There are two things that I really love in life. These are gardening and food. I LOVE food, and I especially love it in the summer. Fresh, colourful and crunchy side salads, seasonal vegetable quiches and tarts, and delicious open sandwiches, all bursting with flavour. Add to that the opportunity to eat it all al fresco on my beloved balcony!
Over the next few weeks, I will overview some of my favourite recipes from some of my favourite chefs, and I may even showcase one or two of my own…
This week’s recipes come from April Bloomfield, co-owner of The Spotted Pig and her gorgeous new book ‘A Girl and Her Greens – Hearty Meals from the Garden’. I mean, what could be better?
Asparagus Quiche with Mint
A wonderful dish that sings of summer evenings. Two of my favourite ingredients that are currently in season too. Serve with friends, fresh green salad and homemade lemonade and consume in the garden.
Twelve 3-inch-wide, 1-inch-deep ring molds or tartlet pans
For the Dough
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup crème fraîche
¼ cup very cold water
For the Filling
1 pound asparagus (spears as thick as an index finger), woody bottoms snapped off, stalks cut into ¼-inch pieces, tips left whole (about 2¾ cups total)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into several chunks
1 cup finely diced Spanish onion (about 1 small)
1 small bulb spring garlic, tough outer layer removed, bulb thinly sliced then roughly chopped, or 1 tablespoon thinly sliced regular garlic
¼ teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup whole milk
8 mint leaves (preferably black mint), thinly sliced at the last minute.
Make the Dough
Combine the flour, sugar, kosher salt, and baking powder in a food processor and pulse several times to mix them well. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture has the texture of fine breadcrumbs. A few pebble-size pieces of butter here and there is just fine.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, pour in the crème fraîche and water, and use your fingertips to toss and gently smoosh the mixture just until it comes together as a dry, slightly crumbly dough. Don’t overwork it and don’t let it warm up too much. Cover the bowl and keep it in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes.
Line your work surface and a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough onto the work surface and roll it out to an even ¼-inch thickness, dusting the dough with flour if the rolling pin sticks to it. Trace an inverted bowl with the tip of your knife to cut out 12 4½-inch rounds. Work swiftly to line each ring mold with a dough round, pressing the sides and bottoms gently. Put them on the baking sheet, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Bake the Shells
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325˚F. Cut parchment paper into twelve 5-inch
squares. Crumple each square into a ball, wet the ball under running water, squeeze out all the water, and flatten them out again. (This makes them more malleable.) Just before you’re ready to bake the shells (not sooner), take them from the fridge. (They must be nice and cold when you pop them
in the oven, or else your quiches will be greasy.) Use one square of parchment paper to line each shell and fill each one almost to the brim with dried beans or raw rice. (You can save the rice or beans to
use the next time you bake.) Put the shells back in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Bake, rotating the baking sheet once, just until the dough is no longer raw but not yet colored at all, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the beans or rice and parchment squares. Gently prick the bottom
and sides of the dough with a fork, which will prevent it from puffing up as it bakes. Return to the oven and bake until the shells are evenly light golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pans, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the shells cool completely before you fill them. Leave the oven on.
Make the Filling and Assemble the Quiche
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it generously until it’s slightly less salty than the sea. Cook the asparagus stalks in the water just until they’ve lost their raw crunch, 1 to 1½ minutes, using makes twelve 3-inch quiches
These are simply delicious, beautiful to look at and so easy to make! A perfect accompaniment to a laid-back summer’s evening, Pimms in hand and good company.
A mandoline; an electric deep-fryer or a large, heavy pot, a deep-fry thermometer, a splatter screen; and a spider
1 medium parsnip (about ¼ pound), peeled, topped, and tailed
1 large carrot (about ½ pound), peeled, topped, tailed, and halved crosswise 3 golf ball–size beets, unpeeled, trimmed of roots and all but 1 inch of stem, pert leaves reserved 9 fingerling potatoes,unpeeled (about ½ pound)
Peanut, sunflower, or vegetable oil for deep-frying
About 5 tablespoons Red Za’atar Spice
Using the mandoline, slice the parsnip, carrot, and beets into uniformly thin (you’re shooting for about ¹⁄16 inch) pieces. Cut the parsnip into round slices and the carrot and beets into lengthwise slices. You
might want to halve the carrots, and beets lengthwise before slicing to make it easier to slice evenly. Five minutes or so before you’re ready to fry, slice the potatoes lengthwise, put them in a bowl of water, and gently toss with your hands to wash off some of the starch. Leave the potatoes in the bowl until you’re ready to fry, but don’t keep them in the water for more than 5 minutes or they will absorb too much water, making it difficult to fry them properly. Remove the thick center vein from the reserved beet leaves and tear the leaves into large pieces. Keep each type of vegetable separate.
Add the oil (the amount depends on your fryer’s capacity) to your electric deep-fryer and heat to 350˚F. Alternatively, clip a deep-fry thermometer to a heavy pot and add at least 3 inches of oil. Heat the oil over high heat until it has reached 350˚F. Line a large mixing bowl with paper towels for draining.
Drain the potatoes, pat them dry, and fry them in batches (a good handful at a time), using a long spoon to keep them moving in the oil so they fry evenly and tweaking the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature as best you can. Fry until they’re light golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. As each batch is done, use the fryer basket or a spider to transfer it to the paper towel–lined bowl. Immediately give the vegetables a gentle toss to help drain the oil, season with kosher salt, and transfer to a serving bowl.
Lower the heat to bring the oil temperature to a steady 325˚F. One type at a time, fry the rest of the vegetables in batches the same way you fried the potatoes, until they’re crispy. Fry the beets last, because they’ll stain the oil. The frying will take about 3 minutes for the parsnips, about 5 minutes for the carrots, 1 minute for the beet leaves, and about 4 minutes for the beets. You’ll want to add the cover to the electric fryer or use a splatter screen when you’re frying the leaves, because they splatter.
The crisps will stay crispy for up to 1 hour. When you’re ready to eat, sprinkle on the za’atar and serve straightaway.
Two stunning summer dishes!