Cheese, ham and chive tart

It’s Tuesday night and I need to make a savoury bake. I mean I don’t need to make one, but if I don’t make one I’ll never make one.

Most of these recipes scare me. So many variations on a meat pie. Why so many, England?

I looked ahead this last weekend, trying to plan out my next bake, and my eye was caught by this one. It was either this one or a lamb pie, but for some reason I thought lamb might be better nearer Easter when, tragically, there are more lambs to be eaten.

I know. It’s terrible. I love lambs! They’re adorable! But they’re also pretty delicious, so, you know. PETA, don’t get mad at me! Harass England instead!

The point is this recipe looks a bit like a quiche which means I can get dinner and the next few lunches out of it.

So here we go.

First up, measure out the flour.

Second up, sift the flour with salt and mustard powder.

The thing is mustard powder is not something that I have nor is it something that I could find in the spices aisle of the grocery store. There was a worker right beside me stocking shelves, but I didn’t feel like asking and having him look at all the shelves for me again (which is something that happens way too often, by the way), so I just told myself I’d use Dijon mustard somehow instead.

Next up, add the mature cheddar.

Mature cheddar. As opposed to youthful, reckless cheddar.

Then add the butter.

And toss and then rub together and turn into crumbs.

And then add icy cold water. Adding moisture to this part of the crust seems like a good time to add in mustard.

I don’t know what the equivalent is of 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder, so I just did a dollop. Seems like it should be enough. This also seems like it could be a very tasty crust.

Then add the icy cold water.

Then mix together to form a dough. Now. Here’s where things get frustrating as per usual.

It’s just like when I make scones.

I add the wet ingredients and then the mixture doesn’t turn into a dough. It’s still very crumby. And I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be crumby, so I added more water, and then it became almost soggy. Maybe not soggy, but, perhaps, a little too wet. I wrapped it up with a dash of flour and put it in the freezer to chill, but I hope the water doesn’t freeze the dough in the freezer.

I’m trying to chill it faster because the last few times I’ve done this, the dough hasn’t chilled enough. It’s always been too warm and awful to work with, so I’m attempting a solution to the problem.

We shall see.

*about half an hour later*

Between chilling it in the freezer and then taking it out and giving it a less-chill chill in the fridge, I think I finally got the consistency right for rolling out dough. Note to self: use the freezer.

As I rolled it out, though, I was struck with the usual dilemma: how am I going to transfer this thing? Also, a second dilemma but a still common one, what tin do I use?

The recipe calls for a deep, loose-based flan tin but the last time I thought deep meant deep, I ended up with a weird apple treacle tart situation. But I don’t want to overflow a quiche. Plus there’s always a chance of shrink-back with the pie crust because I still haven’t purchased more baking beads, so I think I made the right tin choice by going with the deeper of the two loose-based flan tins I have.

Now back to that first dilemma: how to transfer.

The good news is the extra water I added didn’t seem to wreck everything. The bad news is I didn’t put enough flour on the countertop so I had to carefully peel it off. The other good news is that the freezer chill really helped! The other bad news is every time I try to roll it onto the rolling pin to try and transfer it, it starts to break.

With one swift move, like when people pull a tablecloth out from under dishes, I transferred it to the tin—and then got to work patching up the holes and trying to push the folded bits into the side like I was wrapping an oddly shaped present.

Time for another chill as I preheat the oven—this time just in the fridge.

*about 20 minutes later*

With the edges trimmed (but not too trimmed because, remember, shrink-back is an issue) …

… and with baking beads and ramekin placed strategically to make up for the lack of baking beads …

… I’m ready to bake blind.

I mean not actually blind. I’m not doing the Bird Box challenge. (Is that what people are doing? I haven’t seen the movie nor have I actually read past headlines regarding this new fad because it’s too shockingly stupid to be real.)

*15-20 minutes later*

Mary and Paul tell me to bake this pastry for 15 minutes or until pastry is firm. I checked, got worried about underbaking and shrink-back, and put it back in the oven for a little longer.

With the beads removed, I’m to bake for another 7-10 minutes until fully cooked and lightly golden.

*7-10 minutes later*

I checked and wasn’t happy with the golden colour. It still seemed a little on the undercooked side so I cooked it for a little more and then a little more and then I forgot about it and kept reading the book I was wanting to finish. That’s how this happened:

While I kept waiting and waiting for that crust to bake (and before picking up that book), I tried to get started on prepping the filling.

The recipe says to wait for the crust to cool a bit as you make the filling, so I didn’t want to prep the eggs too soon and add them when the crust was piping hot and then pre-cook the eggs somehow. (I don’t know if that’s a thing.) But I could prep the ham and chives.

Mary and Paul tell me to finely snip a “small bunch of fresh chives,” but I’m not sure what qualifies as a “small bunch.”

I bought a pack from the grocery store and, as with every time I buy chives or fresh basil or mint or whatever, I know for a fact I will put the rest in the fridge and forget about it until it becomes disgusting.

My first “small bunch” didn’t seem like enough and, like I said, I still had another small bunch waiting to rot in the fridge. So I decided to add more, and then thought I should maybe stop because I didn’t want this to become too chivey.

Then I prepped my ham by dicing it up. The recipe says to use “thickly sliced lean ham, finely diced,” but I know the thick ham of which they speak and this would not be the same. At the deli counter, I asked the lady to slice old fashioned ham in thick slices, if possible, and she did, but they’re thick slices for sliced meat. I doubt that’s the same thing Mary and Paul are talking about. We’ve already established the Brits have weird eating habits when it comes to meats.

And I diced this less fine and more thick. Thickly diced, is that a thing? I truly doubt it.

With the pie crust cooled enough, I could start on the rest of the filling.

Three eggs plus single cream (or whipping cream) added to the chives? Check.

Beat that together and recognize later how close this bowl is to the edge of your counter? Check.

Put the thickly diced ham into the pie crust bottom? Check.

Top that with the mature cheddar you grated way back when? Checkarooni.

Now here’s where things differ from Mary and Paul. They had some very specific instructions for pouring in the eggy filling:

“Pour in half the egg mixture. Set the flan tin on the heated baking sheet in the oven (you may need to pull out the shelf slightly), then pour in enough of the remaining egg mix to fill the pastry case. Gently push the shelf back into place, close the oven door and bake for about 35 minutes until the filling is puffed, golden and firm to the touch in the centre.”

I do believe I used the wrong tin. Because I had no problems with overfilling. I poured the egg mixture over the ham and cheese and then moved it to the baking sheet that I did in fact preheat. No leftover filling. No spillage. Maybe my mistake would pay off.

Now here’s where things get tragic.

It was at this point in the bake that I read that “35 minutes” thing and realized that, as I put this in the oven, it was nearly quarter-to-nine. The soonest I’d be able to eat my dinner would be 9:30. I am so glad I decided to do mostly baked goods and not dinners. No wonder Julie Powell almost lost her mind. I would too if I had to eat dinner at 10 o’clock at night every night! (Also if I had to make and eat aspic.)

*35 minutes later (plus a little more)*

Similar to the pastry-baking stage, I wasn’t convinced this was done. It seemed barely firm on top in that there was a layer of firmness, but it was still squidgy, and it wasn’t nearly as golden and puffed as I would expect. So I kept waiting and waiting, pushing my 9:30 p.m. dinner time further and further back.

Eventually I deemed it done and pulled this out of the oven:

Even though it’s getting almost too late to properly enjoy this, I have to admire my own work and note that it smells amazing.

After letting it cool for a little less than the required 10 minutes, I did the usual step of un-flan-tinning a flan tin (which is really fun by the way):

And then cut myself a healthy slice for my just-shy-of-10 o’clock dinner.

Let me put it this way: cheese in pastry crust is a revelation. I will never again make quiche for myself without it. It’s a necessity of life.

I cut myself a second slice and then cut the rest of the 3/4 into 1/4 pieces to take for lunch the next three days.

Work lunch is usually a forced routine, often because it’s something boring like frozen soup or oatmeal and more often because I forget to eat and it’s pushing 2:30 in the afternoon before I get around to it.

This, however, is something I am looking forward to.

I better bring that book to work so I make the most out of these lunch breaks! (And share with no one.)

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