Asparagus and Red Pepper Quiche

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Spring has definitely sprung, and as the days grow warmer in Madrid, it’s time to eat lighter and take advantage of nature’s bounty.  Asparagus is something that I look forward to every year, especially since my daughter absolutely loves them.  Yet I find that I seem to prepare them in the same ways, lightly sautéed either with eggs, parmesan or just a simple vinaigrette.

This year, I was going through a book that I have not opened in a long time.  My copy of Michel Roux’s “Pastry; Sweet and Savoury” has been sitting on my shelf for years.  I always leaf through it, and promise myself that I will try some of the recipes, yet I think I have only made one before.

I remember I bought the tart pan for this recipe specifically a couple of years ago, because the picture in the book struck me for its beauty.  I was a bit wary though, because the many times I had read the recipe, it seemed quite complicated.  I wasn’t wrong.  But what I didn’t realize, was how wonderful and delicious it is.  So yes, it is time-consuming, but I think if you tackle it bit by bit then it will become infinitely easier.  It isn’t hard, just laborious.

The result is a Quiche so elegant, so refined and bursting with spring flavors.  I hope you will try it too.  Oh, and the pastry is to die for.  ‘Nuff said.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Michel Roux’s  Pastry; Sweet and Savoury

1 recipe short crust dough (follows)

40-45 medium asparagus stalks

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 red peppers, semi-confit (recipe follows) 600g total weight before confit

1 egg

1 egg yolk

200ml whipping cream

pinch of nutmeg

6 dill sprigs

Roll out the dough to 3mm and cover the elongated tart pan.  Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190C, poke the dough in the tart pan and cover it with parchment and pie weights (or dried beans if you don’t have pie weights).  Bake for 20 minutes.   Lower the heat to 170C, remove pie weights and parchment and bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and proceed with the filling.

Trim asparagus to 10cm to fit the tart pan ( do use a ruler).  Reserve bottom stalks for soups or frittata.  Steam until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.

Chop the already confit peppers, and set on a paper towel to drain off all the oil.  Place evenly on the baked tart pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the egg and the yolk with the cream, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Pour 3/4 of the cream mix onto the peppers.  Carefully place the asparagus, 2 by 2 horizontally facing opposite sides in your tart pan.  Spoon the rest of the cream mixture on top.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes.  Take out of the oven and place over a rack to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding.

With a spatula, lift the Quiche on to a plate.  Place the dill springs on top, and serve warm.  You can accompany it with a side salad for a perfect spring meal.

SHORT CRUST DOUGH RECIPE:

250g flour

150g cold unsalted butter, cut into small squares

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tbsp cold milk

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients.  With your fingertips, start mixing all the ingredients until it resembles wet sand.  Form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to a week.  You can also freeze it for up to 3  months.

CONFIT RED PEPPERS RECIPE:

600g red peppers (if not for this recipe, you can use whatever color you want, or a mix)

600ml of olive oil

2 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 rosemary sprig

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 tsp black or white peppercorns

Roast the peppers, in the broiler or on a grill.  Char the skin all over, then place in a plastic bag for 15 minutes to cool and sweat.  Remove skin and seeds.

Heat oil in a small stock pot to 70C (very very low heat).  Add all the ingredients plus the peppers and cook for 30 minutes.  Let cool, and if not using immediately, place the oil with all the ingredients in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are going to use them.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Coca de Escalivada at Cal Marquet : Catalan flat bread in the Mountains

This weekend was a friend of mine’s 40th birthday.  As per tradition, he celebrates it in his brother’s Macia (farm house) in Manresa, 60km outside of Barcelona. His brother raises and breeds pheasants, but he also has a zoo licence due to all the animals he keeps there.  I love going there, because it is very close to the city, but you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.  It’s an hours drive and one treacherous 2km dirt road up the mountain to reach Cal Marquet, but truly worth it, just for the views alone.  The actual building is almost 300 years old.  The family have kept the structure intact, but modernized all the rooms.  There’s an infinity pool, a sauna and a jacuzzi too.  So, coming up here is a real treat!

The view from the front terrace, where we had our dinner.

This year he asked me to cater Friday nights dinner, and I immediately thought we should do it family style because it was 25 of us, and I didn’t feel like being in the kitchen the whole night and missing the party.  I decided to make the Coca de Escalivada, because it is a very Catalan dish, and most of the guests were Catalan.  There are many types of Coca, from savoury to sweet.  Each city or region has its own version.  I decided on this one because it is easy to make, since I was also doing Beef empanadas, cheese borek (turkish style patties), spring rolls, jerk chicken wings and blue cheese and caramelized onion sliders.

Coca is actually very easy to make, with very little proofing.  The most laborious part really, is grilling the vegetables and peeling them.  But honestly, I will definitely make this recipe again, maybe using different toppings, but it was delicious and so easy.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

300g bread flour

1 packet instant yeast

2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

50g shortening (not vegetable, lard, basically)

3 tbsp olive oil

120ml warm water

1 large red bell pepper

1 small eggplant

1 onion (I didn’t use it due to the birthday boy’s aversion to them)

1 can oil packed tuna, drained

6 large anchovy fillets

1 clove garlic

1 small sprig of thyme

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

pinch of salt

3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp pimenton (smoky paprika)

In the bowl of a stand up mixer, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar.  Add the shortening, olive oil and water and mix with the paddle attachment on low-speed, until the dough just comes together.  Now, switch to the dough hook, and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes.  (If you don’t have a mixer, then place the dough on a floured work surface and knead for 15 minutes.)  The dough should be smooth and pliable but spring back when it touched.  Place in a large, well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Put it in a warm oven (50 C) and let rest for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, grill your vegetables.  I put my eggplant directly over the burner, because it gives it an amazing smoky flavour.

Do this until the veggies are completely charred on the outside.  Then place them in a plastic bag and let them sweat for about 10 minutes.  When they are cool to the touch, peel them, and slice into 1 inch long slices.  Set aside.

In a mortar, place the garlic clove, thyme, parsley and the pinch of salt, and mash to form a paste.  Add the olive oil and paprika and mix well.  Set aside.

When the hour is up, take the dough out of the oven, and raise the heat to 220 C.  On a well floured work surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle, the same size as your baking pan.  Lightly oil the baking pan, and place the dough on top, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let rest another 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough, and place the red pepper and eggplant slices on top, in an alternating pattern.

This actually resembles the Catalan flag.  Now, brush the top with the garlic paprika oil.  Wait a few seconds and give it a second coat, using up almost all the oil, making sure the garlic and herbs are evenly distributed.  Leave just a bit to brush after it’s out of the oven.

Place in the 220 C oven, and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and place the tuna and anchovies on top in alternating rows, and then brush with the remaining oil.  Serve hot, warm or cold.  It’s super versatile!

And now, here are some pics of the farm animals!

Catalan Donkey…..forgot his name but he’s soooo cute.

The cockatoo that says “Roberto”

Peacock strutting his stuff for his harem of hens

And he had all his ducks and geese, lined up in a row…..sort of.

Carmela de Espana, the Tibetan Goat.

Miss Piggy. Yes, that is her actual name.

Pegasus, the (non) flying horse.

View of Montserrat on the drive back home.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla