Trio of “Quichelets” with Crunchy Seaweed
In 1991 I entered the Observer cooking competition. As far as I remember you had to generate a three-course menu from a list of provided ingredients and write about it. I was a finalist and along with five others, attended a venue in central London – I think it was Leith’s School of Food and Wine although I don’t remember seeing the famous Prue! We all cooked our meals in the school kitchen and served them to the judges – I’m very sorry, I don’t remember and didn’t record who they were. I was so very frightened, I hardly took anything in. We were given comments on our dishes, and the winner was chosen but the rest of us weren’t ranked - although I strongly suspect I came sixth! However, the experience inspired me to enter other competitions and I also became a finalist in the Sunday Times competition in 1992 which was held at the Turnberry Hotel. This recipe of three little quiches with different fillings accompanied by crispy deep-fried cabbage – otherwise known as seaweed - was my starter offering for the Observer competition. I liked it then and I like it now and quiches are a great and versatile offering for a gathering of friends, especially if they have mixed diets. Anyone but a vegan can eat at least some of these. If you want a vegan alternative, veganhuggs.com (no relation to my site) has some very good vegan pastry and quiche filling recipes.
Makes 24 little quiches – 8 servings. Timings 90 minutes.
For the pastry:
Egg Filling: 3 eggs beaten, 2 tablespoons double cream, salt & pepper
Deep fried crunchy “seaweed”: Use a loose leafed cabbage – one of the spring greens or sweetheart cabbage, not a tight white or red one. Take four big outside leaves and clean them, de-rib them and shred into the thinnest shreds you can make - using a scissors or sharp knife. This will give you about 100g of shredded cabbage which is adequate for 8 portions.
Make your pastry and let it chill. Place the flour and butter in your mixer with the pastry paddle, mix for about 1 minute until the texture is like fine breadcrumbs, then lower the speed and break the egg into the mixer. You might want to add another tablespoon of cold water – depends on how thirsty your flour is. If not using a mixer, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips to the breadcrumb texture, then add the egg and water and mix carefully. Take the pastry out of the bowl, knead briefly to even out the dough, wrap up in beeswax paper (or cling film if you still use it) and keep in the fridge to chill while you make the fillings.
Note, if you don’t chill the pastry, it can shrink in the oven – this doesn’t really matter if you expect it and plan for it, so go according to your own timings.
Pre heat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry to about the thickness of a 10p piece and cut circles with your pastry cutter to a little larger than the cups in a 12-cup bun tin. Grease the bun tin and place the pastry circles in the cups. If you have baking beans you can use them to keep the bottoms of the quiches from bubbling up. Place the empty pies in the oven for about 8 minutes to cook – this will help to keep the bottoms crisp. Remove the pies from the oven and let them cool. If the pastry has bubbled up, you can push it back flat with the back of a teaspoon. Now fill the cups – I liked to fill one line of 4 with one filling, then the next line of 4 with the next filling and so on, as that keeps it even, and you can make two 12-cup trays with this amount.
Filling 1 – fry the bacon until crisp, remove and keep on kitchen paper. Fry the mushrooms in the fat from the bacon until cooked, with a sprinkle of dried thyme. Distribute evenly between the quichelets.
Filling 2 – spread the mustard over the bottom of the quichelets, sprinkle grated cheddar, about a teaspoonful, then add 4-5 pieces of cut up sundried tomatoes and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
Filling 3 – fry the finely chopped onions in vegetable oil for about 30 minutes until caramelised (this is why I said start the fillings once you’ve got the pastry chilling) and golden brown. Chop the goat’s cheese slice into little pieces. Spoon a large teaspoon of gloopy onion into each quichelet and top with a couple of pieces of goat’s cheese.
Turn up the heat on the oven to 200°C.
Now beat up the eggs with the cream, salt and pepper. Using a soup ladle, portion out the eggy filling into each little quiche. You will drip a bit but it doesn’t matter.
Bake the trays of quichelets in the oven for 15 minutes until puffed up and starting to go golden brown.
Serve at room temperature – and they are best on the day you make them although they do keep in the fridge overnight and warm up quite well too.
To fry the “seaweed” – put about 1cm of oil into a frying pan, heat up to sizzling, and put about a handful of shredded cabbage in at a time. The oil will fizz up and settle back – stir around a bit and take out onto kitchen paper after about 90 seconds. You will have crispy shredded seaweed, onto which you can sprinkle a little sea salt. Keep going until you use up all the cabbage you have shredded.
Serve one of each type of quichelet on a plate with a small handful of crispy seaweed. They look very sweet and appealing.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.