Quiche/Flan, Sweet

Home made Anise (aniseed) extract

A few months ago I was reading through my Italian cookie cookbook and found there were quite a few recipes which use aniseed extract.

Great, my husband loves aniseed and liquorice flavoured things so I thought it would be a lovely treat for him to make him something with these flavours and I began to look about in shops for aniseed or anise extract to use.  Unfortunately, it seemed to be a very elusive product to buy in a store, so much so that the only way I was going to get it was to buy online or make my own.  Usually I’m a big fan of online shopping as you can always get what you need at a cheap price, but this time I found I was having difficulty. There were two problems: there weren’t many shops selling and the shops that did sell it only sold in bulk orders.  I was left with only one viable option and that was to make it myself.  Luckily I had bought some star anise a while ago from Stratford upon Avon which I always thought would come in handy (but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it).  Making it was very simple just add star anise and vodka and ta-dah, you’re own extract after waiting just 3 months.  What?! 3 MONTHS! I’m not exactly the most patient person but I had no choice so in July I bottled it up and waited…until October.  If you’ve been following my life you’ll realise that October was a pretty eventful month as my baby decided it was time to make her appearance into the world.  Unsurprisingly, I never got round to using my extract until now, 6 months after I started it.

I decided to make some Italian anise cookies with it for my husband and I’m really pleased with it. I’m glad after all that time it was worth the wait.

Anise/Aniseed extract Half fill a small air tight jar with Star Anise then pour enough good quality vodka to cover them completely.  Put the lid on and leave for at least 3 months.  Every week (ish) give the jar a gentle shake but do not open till its ready. Its useful to write the date on you started it so you don’t forget.

Anise and Almond CookiesItalian Anise and Almond cookies I used this fab recipe to make the cookies –   Anise and Almond Cookies  They are very authentic Italian in their taste and look very home made when finished, but I think that’s what gives them charm.  I made the cookies without the flavour, then split the batch into two and added the aniseed extract to half and flavoured the other half with Almond. The pink ones are Anise and the purple ones with glitter are Almond.

Quiche/Flan, Savoury

Ham, Cheese and Onion flan / quiche

Last weekend my wonderful husband and my dad installed our [my] new oven! Although the kitchen is a long way from finished, it is so exciting having a lovely electric oven to cook in. So after watching Saturday Kitchen and seeing Rick Stein eating a quiche – I decided that it would be the first thing I needed to bake.

I don’t know whether it is proper to call it a flan or a quiche so I end up calling it both. I am sure there is some kind of difference but I haven’t noticed one yet, I just use them interchangeably as to whether I am feeling posh or not.

You can put whatever filling you like into it such as asparagus, mushroom, bacon… – as long as you bind it all together with egg it should be fine but this is my favourite mix.

Ham, Cheese and Onion flan / quiche

Shortcrust pastry
2-3 thick slices of nice ham
Half a white onion thinly sliced
Two type of grated cheese (I used cheddar and red Leicester)
3-5 eggs depending on their size
Splash of milk

Pre-heat the oven to 200c

Roll out the shortcrust pastry about 5mm thick and use to line a pastry tin. Make sure you have no holes at all in it and it is pushed back into the edges.* Trim the top of the pastry flat with a knife and gently prick the pastry with a fork, but be careful not to go all of the way through.

Put a sheet of greaseproof paper over the pastry and fill with baking beans or something else like dried beans to weight it down. If you don’t put the greaseproof paper in then the baking beans will stick to the pastry.

Cook in the oven for 10-12 minutes till the pastry starts to get a bit of colour, then take out the baking beans and greaseproof paper and bake for a further 5 minutes.

Let the pastry case cool a little then fill it with grated cheese, cut up pieces of ham and slices of onion. Make sure there is plenty of filling inside but not higher than the edge of the pastry case.

Whisk the eggs with the splash of milk and season with a little salt and pepper and then pour over your filling till it is near to the top of the case (but not over full)

Bake it in the oven for approx 35-45 minutes. You will be able to tell when it is done when it stops really wobbling and looks a lovely golden colour. Let it cool a bit before you cut it.

I like to eat it warm with chips and baked beans, but is also great the next day straight from the fridge.

*A little tip – use a spare bit of pastry to push it to the edges with.

Quiche/Flan, Savoury

My mom’s shortcrust pastry recipe

My mom is a wonderful cook and probably the best person in the world at making pastry. She always has such a knack at being able to make it crumbly and taste perfect, something which I am still working on at the moment.

My two favourite recipes she cooks use sweet pastry; they are toffee apple pie or egg custard, and they always look like pretty impressive deserts when they come out of the oven.

When I was little, me and my sister used to make jam tarts with the left over pastry. They must have been pretty tough due to the amount we played with it and rolled it out before it went in the oven, but it was a good, fun learning experience – and I still make jam tarts with left over pastry now.

When first decided I wanted to make my own shortcrust pastry I looked in the recipe books but couldn’t choose which recipe was best one to go for, so I cast them aside and decided to ask my mom.

The recipe she gave me for a shortcrust pastry is very simple and easy to do; you just need to follow the proportions – half the amount of flour in fat and the same number of tablespoons of water as the oz of flour. I’m sure there are lots of other recipes out there and someone in your family will have their own… but this is my mom’s.

My mom’s shortcrust pastry recipe

To make a pie with a top on you need:

16oz plain flour
4oz butter
4oz lard
Up to 16 tablespoons of cold water
Pinch of salt

For a flan base use:

12oz plain flour
3oz butter
3oz lard
Up to 12 tablespoons of cold water
Pinch of salt

Put the flour and salt into a bowl and cube the butter and lard into it. Try to have the butter and lard out of the fridge for half an hour before using as it can be a bit too hard.

Using your fingertips rub the butter and lard into the flour until it has been combined and looks like breadcrumbs.

Put most of the cold water into the breadcrumb looking mix and squash gently till just combined. If you need to keep adding the rest of the water till it all sticks together but don’t add too much you want it to just combine and not be sticky, it is better when it is only just holding together.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and put into the fridge for at least half an hour.

It is now ready to roll out and use – or freeze if you need to.