Last week I spent several beautiful days sowing and digging in the garden. In went the courgette and cucumber plants, in large holes filled to the brim with well rotted manure...in went the beetroots, both yellow and red, the yellow more to provide a colour contrast than for any other reason, because what I really like is the musty taste of the more traditional purple beets. In went some radishes and potatoes. Tomorrow, if the weather is nice, it will be the time of the French beans, both climbers and dwarf varieties. The majority of the beans and peas I am planting come from seeds I have saved last year. I feel a sense of pride in completing the circle, just like my gran used to do: sowing, growing, picking, eating and leaving just enough in the ground to provide seeds for the following season.
Coming in from the garden with a large bundle of rhubarb, I found waiting for me the veggie box from Riverford, filled with all the vegetables that I will soon been producing from the allotment - possibly not tomatoes though, after several years of blight, I have decided to leave it to those with proper sunshine. After a quick glance in the fridge dinner started to take shape in my mind: spinach from Riverford, leeks from the garden, kiln roasted salmon from Waitrose, Yeo Valley crème freche and free range farm eggs from round the corner - quiche was on its way. When I shop I rarely have a plan, hence the often incongruous ingredients that find their way to the back of the fridge. If I am lucky, sometimes they will just beg to be cooked in a certain way, like this very delicious quiche.
Kiln roasted salmon and leeks tart
For the shell
150g plain flour (or white spelt)
75g cold unsalted butter
1tsp cider vinegar
pinch of sea salt
Remove the butter from the fridge and cut into small pieces. If you are using a food processor put the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor and add the butter. Pulse in short bursts of 4 seconds each about three four times, until you have a floury mix with bits of butter.
If you are mixing the dough by hand, mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl then add the pieces of butter. Use your fingertips to lightly rub the butter into the flour to partly combine. In both cases, do not over-mix, you want those bits of butter.
Combine the vinegar with the chilled water and sprinkle it over the flour mixture. Pulse a couple of more times until you get largish crumbs. Alternatively mix by hand using a knife until you obtain the same result. Now put the crumbs onto a work surface and use your hands to flatten and gather the crumbs until the pastry comes together. You should still be able to see streaky bits of butter which will give the pastry a flaky finish. DO NOT go for the extra smooth finish. Put the pastry into a plastic bag, flatten into a round with the palm of your hand and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using it.
Remove the pastry from the fridge 5 minutes before you want to use it. Sprinkle the work top with a little flour and bang the pastry with a rolling pin. This will make the hardened butter in the pastry become supple. Preheat the oven to 210˚C, gas 8. Roll out the pastry until 3 mm thick and line the base and sides of a 23cm loose based round tart tin pressing well in the edges. Cover the bottom of the tart shell with baking parchment and cover with baking beans. Bake blind for 10 minutes then remove the beans. Brush with a little egg white to seal then return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven .
For the filling
2 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
20g unsalted butter
100g fresh spinach
2 eggs + 1 yolk
200g crème freche
50g whole milk
1 tbsp respectively of chopped flat leaf parsley and chives (or dill, which I never have for some reason)
sea salt & black pepper
100g kiln roasted salmon
In a large pan on low heat melt the butter, then put in the leeks, stir to coat with butter and leave to sweat covered with a grease proof paper and a lid for about 10 minutes. Stir once then take off the heat and set aside. Wash and drain the spinach, removing as much water as possible. Shred finely with a sharp knife. In a bowl, crack the eggs, add the yolk, cream and milk. Mix well then season to taste. Finally add the chopped herbs.
Sprinkle the leeks and the salmon onto the bottom of the tart shell then pour over the cream mixture. Slide the tray into the oven, reduce the temperature to 190˚C, gas 5 and bake for 25minutes, or until the quiche puffs up. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before serving with a mixed leaves and flower salad. Now you can easily find borage, rosemary and wild garlic flowers....coming to think of it, you can substitute the spinach for wild garlic.