Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Cheesey Vegetable Pie

I remember the exact moment when my mother acquired a French cookbook. I was in my early teens, and had already been enjoying the benefits of Mum's various forays into international cuisine for some years by that stage.

It was the eighties, and God bless her, she couldn't help but be attracted to the recipe for quiche Lorraine. Quiche was incredibly popular in then - it was available on the menu of every cafe worth it's weight in salt, and was even adopted by the Queen of the supermarket freezer section, Sara Lee. But Quiche Lorraine, the genuine article in Mum's French cookbook, was unlike any quiche I've ever tasted. It was loaded with full fat cheese - and not just one cheese, it had four different kinds of cheese! Add to that was full fat cream and delicious chunks of bacon, all of which were included with every last skeric of their fat left on! And this paradise for the palate sat in a pastry that was to die for. If you've ever been to France you'll know they don't like to skimp on butter there. Quiche pastry is no exception to the rule - a delicate shortcrust, made with buckets of butter, why Quiche Lorraine was a minor revelation. And a one way ticket to a cardial infarction!

Years later, I've had to say goodbye to genuine French quiches. Instead I make egg pies. And believe it or not, egg pies can be quite good for you, depending on what you put in them. Here's a recipe for one I particularly enjoy. You can switch the ingredients round to suit your own tastes, but my one piece of advice is this: never leave the onion out!

1/2 half red onion, finely diced
1/4 red capsicum, finely diced
1 zuchini, grated
4 rashers bacon, fat removed, finely diced
125g low fat cottage cheese
5 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sheets puff pastry

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2. Combine red onion, capsicum, zuchini, bacon and cottage cheese in a large mixing bowl. Crack eggs over vegetables and stir with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are very well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Line a greased loaf tin with puff pastry. You'll find one sheet will cover the bottom and the two long sides of the tin nicely. Cut the second sheet in half, then cut one piece in half again and cover ends of loaf tin, pressing overlapping pieces of pastry together to seal.

4. Pour egg and vegetable filling into pastry case. Place on middle shelf of oven and cook for one hour. Slide a skewer into the middle of the pie to check if it's cook (filling should be firm to the touch). If it comes out clean it's time to take the pie out of the oven. If not, another ten minutes should do the trick.

5. Carefully turn the pie out onto a wire rack. Turn it right side up, being careful not to break the pastry. Serve with mixed salad. Makes at least five good sized servings.

Some other filling combos
- 2 cups cooked baby spinach and 125g chopped fetta
- 125g chopped sundried tomatoes and 100g fat reduced hot salami
- 125g strips of smoked salmon and 65g capers

Remember - never leave the onions out!

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