cold water and combine until it forms a dough. (Alternatively, if you have a food processor, pulse all of the ingredients together with some water until it forms a slightly sticky dough). Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, and then line a tart tin with it. Make sure that you press the dough firmly into the tin – you can use a small ball of spare dough to press it into all the nooks and crannies. If the dough starts getting a bit sweaty and floppy, just pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes to set. Line the dough with some baking parchment and baking beads, and then pre-bake in the oven at Gas Mark 4/200 degrees C for 20 minutes. To get a nice golden crust, paint the inside with a little beaten egg (you can use this from the filling ingredients) and bake for another five minutes.
- While the pastry case is baking, sweat the mushrooms in some butter until they turn brown. Remove from the pan and place to one side. Then, sweat the onion in some more butter and oil for 15-20 minutes until it has caramelised (it should have taken on a golden brown colour). Add the garlic, and cook for another five minutes or so.
- Mix the beaten eggs and crème fraiche together until fully combined. Add the grated cheddar to the tart case, then the mushrooms, then the onions and garlic. Pour the egg-crème-fraiche mixture over the vegetables, then top with the grated parmesan. Bake the tart at 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 4 for 30-40 minutes until the golden and fluffy, and the centre feels firm.
- Serve with a crisp salad, and a large glass of something equally crisp and alcoholic.