I returned from a summer back at home in trepidation of seeing the state of the front yard garden. I had been sent a photo update partway through the summer – not being around to weed the yard, it had become a mass of grass, strangling spindly pea plants, and with the odd orange tomato standing out from the undifferentiated conglomerate of green.
When I had first arrived back, it was early in the morning, but the next day I was eager to start clearing out some of the grass choking the vegetables.
Looking at the yard, it appeared so much tamer than I expected – there wasn’t quite the height or bulk that I had been expecting. Then I realized that was because there was nothing. Apart from the expansive raspberry bushes, the yard was a flattened pad of dead, cut grass. A new pad of weeds, mostly clover, had begun to poke up like post-buzzcut fuzz in between the yellowed grass stems.
A chive plant waved jollily from the corner. The chive plant was spared.
Looking more closely, I found some more remnants of a (questionable) garden that once was. A handful of red cherry tomatoes and a couple green beefsteaks lolling on the ground in the shade of the raspberries… and a small, prickly field cucumber over in the other corner of the yard.
I collected and bagged the evidence.
“Dear roommate.” I said, as we sat down for dinner, “I was looking at – or rather – looking for my garden,”
“HAHAHA.” She said in the sort of despondent laugh just as telling as the explanation. “Yes. Um, there is a story there.”
It goes something like this: our landlord’s wife plants medicinal herbs in the yard. The roommate is warned not to pull up anything stick-like – and so given all the stick-like crabgrass taking over, leaves everything well alone. Until one day she comes back to a mowed lawn.
The garden was a unfortunate bystander caught in a confluence of factors. The sequence of events all started with me, when the garden was abandoned by its caretaker (i.e. me), then was watched over by a considerate roommate, and inevitably met its end at the blades of a landlord trying to keep his property relatively presentable and law-abiding instead of a crab-grass and dandelion cultivation centre.
I am pretty chuffed that at least I still have chives!
Luckily I got a chance to make some quiches using the bounty of Swiss chard from home.
It’s good to have an updated quiche recipe on the blog as the previous two, while deliciously flavoured, had a key flaw – the dreaded soggy bottom. The problem was that I used to not (oh the horrors) blind bake (i.e. precook) the pastry, and as you can imagine, a pastry trying to cook up under a slug of custard will have trouble flaking and crisping. (I did find that I could cheat a bit and crisp up the bottoms in a fry pan though!)
While I knew the remedy was to properly blind bank, I didn’t feel inclined to make any more quiche until recently. But oh, the thin crispy pastry (you can catch a glimpse of some of the flake in the close up pictures!) is such an improvement. I want to make even more quiches now!
The handy thing about quiche is that you can have all the flavours and all the different fillings you want, with the same straightforwards base: a pastry, a custard filling, and plenty of grated cheese. So when you’re making individual quiches, it’s pretty easy and so tempting to make multiple flavours in the same batch. Here I have two.
flavour 1: swiss chard, chestnut and za’atar quiche
I wanted to go a bit more fall-flavoured in this one. Filled with chard, chunks of chestnut and plenty of herb flavour both from the fresh chives and the thyme in the za’atar. It’s nutty and herby and best with plenty more za’atar sprinkled over top!
flavour 2: corn and kimchi quiche
This was such a fun quiche to make. I think it was inspired by a couple of things. Corn cheese, a cheesy casserole-like dish to eat when drinking. The milky richness produced by the fusion of a slice of processed cheese melted into a bowl of instant kimchi-flavoured Shin Ramyun. And of course, things like Momofuku’s kimchi and blue cheese croissants. Plenty of reinforcement that fermented things such as kimchi and cheese make fine partners. And overall that cheese is a fine thing indeed.
As a quiche, this kimchi/corn/cheese combination had contrast between the spicy/sour cabbage kimchi with rich/creamy custard. It gave me a bit of a cheesy comfort food vibe. The corn adds a bit of sweetness and well, an attempt at including more vegetables.
Also, something to try next time… a press in crust quiche?!
Makes 5 10cm (4″) quiches. I rolled my quite extremely thin for this – you may want more pastry if you prefer it thicker!
whole wheat pastry (enough for 5 thinly lined 10-cm tart pans)
75g cold butter
150g whole wheat flour
good pinch salt
custard (enough for 5 quiches)
1/3c heavy cream
scant 1/2 tsp kosher salt
75g grated old white cheddar
chard, chestnut and za’atar quiche filling (enough for 3 quiches)
60g swiss chard
5 roasted chestnuts, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
scant 1 1/2 tsp za’atar + more
corn and kimchi quiche filling (enough for 2 quiches)
2 tbsp corn kernels
50g drained cabbage kimchi, chopped roughly
1 green onion, finely chopped
For the pastry: Cut the butter into small pieces and then return to the fridge to keep cold. Mix together the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter, tossing until all the pieces are coated in flour. Rub them between your first couple of fingers and thumb to flatten the pieces into thin elongate pieces of butter. Continue until all the butter is in small pieces and everything looks crumbly.
Add just enough cold water to bring it together into a cohesive dough, mixing with a spoon. Mix until just combined, then wrap in plastic and chill completely for a couple hours.
Remove from the fridge and lightly flour a surface. Roll out until elongate, then fold into thirds onto itself. Roll out and fold again two to three more times. Wrap and chill again.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place 5 10cm tart rings on the tray. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into five equal pieces. One at a time, roll it out very thinly until it’s big enough to line the ring. Drape over the ring and then gently tuck in, being sure to tuck the pastry into the corners of the tart ring. Avoid pulling or stretching the dough too much as it might tear. Allow the remaining dough to hang over the edges of the rings to help prevent shrinkage.
Return the lined tart rings to the fridge to chill completely.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Line each tart shell with a piece of crumpled parchment and fill with baking weight.
Bake for 15 minutes or so with the weight in, the remove and finish baking for around 5-10 minutes or until cooked through.
For the fillings: Preheat the oven to 350F.
Make the custard by whisking together the eggs, milk, cream, salt and pepper. Reserve the cheese – this will be sprinkled over each of the quiches.
For the chard, chestnut and za’atar quiche, chop the chard stems and roughly slice the leaves. Finely chop the shallot. Heat some butter in a pan and cook the shallot and chard stems until the stems are tender and the shallot translucent. Add the leaves and cook until just about wilted.
Fill three shells by first putting down some of the chard mixture, followed by chopped chestnuts. Then sprinkle finely chopped chives and a scant 1/2 tsp of za’atar per quiche. Sprinkle on some of the grated cheese, then fill the quiche with the custard.
For the corn and kimchi quiche, spread one tbsp of corn kernels on the bottom of each quiche shell. Top with the sliced cabbage kimchi, then sprinkle with green onion. Sprinkle on some of the grated cheese and then fill the quiche with the custard.
To bake the quiches: To avoid spilling the custard while carrying the quiches to the oven it can be helpful to not completely fill the quiches until the pan is resting in the oven – at that point pour in the last bit of custard. Bake until the quiches are browned and with just a little wobble in the middle, perhaps around 15-20 minutes. I slightly overbaked mine at closer to 25 minutes (again!). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the tray. Once you can handle them, transfer to a rack to help keep the bottoms crisp.
Sprinkle the za’atar quiche with some more za’atar. Serve warm.