Sunday, 21 April 2013

Lunchtime Choices

I don't know about you, but I actually find lunch to be one of the more challenging meals for the children. My Number 1 girl, who is only 6, is an extremely slow eater and if her school lunch is not fairly basic, it comes home uneaten. She really only likes hard crusty brad rolls with either ham or roast chicken, so that is what she gets. But come the weekend, I try and mix it up a little.

Scrambled egg on toast and beans on toast are both very popular weekend options, as is a sausage sandwich. The adults however, like something a little different every now and again. So here are some options that we fall back on in our house.

When I feel very organised, I make a quiche from scratch (as per a previous post, Quiche Lorraine). However, that does take quite a lot of effort so I was excited to come across an idea on the Rollercoaster website for mini-quiches. A great idea, as you can use the shop-bought pre-made shortcrust pastry and there is no need to bake blind, so very handy. A normal cupcake bun tray is the ideal tin.

Oven ready, some with egg mix, some without
I happened to have some of my own shortcrust pastry in the freezer, so I just de-frosted it. and found I had enough for 24 mini-quiches. According to my Rollercoaster source however, one sheet of bought shortcrust pastry should do 12. Grease the tin lightly, then use a suitable sized cutter to cut out the shapes and line the bun-indents with them. For the filling, lightly beat 3 eggs with 125mls of milk or cream (I used all cream, due to a glut of it in my fridge leftover from Easter and rapidly going out of date!), and grate in 60g of cheese (I used an extra-mature cheddar). Then you can use whatever toppings you like - I fried off some bacon lardons with a couple of scallions in one pan, and some diced red pepper and mushroom in another. I left some bacon only, and some pepper & mushroom only, and I combined the two in a few more. You can use whatever you like however - courgette, goat's cheese, cherry tomatoes, chorizo sausage, olives; whatever takes your fancy.

Bake for "about" 20 mins at 200°C. I say about, because my oven is very hot and a fan oven, so I gave them 15 mins and took it from there - I'd advise you to do the same, first time out. Mine took about 17 minutes. Also, make sure to grease the bun tray well, I only did one tray, and the other one stuck quite badly, especially where I was a bit too generous with the egg mix and some leaked, effectively welding a few of my wee quiches to the tin!

A DinnerLady follower commented early that she made these after seeing the same Rollercoaster post as I did and found that the egg to pastry ratio was too low and therefore she prefers a full quiche. I have to say, I do prefer the full large quiche too but it is a lot of effort with baking blind etc., I found these handier to make (I don't mind fiddly so much), so I will try again. But I would make sure to use the biggest pastry cutter possible and to fill each pastry cup with as much egg mix as possible without letting it spill over.

These also freeze brilliantly, so are great for school lunchboxes according to the Rollercoaster poster who put the recipe up - she tells me that she just takes them out of the freezer and pops them straight into the lunchbox, and they have defrosted by lunchtime. I'd imagine they'd be pretty good on a picnic too.

Today, I am serving them with a very quick potato salad - last night's left over potatoes cubed up with some diced onion, capers and a little of the left over bacon and scallion mix.

Another favourite is prawn cocktail - I generally make either brown or white soda bread for the weekend and, as Himself says, frozen prawns appear to be breeding in our freezer (but they are so handy! For quick mid-week stir-fries, with a tin of tomatoes, some garlic and spaghetti, or for a weekend prawn cocktail). Just take out as much as you want, run some cold water over them to de-frost, then mix in a large bowl with a good dollop of mayonnaise, a squeeze of tomato ketchup, a dash of tabasco and a shake of cayenne chilli powder, a good spritz of lemon juice and a grind of black pepper - serve with fresh soda bread or in the hollow of an avocado. If you have a bag of rocket or leaves in the fridge, then dress with a quick dribble of oil and vinegar, chop in some scallion or red onion and few halved cherry tomatoes, some olives if you have them - and there's a tasty lunch in ten minutes!

Of course, a "cold meat" selection of hams, salamis, cheeses and cherry tomatoes is always popular, as is a straight forward omelette - Delia Smith has the definitive omelette cooking instructions here.

Another big favourite (and it works well as a starter too) is griddled mushrooms. My Dad does these directly on the plate of his range, but as my suburban hangout didn't come with a handy Aga, I use an iron griddle pan. Heat the pan to smoking hot - no oil. Get hold of some large mushrooms; the ones that are usually sold as portobello or breakfast mushrooms. Remove the stalk and into that cavity pour some salt - this is essential, as it draws the moisture out. Leave on the hot griddle for several minutes, til cooked. Before serving, crumble some Cashel Blue cheese over the mushroom gills. Serve on a crusty ciabatta roll (I am very fond of the par-bake ones sold in most supermarkets now), with some dressed leaves. This is actually a "home made" version of one the most memorable starters I ever had, in the Winding Stair restaurant in Dublin where the mushroom was served on a potato rosti and with some barely wilted garlicky spinach on the side. I don't even like cooked spinach, and it was great.

Anyhow, enjoy your lunch.

Sarah xx


  1. Love this mini- quiches idea, think they'd be well popular round here...would it be silly to use bun cases?

  2. I think it would be quite hard to get the pastry into the bun cases? I never bother with bun cases for mince pies and other "pastry buns" as it were. Just whizz round with a butter wrapper OR handier is the silicon pastry brush, just use that with a bit of oil to brush it round (or even use it to smush in some butter) and then bung it in the dishwasher.

    Also, some one commented that the egg to pastry ratio can be low so do make sure to use the biggest cutter possible and fill each pastry case with as much egg mix as you can without it spilling over. In fact, think I'll edit the post to add in this info!

  3. Hmm yes, hadn't really thought about getting the pastry into the bun cases...