Skinny(er) Stilton and Asparagus Quiche

It contains Stilton…only it’s skinnier.

After making a healthy Tomato Tartine yesterday, I started thinking about how to skinny-fy another favourite of mine: quiche. Cue an afternoon of experimentation, resulting in a mighty-fine filo alternative to a full-on shortcrust feast. Not that I have anything against pastry…I love it, but sometimes, a desire to delve into a different territory takes hold, and at the moment I seem to be slimming down the saturated fats and shaving off sugars from my favourites. So here I present my Skinny(er) Stilton and Asparagus Quiche!

Skinny(er) Stilton and Asparagus Quiche

Serves 4-6

4 sheets filo pastry

1 white onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

300g mushrooms, sliced (I like chestnut, but any that takes your fancy will work just fine)

Teaspoon of dried thyme

Bunch of asparagus spears, trimmed

250ml semi-skimmed milk

2 eggs

50g Stilton, crumbled

Salt and pepper to season

Time to get cooking!

In a pan, sauté the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of oil or a small knob of butter.

When soft, add in the mushrooms and thyme and allow to mellow gently over a low heat, until they wilt and release their juices.

Meanwhile, place the first sheet off filo in an ungreased round pie dish or flan tin. Then take the next piece, brush it with a little milk and place it milk-side down on top of the first sheet so that it sticks together, with the edges overhanging the dish. Repeat with the other two sheets.

Strain off and reserve the juice from the mushrooms as this delivers much bang for your flavour buck! Spoon the mushroom and onion mix into the base of the dish, spreading it out evenly.

Tip the juice into a measuring jug (there’ll probably be around 15-25 ml in there; small amount but it’s worth having!) Top up the liquid to 250ml with the milk, crack in the eggs and beat together.

Meanwhile, fill the empty mushroom pan with about an inch of boiling water and throw in the asparagus spears. Cook over a medium heat for around 5-6 minutes until just tender.

Lay the spears on top of the mushroom base and pour over the milk and egg mix. Season and sprinkle with the crumbled Stilton.

Tuck the edges of the filo pastry into the dish and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees (180 fan / gas 6) for 20-25 minutes until the middle of the tart is set.

Tuck in! As a note, it goes wonderfully with minted new potatoes, steamed cabbage and broad beans!


Sweet Sunday: Tarting it up

My husband loves a good tart. Of the pastry variety, naturally. And today’s offering, to finish off a laid-back Sunday lunch for two, was of the Bakewell ilk.

You can’t beat a good thick layer of raspberry jam, sitting snugly on top of a golden pastry base, before being smothered in frangipane and topped with ribbons of glace icing and flaked almonds.

My mother’s pastry recipe (which was, in turn, passed down to her by her grandmother) has stood me in good stead, and indeed it has fared well for my mother and her mother before that too – and aside from the very occasional miss – it’s proven to be a hit.

Whether it’s a sweet or savoury tart, this recipe is one that will befit any occasion. I hope it transcends throughout the generations of bakers in your family in much the same way as it has in ours.

Nanny Jones’ Perfect Pastry

225g plain flour

100g cold butter, cubed

Pinch salt

Cold water 

2 tablespoons sugar (if making a sweet base)

Place the flour and salt into a bowl and give it a brief mix. Using your fingertips, gently rub the butter into the flour until it resembled breadcrumbs and no large clumps of fat remain. (It’s best if you have cold hands for this – and try not to rub using your palms as this is the warmest part). If you’re making a sweet pastry, now add the sugar.

Taking a tablespoon or so of water at a time, start mixing the liquid into the mix until it starts to come together to form a dough – be conservative at first as it’s always easier to add water than it is to remove it!

When the pastry forms a soft but not sticky ball, wrap in cling film or greaseproof paper and chill for at least half an hour in the fridge.

When ready to use, roll out on to a floured surface to the desired shape and size, then line your tin with the pastry, using a little of the excess rolled up into a ball to push the pastry into the corners (This helps to avoid your fingers or nails making rips or holes!)

Leave a little overhanging, say 1cm or so, then trim off the excess (don’t be tempted to throw this away though – use it up making jam tarts, or pop it in the freezer for another day!). Chill for a further 30 minutes, as this will help avoid shrinkage when you bake.

If filling with something hot, prick the bottom and pour in the hot filling, then bake the tart for the time required of the recipe. If, on the other hand, you’re baking the pastry ahead, or are filling it with something cold, you’ll need to blind bake.

To do this, simply prick the bottom with a fork, pop a piece of baking paper on top and fill with baking beans (if you don’t have these, you can use lentils or rice, or even the crusts of some bread – essentially anything that won’t ‘cook’ but will be weighty enough to hold the pastry base down).

I tend to blind bake on 180 degrees (160 fan, gas 5) for 10 minutes. Then I remove the baking beans and grease proof paper and finish it off for another 5. Naturally, your oven may vary, so my best advice is to check it regularly so as to avoid an uneven colour…or worse…burnt edges.

Then fill and either chill, or bake, according to what the recipe demands.

Now it’s time to enjoy a nice piece of tart. Of the pastry variety, naturally.

Bakewell Tart made with Nanny Jones' Perfect Pastry

A week with Ainsley Harriott

I’m enjoying the fact I’m giving each of my cookery books their chance to have a moment in the spot light.

Ainsley Harriott’s Low Fat Meals in Minutes proved to add a nice little dimension of difference to our meals this week and I can recommend the recipe that smothers chicken in mustard, lemon, garlic and marjoram then wraps it in filo and bakes it. Very nice.

I’ve got to admit however, that this is the only recipe I’ve managed to try from the book this week, despite there being one on almost every page that I’d like to give a go to. This is, of course, in addition to all the meals I’ve made from the book before (you can tell it’s a well used one, owing to the splatters on many a page). So despite the cover only having been bent back once this week, I feel that it’s had a good innings so far and is enjoying being one of those great books that you can just pull off the shelf and feel inspired by when you’re planning a dinner for friends.

Naturally, all good things must end and so I move on to the next volume of wonder in line on my shelf: Dough by Richard Bertinet (which is right next to Pastry by Richard Bertinet, so I’m being a maverick and combining the two). It’s going to be a good week!