Poached chicken quiche

I cobbled this recipe out of several others, which is why it amounts to a lot of effort for a quiche. However, the poached chicken bit is very versatile – shredded for salads or soups, or mixed with the crème fraiche and herbs in sandwiches.

  • 3 free-range chicken breasts
  • 2 sticks of celery (though as always with celery, you can leave this out)
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 250g low fat crème fraiche
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • 90g butter
  • Salt and pepper to season

  1. Chop the celery and spring onions into rough chunks.
  2. Fill a large pan with water, add the celery, spring onions, peppercorns and sea salt, and bring to the boil.
  3. Add the chicken to the boiling water and return to the boil. Then as soon as it’s boiling, clamp on a lid and turn off the heat. Leave for one hour for the chicken to poach, then remove from the water.
  4. Now make the pastry (yes, make! Or use frozen. But making it is dead easy). Start by preheating the oven to 220°C (gas mark 7) and putting the flour into a bowl.
  5. Cut up the butter into little bits, and add it to the flour. Rub the butter between your fingers until you have something like fine breadcrumbs.
  6. Add one or two tablespoons of cold water, and mix with a round bladed knife until it forms a dough – your dough shouldn’t be too sticky.
  7. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  8. Take out the chilled dough, roll it out and line a pie dish that’s about 23cm wide.
  9. Prick the base all over with a fork, then cover the pastry with tin foil and fill the dish with baking beans. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, taking out the foil and beans for the last ten minutes.
  10. Back to the filling. Shred the chicken with a fork. The meat will be really soft and flaky.
  11. Put the flaked chicken into a bowl with three or four tablespoons of the crème fraiche.
  12. Chop the basil finely and add it to the chicken.
  13. Season with salt and pepper, add the mustard and mix together thoroughly.
  14. In another bowl lightly beat the eggs with a fork, and mix with the remaining crème fraiche. Season this too.
  15. Spread the chicken mixture over the base of the pastry case, and then pour the egg mixture over the top.
  16. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and bake the quiche for 35 to 40 minutes until the top has set. Serve either hot or (preferably) cold, with salad – I had it with some tasty watercress.

Spinach frittata

I’m reluctant to throw food away, so I often find myself cobbling together whacky dishes just to use things up. Some are more successful than others. This one turned out better than I hoped. It’s a very light and tasty dish, enough for two people as a small snack, or part of a bigger meal.

  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 3 tablespoons of gram flour (chickpea flour, bought for one recipe and never used again)
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (I used unsalted, but it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1 large spring onion
  • 150g (ish) baby spinach leaves
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Sift the gram flour into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg.
  3. Add the egg, and beat it all together with a fork.
  4. Chop the spring onion and spinach finely, then stir into the bowl. Try and cover all the spinach so that the whole thing is sticky.
  5. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, over a medium heat.
  6. Pour in the mixture, spreading it to an even depth.
  7. Fry for about five minutes, until it’s set underneath. Then you should be able to flip it over and fry on the other side for a further five minutes.

Cheese scones

I just love cheese scones, but had this idea that they were dreadfully difficult to get right. I finally decided to give them a go because I happened to have all the ingredients loitering in the kitchen, and a Sunday in springtime just cries out for scones. It turns out they’re easy. (Incidentally, I found myself in the heat of the old argument about how to pronounce ‘scone’ last Friday. The subject seems to rouse people into an indignant wrath usually associated with politics and religion. I pronounce it to rhyme with ‘stone’, and so do all my family, so maybe that’s the Westcountry way? I also say ‘bath’ to rhyme with… well but I digress.) This recipe makes nine scones, though of course you can make more smaller ones.

  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • A few good grinds of pepper (I used green pepper to try it out)
  • 55g unsalted butter (it doesn’t matter that it’s unsalted)
  • 80g hard cheese (I used a mixture of manchego and smoked applewood, to use them up. The manchego gave a sweetness that was lovely.)
  • 150ml milk (I used skimmed milk)
  • Pinch of paprika
  1. Preheat the oven to 230°C / gas mark 4.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, pepper and salt, then sift them into a mixing bowl.
  3. Cut the butter into little bits, add them to the bowl and rub them into the flour until there are no buttery lumps.
  4. Grate the cheese and mix it in, reserving some to sprinkle on top of the scones.
  5. Add the milk, and using a knife fold the mixture into a soft dough.
  6. Put the ball of dough onto a floured surface and pat it flat, until it’s about 1cm thick all over. Don’t squash it too hard. Cut it into nine pieces.
  7. Grease a baking tray and put the scones on it. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and dust each scone with a pinch of paprika.
  8. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until risen and browned. Eat them warm with butter.

Rhubarb bakewell tart

March is the month for rhubarb, I’m told, and any excuse for rhubarb is good enough for me. This recipe unites two of my fondest loves, bakewell tart and rhubarb. The one thing I don’t really like about bakewells is the cheap jam – I’m not a big jam fan. So I was inspired by the God of Rhubarb himself to use a compote instead of jam. Green Lanes in London is a wonderful place to get practically any ingredient, and I was optimistic that I’d find fresh rhubarb, but no. Mangoes, pineapples, star fruit, yes, humble rhubarb, no. So I had to buy a tin; next time, though, I mean to use fresh. I was really pleased with the results – the tart is moist and has just enough rhubarb tanginess (even from the tinned stuff). However, you should eat it on the day you make it, as the compote soon makes the pastry soggy.

For the compote:
  • 450g rhubarb
  • 25g caster sugar (or more to taste)
For the tart:
  • Shortcrust pastry (ready to roll, don’t judge me)
  • 125g unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • ½ teaspoon almond essence
  • Plain flour for dusting and rolling

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.
  2. Wash the rhubarb and chop it into little chunks.
  3. Put the rhubarb in a pan with the 25g of sugar and two tablespoons of water.
  4. Simmer over a medium heat, stirring often, until the rhubarb is soft. Use more sugar if you like it sweeter. If the rhubarb hasn’t broken down into a delicious gloop, then mash it up a bit. Set aside to cool down.
  5. Grease a metal pie dish that’s 25cm across, and fairly deep. Then dust the interior all over with plain flour. This will help you get the pie out of the dish later.
  6. Roll out the pastry and line the pie dish with it. Prick the base all over with a fork. Keep the pastry trimmings.
  7. Melt the butter, then leave it to cool slightly.
  8. Beat the eggs, add the almond essence, then add 125g of sugar and beat it all together.
  9. Mix in the melted butter, followed by the ground almonds.
  10. Spread the rhubarb compote over the base of the pie.
  11. Spread the almond mixture over the top, making sure that all of the rhubarb is covered.
  12. Roll out the pastry trimmings and cut out some shapes (I used a star-shaped cutter). Gingerly float these shapes on the top of the tart.
  13. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. It’s done when the filling has risen slightly, everything is golden brown and just plain heavenly-looking.
  14. Leave the tart to cool on a wire rack (I use the one from the grill tray), then, put a plate upside-down on top of the tart. Turn the pie dish and plate upside-down, and if the God of Rhubarb is feeling benevolent, your tart will plop wholeheartedly out of the pie dish. Then put another plate upside-down on the base of the pie, flip again and admire your own genius (that’s what I did).
  15. Serve with crème fraiche and modest remarks about how you just ‘rustled something up’.