Just about reaching the end of my brain's tether, I placed a fervent plea on Twitter for someone to think of something that I could make for dinner. I had just the one day left to fill on my menu plan and couldn't think of anything. Brain was a complete blank.
Loads of interesting suggestions came in, but unfortunately, I'd done a lot of those recipes only recently. Then came a suggestion for a fish pie - which started the whole "moaning how fish is too expensive these days" rant off again. However, the fish idea stuck in my head and I began to think along the lines of "making something that doesn't require much fish, but that is still fishy". Hmmmn, now that's not easy - because if something's got fish in it, then my chaps like it to have a LOT of fish in it, not just a token bit here and there.
One of the best ways I've discovered lately, of using up just a little bit of something, is to include it in a tart. I didn't much fancy a puff pastry tart, though. We've had a few of those recently. What about a quiche , though? Haven't made one of those for ages!
What fish goes well in a quiche? Smoked haddock. Yes, it's an idea - but any other, better, ideas? What about salmon? Ah, now you're talking (or thinking) - but how much would you need, for a quiche? Cue firing up the old computer and looking at a few recipes for quiches involving salmon - whereupon I found a recipe from Simon Rimmer on bbc.co.uk/food which sounded lovely. Now that only required 200g of salmon - which should be infinitely affordable. Off I went to consult Asda online. It turned out that they do a little "microwave in the bag" portion of fresh, lightly smoked, salmon for £1.28 for 105g, so two of those would cost £2.56. Except, at the time, they had them on rollback (reduced price) for £1 each. Perfect! A 220g piece of fillet would have cost me £3.48 - so it was a real bargain.
I liked the idea of asparagus with the quiche too, as the English asparagus is just hitting the shops - and English is by far and away the nicer of all the types available.
So there we are - had my "fish thing" all planned out, with help from Twitter.
However, upon reading through the recipe, I noticed a couple of inconsistencies in the ingredients list. It included "1 tsp chilli flakes" and "1 lemon, juiced and zested". Strewth, on both counts! One whole teaspoonful of chilli flakes would blow your head off - and the other ingredients were so subtle and delicate! No, no - it can't be right. The same goes for the quantity of lemon, too. I could see how a hint of lemon on the fish would be lovely, but a whole lemon zested and juiced? Surely not!
Now I do know that Simon Rimmer - bless his heart - can come up with some radical and "out there" flavour combinations sometimes. In fact, this is a rare beast in that it is a Simon Rimmer recipe (seriously tweaked) that worked.
With the best will in the world, I couldn't put an entire teaspoonful of chilli flakes into such a rich and delicate flavoured quiche - so I didn't. Nor could I stamp all over the flavour of the asparagus, cream and nutmeg, by including a whole lemon - and I was right. I included the zest from a quarter of a lemon, which was quite enough to provide a hint of lemon whenever you encountered a piece of fish, yet not enough to overpower anything. Son & heir thought that the lemon was too obvious, even so. It's just as well I didn't trust the recipe, or it would have been inedible. (By us, anyway!).
As it turned out, this tweaked recipe proved to be a deliciously rich and indulgent quiche. The lightly smoked salmon cooked perfectly and the blanched asparagus was a lovely foil for it. The hint of lemon just lifted the earthiness of the salmon flavour and saved the quiche from becoming too heavy.
I served the quiche with a tomato salad made with a selection of tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and beetroot for those who like them.
This would be a terrific recipe to make to take with you to a family gathering, a barbecue or a church supper. It would travel well and be suitably "special" so as to make everyone feel a little bit spoiled. Which isn't a bad achievement, for a little quiche!
SALMON & ASPARAGUS QUICHE (feeds 4-6)
200g shortcrust pastry (separated into two halves)
1 egg for the pastry, plus 3 eggs for the filling
200ml double cream
pinch of nutmeg
200g lightly smoked salmon
200g asparagus spears, cut into quarters
half a red onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
a quarter of a lemon, zested
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas4.
2. Take a large saucepan and fill it a third full with water. Add a large pinch of salt and put it on the heat to boil. Once boiling, add the asparagus pieces and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and add to iced water to stop the cooking process and retain the lovely green colour. Once cool, set aside.
3. Roll out one half of the pastry and line an 8" flan dish. Trim to size. Line the pastry with baking parchment and cover with baking beans. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. Separate the egg yolk from the white and retain the yolk in a small dish. When the pastry comes out of the oven, remove the baking beans somewhere to cool and then paint the inside of the pastry case with the egg yolk. Place back in the oven to cook for a further 10 minutes. This, effectively, seals the pastry case and prevents the liquid filling escaping or turning the bottom layer of pastry soggy.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 150degC/300degF/Gas 2.
6. In the meantime, prepare the ingredients for the filling.
7. Take the fish and cut into delicate bite sized pieces, then mix with the lemon zest.
8. In a bowl, combine the cream, nutmeg and seasoning, but don't add the eggs until the pastry case comes out of the oven or the salt will begin to break down the structure of the egg and you will lose the lovely thickness of the filling.
9. Sprinkle the fish over the base of the pastry case, followed by the asparagus pieces, taking care to make sure they are evenly placed.
10. Add the eggs to the cream mixture and mix with a balloon whisk until you are satisfied that the egg is incorporated evenly. Gently pour the mixture over the fish and asparagus, taking care not to disturb the placing.
11. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set. Remove from the oven when there is a slight wobble in the centre of the filling and leave to cool, whereupon it will set completely.
Serve with a tomato salad.