Gluten-free fig, asparagus and stilton quiche recipe

As a card-carrying Brit, I’ve just enjoyed a fabulous long weekend, courtesy of HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Like much of the country, we got caught up in the street party thing, eating and drinking far too much, but enjoying spending time with our neighbours in the sun while it lasted – our street party was on the Saturday, so we were much luckier with the weather than some.

Anyone who follows a gluten free diet knows how hard events like street parties can be from a food perspective.  You either take a lunchbox and stay in a little culinary ghetto of your own devising, or you take along a couple of dishes to share but make sure you dive in before anyone else can contaminate your hard work, and hope a couple more people might have brought something that could work so you don’t have to look stand-offish.

In the case of our street party, we were lucky enough that a certain level of catering was to be provided by Angela Hartnett, our local celebrity chef, but since the number of people responding was higher than anticipated, we were all asked to bring food with us to share so there was enough for us to eat, and those with special diets were warned that this would apply particularly to them.  Fair enough, I thought, and started thinking about what to take.

In the end, I settled for my trusty balsamic anchovy potato salad and a quiche.  I hadn’t been sure what kind of quiche to make, but since I had asparagus and some fresh figs in the house, and some stilton in the fridge that was beckoning, putting them together seemed the right thing to do.  And it really was.  Seems I’m not the only one to think so, either, since a mention of the quiche on the Coeliac UK Facebook page this morning led to a request for the recipe so here, for Hayley – and anyone else who would like it – is my recipe for fig, asparagus and stilton quiche.  I hope you enjoy it.

Fig, asparagus and stilton quiche

For the base:

  • 400g Dove’s Farm GF plain flour blend
  • 250g mature grated cheddar
  • 125g butter
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 1/2tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 8″ loose bottom flan tin

 For the filling:

  • 100g mature stilton, crumbled
  • 8 asparagus spears, steamed until just tender
  • 4 fresh figs, tough stems removed, halved
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • 100ml Lactofree (or normal double) cream
  • 1tsp thyme
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • A good grind of black pepper, to taste

First of all, pre-heat the oven to 180C.  Now let me say that the amount of pastry the base recipe will make is rather more than you will need, but since this is actually the recipe I use to make my cheese and chilli biscuits, I simply roll any leftover pastry into a sausage and cut 1cm slices to make biscuits afterwards.  Throw all the ingredients for the base into a Kenwood Chef/Kitchenaid stand mixer if you have one, until it’s all thoroughly mixed, then bring it together with your hands.  If you don’t have the mixer, rub the cheese and butter into the flour, then mix in the egg and a little water or milk if needed to make a fairly stiff dough.

Chill the dough for 15 minutes in the fridge, then roll it out between two sheets of clingfilm until it’s large enough to cover your flan base.  Remove the clingfilm from one side, then turn the pastry onto the flan base and remove the other sheet of clingfilm.  Press the pastry into the flan base and then trim round the edges.  Cover the inside with a crumpled sheet of baking parchment, weight with either baking beads or 250g rice, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  At this point, remove the parchment along with the beads/rice and cook for a further 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

While the case is cooling, beat the eggs together with the cream, thyme, salt and pepper and leave to stand.

Once the case is cool to the touch, arrange the asparagus in it to radiate out from the centre.  Sprinkle the stilton all over, then place the fig halves evenly round the base between the asparagus stalks.  If the figs are particularly plump and look like they’ll be much taller than your pastry case, simply trim some of the skin from the outside of the fig.

When you’ve arranged all these ingredients, pour in the egg mixture, avoiding pouring over the top of the figs if you can.  Place the quiche in the oven and allow to cook for 25-30 minutes, or until tipping it no longer results in obvious fluid movement or wobbling – my fan oven plays very differently to my gas oven on this, so start checking at 5 minute intervals from 25 minutes onwards.  Et voilà!  Remove from the oven and serve hot, cold or cooling, depending on how much willpower you have.

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Gluten-free Heroes Part 3: The Bell and Jorrocks, Frittenden

It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I’ve included a pub among my gluten-free heroes.  I think this is called getting your retaliation in first 😉

The Bell and Jorrocks is not just any pub, however, but a place dear to my heart that I enjoy visiting when I’m with my family in Kent.  I’ve probably been going there on and off since I was about 15, even working behind the bar once upon a time, and it’s one of two focal points in the village community, the other being the church.

Over and above all the many other good reasons I might have had for going there – good beer (when I was still drinking it), delicious cider (now I’m off the beer), great company, friendly welcome, etc – there is now another one to add to the list, in the form of the pub’s chef, Steve, who is a fellow coeliac and therefore understands completely what I can and can’t eat, and delivers something safe and extremely tasty every time.  And, what’s more, he can offer a choice of dishes, not just the one token jacket spud and cheese like some places I could mention.

The Bell and Jorrocks is proof that you can offer good, coeliac-friendly food at a sensible price, on a regular basis, without the backing of a chain like Wetherspoons.  Thanks, Sean and Rosie, landlords extraordinaires, and thanks Steve 🙂

Gluten-free Heroes Part 2: Dove’s Farm

My second gluten-free hero this week is Dove’s Farm.  It’s fair to say that, without them, my diet would be a lot less varied and baking would take a lot longer.  This is because I would have to blend flours myself in order to get the right characteristics and, frankly, I simply don’t have the time or the energy to be doing that most of the time, especially given how much I bake.  So I probably wouldn’t bother.  Yes, I know, other GF flour blends are available, but since so many of the prescribables contain either lactose or soya, they’re not going to work for me, and those that don’t contain any nasties somehow don’t result in the lovely texture I get with the Dove’s Farm flours.

They don’t just do flours, either: they have a range of breakfast cereals that appeals to my 5 year old, even thought he doesn’t have to follow a gluten-free diet, which is praise indeed, and must be a godsend for parents of coeliac children.  Their chocolate stars really do taste very good, as well as being appealingly packaged.  And don’t get me started on the biscuits… once the packet’s opened, that’s it!

I’m less keen on their pasta, which you’ll find used by restaurant chains like Zizzi, but then I’m not all that gone on corn pasta in general.

Anyway, if you’ve ever tasted one of my cakes and not been able to tell the difference between that and a cake made with wheat flour, it’s at least in part because of these guys. Thank you 🙂

Gluten-free heroes part 1: Look What We Found

I first came across the Look What We Found range by accident – I was looking for arborio rice in Sainsbury’s one day, and in its place found packets of LWWF meatballs.  Since it said gluten-free on the front, I had a closer look and lobbed one in the trolley to try at a later date.

Since then, I’ve tried many of their range, omitting only those that contain lactose (I’m lactose intolerant as well as coeliac, so daren’t risk the cream in some of the recipes) and they have all been delicious.

Beyond the flavour, though, there are other reasons why I think LWWF is so good.  Part of it is the focus on finding smaller local suppliers for their ingredients and promoting them and their produce, but the other major factor is that they’ve gone the route of ambient, long-life presentation of the meals, which means you can take them more or less anywhere.  This is a real bonus when you have to go somewhere and are unsure what provision (if any) there may be for your diet – makes day trips across the Channel a lot easier – but don’t want the faff of dragging a cool bag with you.  I’ve taken these all over the place in my handbag, along with a pouch of Tilda microwaveable basmati rice: decent, tasty, safe food, all in about 5 minutes flat.

Particular favourites are the Tees Valley Beef Chilli and the Beef and Pork Meatballs, but I’ve yet to come across a single duff one in the range.  Definitely worth keeping a couple of these in the cupboard as a backstop either to take with you, or for those evenings when cooking from scratch just feels like far too much effort.

So here’s a big thank you to the team at Look What We Found, for making it so much easier to go anywhere, gluten-free.

New years and new beginnings

Happy New Year everybody!  

Having staggered painfully out of 2011 with nasty, mean gallstones that put a serious curb on a lot of end of year activities, 2012 started with no rapid prospect of a resolution until a call last Thursday to offer me someone else’s cancelled surgery slot for yesterday. Which means I’m typing this on the Touchpad my lovely brother so kindly gave me for my 40th, while snuggled under a duvet recovering from yesterday’s op.

So while I’m obviously a bit sore and battered at the moment, the knowledge that all the pain I’ve had since July is done with is more than compensation for a couple of weeks’ recovery, not least because it brings a particular dream a lot closer.

The dream? Well, we’re going to open a shop. And it will only sell yummy gluten-free things. Assuming the recovery goes well, we’ll be soft launching around Valentine’s Day, so it’s about to get quite busy round here. On the menu? Cakes, salads, snacks, soups… and art, since that’s long been a part of the plan. Sort of art and tarts, really. 

Still a couple of experiments to go before we can include them in the shop, which I will obviously share here, for good or ill 😉

Happy 2012!

Why I won’t be entering GBBO (the Great British Bake-Off)

I’m well known among family, friends and acquaintances for being an enthusiastic baker, with end results to match.  And like, I am sure, many other people in the UK, it has often been suggested that I enter GBBO.  It’s very sweet of people to suggest it, and even sweeter that they think I would stand a real chance of getting as far as the show, but it’s something that’s not destined to happen.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is not some sort of false modesty on my part, or a lack of self-confidence.  I admit, most people who know me also know I hate having my picture taken, although I’m learning to be better about that now.  I will also admit I’m not hugely keen to have TV cameras add another ten pounds to my already overweight frame.  But this is not the reason I’ll be steering clear.  No, the simple reason comes down to what got me baking in the first place: the simple fact that I can’t eat gluten.

I love watching the Great British Bake Off, and in many cases I think I could probably do as well without gluten as many of the contestants do with it, but there are some things I simply cannot do.  The blind challenges in particular would be impossible for me as I would doubtless end up being ‘glutened’ either by inhalation or from the simple need to check flavouring.  Paul Hollywood’s focaccia?  Would love to, but I don’t think it’s worth risking my health to get there.

Would I enter if the Beeb did a gluten-free version of GBBO?  I would indeed, but the chances of them ever doing that are probably fairly slim.  I do find this frustrating.  After all, increasing numbers of people are having to exclude gluten from their diet because of either coeliac disease or intolerance, and yet you’ll see very little about gluten-free cooking on TV.  I think the best gluten-free bakers can hope for on that front is for series 3 to include one episode where the contestants have to bake exclusively gluten-free.  It’s at least as much of a challenge as the perfect macaron, after all.

Anyway, back off the soapbox.  For those of you that fancy entering, I believe they’re recruiting the next set of contestants now.  In the meantime, if anyone from the BBC would like someone to set and judge a gluten-free challenge on GBBO, I’m right here 🙂

The great gluten-free pork pie experiment – part 3

If there’s one thing I really ought to do, it’s finish off – for now at least – my gluten-free pork pie experiment posts.  To recap, I had done a little research, as I was sickening for a decent pork pie, worked out a couple of recipes to fiddle with to see what might result, and then done the initial experiment.  All that was lacking – from the blog, at any rate – was the results of that process… which is when the computer and other issues kicked in.

Gluten-free pork pie, cut in half and ready to eatAnd this is what we ended up with, although the camera flash has bleached it out a bit. Once chilled, the pies had a delicious filling and jelly – good – and a nice, crunchy crust. However, for all that the crust was crunchy, it was realistically also a bit hard. Not tough the way a crust with gluten can go, because from experience it’s pretty much impossible to overwork a gluten-free flour.

It’s entirely possible I’m being too demanding, of course, and that this is as good as it gets, but since it’s only my first attempt at a raised crust, I’m convinced at this point that there has to be a way of improving upon it and getting a result that is crunchy on the outside, but tender and crumbly enough to have that proper melt in the mouth texture I associate with Mum’s pork pies in my childhood.  Fingers crossed!