zaterdag 3 april 2010

The Versatile Egg. Recipes: Mushroom Quiche and Pumpkin Omelette, Thai style

Eggs are versatile, nutritious, low cost and what’s more easy to cook*. I think everyone must keep a supply of eggs in stock. They are great on their own but also an important part in many dishes; sweet or savoury, from the boiled egg to elaborate cakes to the all time Dutch favourites: pancakes and meatballs. Eggs must never be underestimated. It's not until you stop and think for a moment that you realise just how amazing the egg really is.
Whether it be breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner eggs are equally at ease on the menu. From the simplest of dishes: fried/scrambled/boiled/poached egg to impressive soufflés with smoked salmon the egg is the food for any occasion!
Furthermore they can be used to decorate a dish, add colour to a salad or to glaze pastries and bread. While the egg white alone can add structure and lightness, the yolk helps to thicken a number of sauces or keep ingredients from separating.
They are handy to have on hand as an emergency meal if one has forgotten to defrost the meat. I'm thinking boiled egg curry, a delicious but simple meal or the all time favourite bacon and eggs, Of as a more complete and substantial dish like Spanish omelette.
* According to the expression if you 'can't even boil an egg' then you are absolutely clueless in the kitchen! This isn't completely true in my opinion as boiling the perfect egg is quite complex. (I use Delia's method Nr 2) It sounds easy but in practice the first stumbling block is often: should I use cold or boiling water. And timing is the most important factor if you want a runny yolk. The number of times I have been disappointed is too numerous to mention!
Boiling (Quail) eggs in Thailand.

Today I did stop for a minute or two to think about the importance of the egg and realised the many culinary uses. My list is quite impressive:
Binding: meatballs/omelette.
Coating-food protection: fish before bread crumbing/battering and frying/potato croquette .
Thickening: sauces Zabaglione (custard)/ lemon curd.
Emulsifier: mayonnaise/ Hollandaise sauce.
Leavening/aerating: soufflé/cakes.
Glaze: pastries/bread.
Clarify: soups/stocks
Enriching-flavour: pasta/ sweet bread types i.e. Chelsea buns.
Colour/garnish: salads/ rolled omelette used in Asian garnishing.
But don't just stop at culinary, there are plenty of other uses in and around the home.
They can be beneficial in beauty treatments- homemade face masks or hair rinses!
Or art and crafts- works as an excellent paper glue.
Inside the home- as leather cleaner, and the shell makes a perfect drain cleaner if you wash away fine eggshells.
In the garden- eggshell (fine) can enrich compost with calcium and scattered eggshells deters not only snails but also cats.
Even car repair- as egg white can even temporarily act as a' plug ' is a minor radiator leak!

One of my favourite egg based dishes is 'Quiche'. Baking quiches didn't however come natural to me. I recall some of my earlier attempts as being anything but successful, which resulted in a few hysterical moments. This was at school long before I had mastered the art of perfect pastry. We had a lovely teacher called Miss Holland ( what a coincidence!) and I loved the home economics lessons although my skills were not yet fully developed. I still cringe when I remember the moment I realised my 'baked blind' pastry shell had shrunk so much there was nothing left to fill! I still had some pastry (but no time) left over. I lined my flan dish with 'raw' pastry and quickly packed it away (with the intention of finishing it at home). I may have got away with it if Miss Holland hadn't asked to see my 'quiche'! The look on her face gazing at the uncooked shell was priceless! I had to witness that look on one or two more occasions, one time being when she asked to see my Lasagna but that's another story. Watch this space I'm sure I will tell it one day...
On another day, and yet another attempt at perfecting my quiche the whole class were busily going about their kitchen duties. Suddenly all pupils were silenced as Miss Holland loudly clapped her hands to get our attention: "excuse me but who's oven is this" she asked pointing at MY oven. We all looked in horror as Miss Holland continued "because someone's quiche is trying to escape...." I fell though the ground in shame as I saw the huge puddle in front of the oven- my quiche filling was leaking on the floor! I still to this day, don't know what exactly happened perhaps i overfilled the quiche but for many a year I had 'quiche phobia'.
I eventually mastered the art of good pastry and years later made only the occasional quiche because the kids didn't eat eggs. A few years ago a good friend celebrated an important birthday and I offered to help make the food. I was actually quite horrified when I was handed the 'order' (I still have that piece of paper!) 2x Mushroom quiches and 3x Quiche Lorraine! It was time to stand up and face my fears but- 5 quiches- would I pull it off? I did and they were perfect.
A couple of weeks ago I needed to prepare a lunch for some family guests. I decided to make 5 quiches. I made salmon and broccoli, cheese and onion, traditional Quiche Lorraine, bacon, cheese and onion, and the basic mushroom quiche. I made my quiches the evening before and served them with homemade tomato soup and a fresh salad.
The Mushroom quiche recipe I use comes out of a cook book. The one both my friend and I came to Holland with- the reason we survived in the kitchen! The First-time cookbook, Evelyn and Judi Rose. I still have it although by now it is held together with cellotape!
Although it is called 'Basic' the name does it no justice. It is the beautiful combination of flavours: butter, lemon juice and sherry that transforms the mushroom quiche and it smells delicious too.

Basic Mushroom quiche:
Serves 4
1 baked case (see below)
1/4 onion or 4 small spring onions
25gr butter
125gr mushrooms
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon
1 tbsp sherry
Savoury custard
1 tbsp cornflour
2 large eggs
150ml single cream or 175 can evaporated milk
pinch each of salt and nutmeg
5 grinds black pepper
Topping 25gr or 3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
nut of butter
1. Finely chop the onion or slice the spring onions.
2. Melt the butter in the frying pan, add the onion and cook for 2 minutes then add the mushrooms (sliced 6mm thick), the salt, lemon juice and sherry.
3. Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes, uncover and cook briskly until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to fry in the butter.
4. Now make the savoury custard: put the cornflour in the bowl, add the cream or evaporated milk slowly whisking, then add the eggs and seasonings and whisk together until just smooth.
5. Add the mushroom mixture to the savoury custard, then pour into the quiche case.
6. Scatter with grated cheese and dot with tiny bits of butter.
7. Bake at 190c for 25 minutes, then at 180 for 10 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed. The flan will remain puffed for 30 minutes.
8. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes as it is nicer warm rather than hot.

Quiche pastry case, makes 1 shallow 25cm or 1 deeper 20cm one: (Or you can just use your own recipe- like I do, no icing sugar!)
150gr plain flour
pinch salt
1 level tsp icing sugar
75gr butter
2-3 tbsp ice-cold water
Make the pastry in the traditional way rubbing the fat into the flour and using just enough water so that the dry ingredients can be gathered into a dough. Wrap the dough in Clingfilm and refrigerate for one hour. This helps prevent shrinking!
Sprinkle the work surface with flour and roll the pastry out to fit the flan case. You can use whatever kind you prefer or have on hand- ceramic, glass, or a loose bottomed metal. Lift the pastry over the case with the aid of the rolling pin and gently line the dish being very careful not to stretch. Trim the edges if necessary. prick the bottom with a fork (this will help prevent it rising and put a piece of greaseproof paper with baking beans or a piece of tin foil. "Bake blind" in a preheated oven (200C) for about 12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180c, remove paper/foil and cook for another few minutes until the base is dry.

Easter has fallen early this year and although we want to think of spring and warm weather the temperatures outside are telling us otherwise. brr
Last week I had a pumpkin waiting to be used and although we tend to associate pumpkin with autumn I kind of like the combination of pumpkin and eggs. I decided to make a kind of Spanish style omelette but with a Thai twist. It kind of looks yellow and well Easter-like.
So if you still have pumpkins around and want to eat your eggs in a different way keep reading. Pumpkin goes great with a mix of cumin, coriander, ginger and garlic but you could add a mix of any spices/herbs you fancy. By adding a bit of galanga(l) (laos) and Thai basil I went a bit Thai but feel free to go whichever way you like. Replace the herbs/spices with Mediterranean herbs/spices and add some mozzarella/Feta cheese and some sundried tomatoes/olives.

Pumpkin Omelette- Thai Influenced:
1/2 pumpkin (Biological) skin removed/ de-seeded/chopped.
Oil for frying
1 red onion, slices
Chili flakes
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
Small piece of ginger and galanga (If you don't have fresh just add 1 tsp ground ginger)
Salt (or a dash of fish sauce if you have) and pepper
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 small tomatoes
1 small spring onion, chopped
few Thai basil leaves
5 eggs
Beat 5 eggs with a couple of tablespoons of water.
Heat a couple of tbsp. oil (whatever you prefer I used rapeseed oil but you could use olive) in a large frying pan. Fry 1/2 biological pumpkin chopped with a some sliced red onion. I added some chili flakes, 1 heaped tsp cumin, 1 heaped tsp coriander a small piece each of ginger and galanga and finely chopped. salt and pepper. I added 1 crushed glove garlic. I cooked until the pumpkin was just tender. I then added 3 small tomatoes chopped (I intended to add a chopped spring onion- I forgot but will add it next time!)
Add the eggs and sprinkle with the basil leaves, cook until just set. Serve cut in wedges.