• The crumbliest of crusts

    As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently made a BBC Good Food quiche. Although the original recipe was for a salmon and watercress quiche, I had some mushrooms that I needed to use up so replaced the watercress with mushrooms and left out the dill, relying on the salt in the smoked salmon and some added pepper for seasoning. Although the quiche as a whole was absolutely delicious and served as our dinner on one night and our lunch the following day, I am writing about it not because it was delicious (although it was) but because the shortcrust pastry was some of the easiest and tastiest pastry I have ever made with the crumbliest of texture. So, with this in mind, I thought I would share the recipe with you, giving credit to the original BBC Good Food recipe.



    350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
    1 tsp salt
    140g cold butter, cut into cubes
    3-5 tbsp very cold water


    250g mushrooms (sliced and fried lightly in 2 tbsp of oil)
    200g smoked salmon (cut into strips)
    5 eggs (beaten)
    100ml milk
    250ml double cream
    salt and pepper to taste


    1) Make the pastry. Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough water to make the dough come together, then wrap well and chill in the fridge for 10-15 mins.

    2) Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until just thinner than a one pound coin then line a 26 cm tart tin or 6-8 small tart tins. Place in the fridge to chill before blind baking. The original recipe suggests not trimming off the excess pastry as it can shrink a little when it cooks, but I trimmed the pastry on my second attempt and shrinkage was limited.

    3) Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Remove the pastry case/s from the fridge and line with baking parchment. Fill with baking beans, then bake blind for 20 mins. Remove beans and paper then cook for 5 mins more until pale golden. Turn down the oven to 160C/140C fan/ gas 3. Trim the edges of the pastry case with a sharp serrated knife or peeler if you have left the excess pastry.

    4) Arrange the mushrooms and salmon in the bottom of the pastry case. Whisk the eggs, milk and cream and season well. Pour over the salmon and mushrooms then bake for 30-40 mins, or until set with a slight wobble in the centre. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

    I loved this pastry recipe so much that I made some small Gorgonzola, cheddar and spring onion quiches on Sunday using the same pastry. As before, the pastry came out beautifully.

  • Two weeks on

    After graduation, in fact the very next day, we hopped on a plane to Bologna for a week in Italy. It was a good thing as I was feeling a little low after finishing my Diploma in Patisserie. It was the perfect way to distract myself from the end of something that had been my life for six months.

    We spent the first night in Bologna and did a bit of sightseeing in the city the following day before travelling to Lake Garda for a couple of days, where we stayed in the most gorgeous hotel hilltop hotel (Ca’ Barbini Resort) overlooking Lake Garda.

    After two days of running and walking down to and around Lake Garda; swimming in the pool and generally relaxing, we drove to Vernazza to pick up our son, Noah from the train station. We were not prepared to have to park the car a mile from the town centre and walk to and from the town centre in the boiling heat. I have to say that I am not sure that it was worth the effort other than a decent pasta dish for lunch. We had our first stay at an agriturismo that night – quite a different type of accommodation to that which we had experienced the previous two nights at Ca’ Barbini, but nevertheless quite enjoyable.

    We left the following morning, quite early, to make our way to Pienza for lunch and then on to La Bandita, our accommodation, for the final two nights in Italy. La Bandita is our favourite place to stay when in Italy. Beautiful in itself, but also a good central location to visit the surrounding towns e.g. Montalcino and Montepulciano for sight-seeing and something delicious to eat (pizza, pasta, the biggest T-bone steak you have ever seen etc.).

    In a flash, our holiday was over and we were back in London, before heading off to take part in Total Warrior, Leeds. The Saturday went well, with me coming 5th overall and 1st in my age category. With Jo’s achilles niggling him after the race, we decided not to compete in the race on Sunday. Instead, we went up to Glasgow to try to sort out our flat, which is our son, Noah’s accommodation whilst at university.

    Two rather lengthy and expensive trips to Ikea and quite a bit of handy work on Jo’s part later, the flat was looking more liveable.

    At this point, Jo and I went our separate ways. Jo back up to Aberdeen with half of our belongings in the Mini and me down to Lechlade to stay with my sister for a few days, where I was resident chef to assist my rather frazzled sister, who has a young child and a very responsible and demanding job. I conjured up quiche and pizza, using my Ashburton Cookery School recipes, as well as chocolate muffins at my brother-in-law’s request. I was in Lechlade to attend a trial at a hotel in nearby Tetbury. I am embarrassed to say that my nerves got the better of me and I decided not to go to the trial. However, whilst enjoying lunch at my favourite eatery in Lechlade, after a run around the area, I saw a notice that they were looking for a chef so decided to apply for the position. To cut a long story short, I applied for the position; I met with the owner for a brief chat; went back to Devon to attend Tunes in the Dunes and to pick up the rest of our possessions; had a two-day trial and now am waiting to have the details of a possible position confirmed. If all goes as it looks like it is likely to go, I will be relocating to the Lechlade area to take up my first chef position. Watch this space.

    I should mention that the trial went better than I thought and I got to make a number of the eatery’s key bakes during my trial i.e. bread and butter pudding, carrot cake, brownies, flapjacks, as well as had to come up with an idea to use up gooseberries. I suggested a gooseberry crumble slice, which I then made and when I came in for the second day of my trial was surprised to see that it was out on display for customer consumption – served warm with stewed gooseberries and mascarpone. My cooking attempts did not stop with the trial, as staying with my Mum all week, I was also her resident chef. Every lunch and evening she would ask what we were eating. This was code for ‘what are you cooking for me tonight?’ My attempts at keeping my mother happy included a salmon and mushroom quiche; a pear, apple and walnut salad and banana tarte tatin with rum, cinnamon and orange cream, courtesy of BBC Food, Food Network and BBC Good Food, respectively. This was along with more basic menu items of vegetarian tortillas and vegetarian lasagna.

    With a busy couple of weeks behind us, it is now back up to Aberdeen to sort our life out before possibly returning to Lechlade area should the job come through. This is likely to take a circuitous route via my sisters and a Masterclass session with Doug Spence.