What’s in a name? Egg pie (quiche)

My eldest child loves pies. Party pies in particular, but he can generally be tempted by any pie. Quiche, he’s not so keen on. I remember, growing up, that my (boy) cousin used to always sing a country song about how real men don’t eat quiche. Maybe it’s all in the name, ‘quiche’.

Names are important, they attract or repel us. Food names in particular have the capacity for coercion. ‘Jus’ sounds much sexier than ‘gravy’, which you get at the local takeaway joint or at Nana’s (or at my place 😉 . Similarly, ‘salmon’ evokes images of a pinkish orange, juicy, luscious fish, but it’s also a simple, white fleshed fish that you can catch off the Victorian coastline. So, what you call something influences perceptions of it.

Which brings me back to quiche. When I renamed it to ‘egg pie’, a light suddenly went on in h’s eyes. ‘Pie? Can I have some for dinner?’ Ya see what I mean?

The great thing about quiche aka egg pie (QaEP) is that you can customise it however you like. Here I have given you a recipe that could even be considered a frittata as it doesn’t have a crust (I don’t eat wheat and the aim of this is quick/simple/easy, which homemade pastry is not so much). If you want a crust, just line your pan with a sheet of puff pastry before you pour the egg mix in.

Some ways you might wish to adapt this are listed below. But enjoy my QaEP!

QaEP

You will need:
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Pepper
Salt (if you must 😉
A good handful of rocket or spinach leaves
Three or four sprigs of mixed herbs, removed from the woody stems (adjust to taste)
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 punnet (or so) cherry tomatoes (I used half a bowl of mixed little tomatoes from the garden), some of which could be cut up

1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and seasoning til it’s well combined.
2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
3. Pour into a lined 20cm cake tin.
4. Put into an oven preheated to 180C.
5. Bake for 20-25 mins or until the QaEP is cooked through. If you shake the tin, it should wobble a bit but this will be all together, as a whole (ie not ripples!). It should also be nice and brown.
6. Serve with salad / sauce / vegies (depending on who is eating it!)

Some variations:
Caramelised onions / leeks
Leftover roast meat / vegies
Smoked salmon
Ham (as per quiche Lorraine)

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Oh, to be a fish on a (sweltering) day like this: ‘super food’ salad

It’s too hot this week to do much. The garden is full of plants drooping in the heat, no matter that they are well watered. The kids too are drooping in their ability to maintain good humour after being cooped up inside all day (high sunburn risk), no one is sleeping…

The life of a fish is therefore looking pretty appealing: swimming around in the cool water all day and, um, swimming… cool… I can’t think beyond that!

In honour of this heat wave, and because my partner is currently in the midst of a salmon obsession, I whipped the following salad up for dinner tonight. It contains at least three ‘super foods’ but, most importantly, is simple and yummy.

All of the proportions here can be adjusted to taste. I don’t like salty food so next time, I’ll go a bit lighter on the dressing for me, but B and our friend (and tonight’s dinner guest!) T thought this was perfect.

Quinoa and salmon salad

This is a recipe in stages, so I have listed these in order…

1. Cooking the quinoa
1 cup white quinoa
2 cups water
Place quinoa in water in a saucepan over high heat. When the water is boiling, turn to simmer. Cook until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa are soft. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon into the bottom of a salad bowl

2. Salmon
Salmon cutlets; I had one huge one that was about 500grams
1/8 cup tamari (I like salt-reduced)
3 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame oil
In a bowl or jug, mix tamari, mirin and sesame oil together. Season with pepper if you like. Place salmon on a plate or bowl. Pour most of the tamari mic over the salmon, reserving a little bit for later. Let sit for 10 mins or so, then fry covered until cooked; flip and repeat on the second side.

3. The salad ingredients
Cucumber (we used about 10 cm of a continental cucumber), sliced
3 – 4 big handfuls rocket salad mix
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 pomegranate, seeds only
1 punnet or a big handful cherry tomatoes
1/2 cob corn, kernels removed and blanched (just put in a pan and pour over boiling water; give it about a minute then drain)
1 handful green beans, cut into 3 cm lengths (blanch in the same way as corn)
1 baby capsicum, diced roughly

To assemble: put quinoa in bottom of salad bowl then arrange salad ingredients on top. Mix well. Drizzle over the reserved marinade (makes a nice dressing too). Then place pieces of salmon on top. If you have any spare sauce in your frypan, pour it over too.

Yummy! This gave three of us enough for seconds (yes, it really is good!)… Add more of everything to make more. Customise it however you like! Enjoy – and keep cool 😉

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Oh, to be a fish on a (sweltering) day like this: ‘super food’ salad

It’s too hot this week to do much. The garden is full of plants drooping in the heat, no matter that they are well watered. The kids too are drooping in their ability to maintain good humour after being cooped up inside all day (high sunburn risk), no one is sleeping…

The life of a fish is therefore looking pretty appealing: swimming around in the cool water all day and, um, swimming… cool… I can’t think beyond that!

In honour of this heat wave, and because my partner is currently in the midst of a salmon obsession, I whipped the following salad up for dinner tonight. It contains at least three ‘super foods’ but, most importantly, is simple and yummy.

All of the proportions here can be adjusted to taste. I don’t like salty food so next time, I’ll go a bit lighter on the dressing for me, but B and our friend (and tonight’s dinner guest!) T thought this was perfect.

Quinoa and salmon salad

This is a recipe in stages, so I have listed these in order…

1. Cooking the quinoa
1 cup white quinoa
2 cups water
Place quinoa in water in a saucepan over high heat. When the water is boiling, turn to simmer. Cook until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa are soft. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon into the bottom of a salad bowl

2. Salmon
Salmon cutlets; I had one huge one that was about 500grams
1/8 cup tamari (I like salt-reduced)
3 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame oil
In a bowl or jug, mix tamari, mirin and sesame oil together. Season with pepper if you like. Place salmon on a plate or bowl. Pour most of the tamari mic over the salmon, reserving a little bit for later. Let sit for 10 mins or so, then fry covered until cooked; flip and repeat on the second side.

3. The salad ingredients
Cucumber (we used about 10 cm of a continental cucumber), sliced
3 – 4 big handfuls rocket salad mix
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 pomegranate, seeds only
1 punnet or a big handful cherry tomatoes
1/2 cob corn, kernels removed and blanched (just put in a pan and pour over boiling water; give it about a minute then drain)
1 handful green beans, cut into 3 cm lengths (blanch in the same way as corn)
1 baby capsicum, diced roughly

To assemble: put quinoa in bottom of salad bowl then arrange salad ingredients on top. Mix well. Drizzle over the reserved marinade (makes a nice dressing too). Then place pieces of salmon on top. If you have any spare sauce in your frypan, pour it over too.

Yummy! This gave three of us enough for seconds (yes, it really is good!)… Add more of everything to make more. Customise it however you like! Enjoy – and keep cool 😉

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Saturday n breakfast! Quick crepes

There are certain foods that can be had at any time of the day- morning, noon, or night. Sometimes they are sweet, sometimes savoury. Sometimes it depends on where you are (I’m big on the influence of context). After years of loving Nasi Lemak (rice, curry, and condiments) for lunch or dinner at our local curry place, I was awed by the fact you can have it for breakfast, yes breakfast!, in Malaysia. Too good. I went curry-crazy that trip 😉

But I digress… An even more special category of foods includes those that can be eaten any time of day, regardless of context, and can be savoury or sweet. Pancakes, crepes and pikelets fall into this category – and are so simple to make. Here I share my basic pancake batter with you. Want crepes? Add more milk. Want pikelets? More flour. Fritters? Add grated or finely cut vegetables (eg zucchini, corn), cheese (feta is nice), herbs… Whatever you fancy. Flip em out of the pan onto a plate and eat them before they cool!

An out and about suggestion: once you’ve poured your batter into the pan (small disks), sprinkle over some sultanas. When the bubbles appear, flip the pancake til it’s cooked, then take the lot down to the playground for morning tea!

Basic Pancakes
You will need:
1 cup self-raising flour or 1 c plain flour + 1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
1 cup milk (vary depending on what you are hoping to make: pancakes, crepes or pikelets)

1. Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well.
2. Tip into a jug.
3. Over low-medium heat, heat a frypan. Add a small tsp butter or a spray of oil. Non stick pans don’t really need anything.
4. Pour in the desired amount of batter then lift the pan by the handle, moving the batter around until you have the ideal shape.
5. When bubbles appear on the batter surface and break, it’s time to flip your pancake.
6. Give the second side enough cooking time to brown, then lift into plate. Repeat til the batter has gone.

Sweet topping ideas: lemon and sugar, jam, Nutella, golden or maple syrup, strawberries, any combination of these

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Sunday riches: feasting at Nigina Express

At the moment, I’m preparing a workshop to run with our PhD students on writing. I enjoy writing; that’s part of the reason why I decided to blog about my (culinary) life. Blogging is also a good way to work my writing out – kind of like a writing gym; each sentence is a set, each paragraph a circuit. But I think that writing isn’t just writing: there’s an art and a craft to it. Joanna Penn at the Creative Penn says that this is an important distinction: “Art is subjective, its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder … but craft is objective. There is a right way and a wrong way to craft” (http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2011/09/05/art-craft-writing/). She further indicates that the craft is functional, while art is about beauty.

If we turn to the kitchen, these same notions apply. Some people cook in a way that is functional; for them, cooking is craft. I fall firmly into this camp; for me, cooking is a type of alchemy, bringing together different elements to make something functional. For other people, cooking is both craft and art. I don’t think cooking cannot incorporate craft, because it’s always functional: at the end of the day, you want it to be something that someone can eat and enjoy. But for this latter group of people, cooking is also art; it’s about creating something beautiful, pleasing to the senses (particularly sight, smell, and taste).

My friend, Regina, is one of these arty cooking people. She prepares beautiful menus, regardless of whether she is making things that are complicated or simple. Given her love for Nigella (Lawson), it’s unsurprising that her is known as ‘Nigina Express’ 😉

Yesterday afternoon, we were lucky enough to head over to Nigina Express for a bit of alfresco feasting (sounds much better than ‘scoffing myself in my friend’s backyard’!). While H paddled in the pool and the Bubaloo grooved to ‘Gangnam Style’ (and can now do the dance, thanks to lovely 10 year old D), I photographed the three family friendly courses: Pigs in Blankets, Chicken with Greek herb sauce, and flourless chocolate cake. The first two are courtesy of Nigella Lawson, and the third is out of Regina’s recipe book!

Pigs in blankets with mustard dipping sauce (they’re also good with tomato sauce)

You will need:

2 sheets defrosted puff pastry

1 egg

16 frankfurters

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Roll out the sheets of puff pastry to make it a bit thinner, to make one long side. Cut the rectangle into 1/4s, then cut each rectangle in half lengthwise, to give 8 small pastry strips.

2. Beat the egg in a small bowl and paint each pastry section with the egg wash. Sit a frankfurter horizontally on the side of one pastry strip and roll it up until it just seals. Do this with all frankfurters/pastry.

3. Cut each rolled frankfurter into 4 small pieces, squeezing the pastry around the sausage as you go. Place on a lined baking tray. Repeat with the other sheet of pastry.

4. Paint the franks in the egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Mustard dipping sauce: In a bowl, mix together 100g wholegrain mustard, 100g Dijon mustard and 2 tbsp sour cream.

YUM Yum yum…

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Chicken with Greek herb sauce

You will need:

12 chicken thighs

juice of 1 lemon

4 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the chicken thighs (skin side up if they have skin on) in a roasting tin, then pour over the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes.

Greek herb sauce: 500ml plain Greek yoghurt, 4 large/6 small spring onions, 1 green chilli (deseeded), 1 clove peeled garlic (crushed), 1/2 cucumber (finely diced), 3 tablespoons each of chopped fresh coriander, mint and/or dill, salt and pepper. Put all ingredients together in a bowl and mix to combine. Season to taste.

Serve with baked potatoes

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Flourless chocolate cake

This cake has the most gooey yummy centre; we can’t get enough! Ingredients are in italics.

1. Melt together 250g chocolate and 250g unsalted butter. Cool and set aside.

2. Whisk 6 egg whites until stiff. Set aside.

3. Whisk 6 egg yolks with 3/4 cup castor sugar, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, then add the chocolate mixture. Fold in 1/2 cup almond meal, 3 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp egg white mixture. Fold in remaining egg white mixture.

4. Bake in a 23cm cake pan at 190C for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake is cooked but still has a slight wobble.

At Nigina Express, this cake is served with persian fairy floss – H’s favourite! Try and stop after 1 piece!

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A bit of comfort (food): meatloaf for the masses!

Occasionally a week comes along that doesn’t rock my world. They’re the weeks when silly things go wrong, when you receive not-great news, or, like this week just gone, when an instantaneous and thoughtless bad decision leads to a bit of grief. You know the weeks I mean… Everyone has them. They’re the times when you just need a hug, or something like a hug. Which brings me to the point of this post: comfort food, the sort of thing that hugs you from the inside out. Or which feels like it is. Meatloaf is one of those foods.

Growing up in a very small, remote town, comfort food was mum’s version of spaghetti bolognese, chow mein, or just chops or sausages with vegetables (usually mashed potatoes, peas and carrots). I never heard of meatloaf until I read Judy Blume’s books, and it was certainly not something that I had eaten. As an adult, the idea of meatloaf was less than appealing. This was partly about the aesthetics of it – admittedly, meatloaf won’t win any beauty contests – but it was more about my prejudices about what constituted ‘proper’ food.

The first time I tried meatloaf, I was in my mid-thirties and had made it after a) H had tried it at childcare and gobbled it all up (anyone who has had a non-eater will know that this means you need to make that dish for every meal from now on) – including the vegies on the side, and b) a recipe for meatloaf had just appeared in the ‘Good Weekend’ magazine, written by Matthew Evans, the Gourmet Farmer (http://www.matthewevans.net.au/). At the time, he wrote a weekly recipe column, unadorned by photographs and with a pithy little story about the provenance of the recipe: meatloaf, he wrote, was just like a terrine and therefore, not just kids’ food.

Since then, I’ve made this countless times and each time, regardless of the variations I make, it still tastes awesome – and everyone loves it. This past weekend, I made one batch and from this got 2 mini meatloaves and one bigger loaf. With vegetables and/or salad, it feeds our family of four for two dinners and one lunch…

My recipe below varies from the original Matthew Evans version, but I love his name for it, and so have kept it here. My additions are indicated in the ingredient list in italics, below.

Not your ordinary meat loaf

2 tbsp olive oil or butter

1 large onion, peeled and finely diced

1 stick celery, finely diced

5 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped if stems are woody

50g bacon, finely diced (or 1 rasher)

600g beef mince

400g pork mince (for ease, I generally just use 50:50 of the two mince types)

1/4 c tomato sauce

3 tbsp barbeque sauce

1 carrot, grated

1 zucchini, grated

2 eggs

fresh breadcrumbs from 2 slices of bread – sometimes I use about 3/4 c cornflake crumbs

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly milled black pepper

50g grated Italian parmesan

I find it works fine without the Dijon or parmesan; I often forget the parmesan until it’s in the oven!
1. Preheat oven to 200C. Heat the oil in a large wide frying pan over a modest flame and cook the onion, celery, bacon and thyme, with a lid on but stirring often, for about 10 mins or until the onion is very soft.

2. Let this cool slightly, then mix it into the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. You will need to use your hands to combine it, or it will take ages to mix.

3. Press this mixture into a lined 1.5 litre loaf tin or similar.

4. Bake for 50-60 mins or until a roasting fork inserted in the centre comes out warm, and there are no more pink juices (it won’t hurt if it’s slightly underdone). It’s a pretty moist recipe, and the cooked juices are nice spooned over your slice of the meatloaf.

5. Serve the meat loaf hot with baked or mashed potatoes and plenty of tomato sauce. Any leftovers are best served at room temperature.

As I’m not a food stylist, I couldn’t take a nice photo of my meatloaf – so forgive the aesthetics and don’t let this poor photo put you off!

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