Is that the sun I see in the sky? Great. And it’s going to be there forever? Even better. And picnic season has begun? This is the greatest day in the history of Ireland.
Picnics spark mixed reactions. For some, they bring to mind soggy, sand-encrusted sandwiches with a measly layer of slimy picnic ham. My childhood picnics included cocktail sausages, rashers, coleslaw, crisps, lots of fresh brown bread, buns, and lemonade, while grown up picnics feature lovely cheeses, meats, olives, breads, antipasti and other nibbles. Give me a picnic over a BBQ any day: way less fussing and hassle, and the picnic comes with the added bonus of being portable enough to bring on a mountain walk.
Another simple idea for a picnic on these sunny spring days: the humble quiche. Easy to make and available in varieties from dirt cheap (ham and cheese) to fancier (spinach, feta, and pine nuts). My friend Lou made a lovely ham and asparagus quiche last summer.
Any more than three ingredients and the quiche can get overwhelmed, so it’s best to keep it simple. And if you put chicken in a quiche, then you’re sick. Sick and wrong: mixing eggs and chicken is despicable.
I’m opting for the slightly more expensive version: pine nuts are pricy at around €4 per packet but it should stretch across a few lunches or dinners. Frozen spinach is a cheaper alternative to fresh and works just fine in this recipe – just make sure to squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible because otherwise you’ll have far too much liquid.
Shortcrust pastry is ideal but I happened to have puff in the freezer. Although it was a bit messier, it worked fine.
Can you share a quiche recipe?
- 6 eggs
- 1 Jus-Rol or other frozen shortcrust pastry sheet
- 1 onion
- 10 oz frozen spinach or one bag of fresh chopped spinach (around 200g, don’t worry about being too precise)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- A handful of pine nuts
- Around 100g of feta, chopped into cubes
- A dash of milk
- A pinch of nutmeg
- A handful of grated parmesan or grana padano (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive or other oil
- Defrost your pastry and blind bake it in a quiche dish. To blind bake, cover the pastry with parchment and weigh it down so that it cannot rise. Ceramic beans are an ideal weight but lentils or butter beans work fine too. Place in a preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes. If you don’t blind bake the pastry you’ll end up with a disgusting, soggy quiche.
- Mix the eggs with dash of milk, 10 ml (2 5ml teaspoons) of water, a pinch of salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg.
- Lightly toast the pine nuts on a pan for 2-3 mins until they start turning brown. Remove from the pan immediately and set aside.
- Meanwhile, fry the onion in oil for 2 mins and add the spinach until it wilts
- Line the quiche tin with the blind baked pastry. Pour in the eggs, spinach mixture and pine nuts.
- Top with cubes of feta.
- Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 15 mins. Remove, top with the optional parmesan, and return to the oven for another 5-10 mins, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Cut into slices or pack into a picnic box.
For a substantial picnic, serve with a simple rocket and tomato salad with a balsamic vinegarette and some fresh lemonade or tipple of your choice. I’m a big fan of the M&S fresh lemonade.