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Honouring the Egg: A Summer Quiche

9 Sep
My quiche in all its glory © Jess Bruce 2015

My quiche in all its glory © Jess Bruce 2015

The egg. Perhaps the humblest food there is. A great source of protein and the foundation of so many quick and simple meals.

For nearly 18 months I didn’t eat eggs. Along with a host of other foods, following food intolerance testing, I removed egg from my diet. I embraced vegan baking using egg replacers such as applesauce, mashed banana, flaxseed and chia seeds to bind ingredients. Turns out eggs are fairly easily replaced in baked goods. An egg-less quiche even became a common lunch for me – intrigued? Mixing together gram flour and water, leaving it to froth for a few hours, once baked creates a texture amazingly akin to the egg filling of a quiche.

After seeing my digestion and overall ME/CFS symptoms improve over the year or so following my restricted diet, it was time to try re-introducing the banned foodstuffs. The theory goes that a 12 month absence from eating a food to which you were intolerant, will, in most cases, heal your gut to the point where you can reintroduce the food without reaction. It doesn’t work in all cases, it depends how severe your intolerance was to start with – I haven’t been able to successfully reintroduce gluten and dairy for example, as my last post shows.

The humble egg was the first food I reintroduced and I am very happy to say that it was successful. I now eat eggs two or three times a week. They make the perfect quick lunch – scrambled eggs with basil pesto on toast is my go to when I’m feeling  lazy tired.

Although I do still make the chickpea based egg free quiche – I like to mix up my proteins, and still eat plenty of plant based meals – an egg full quiche is firmly back on the menu.

Pastry case after blind baking © Jess Bruce 2015

Pastry case after blind baking © Jess Bruce 2015

Pastry Power

A quiche of course doesn’t just call for eggs. It calls for delicious pastry too; not an easy fix when it has to be gluten and dairy free. I have been gluten free for over 10 years now. I remember the first gluten free pastry my Mum and I made. It was my first gluten free Christmas and we tried to make gluten free mince pies. The pastry could have shattered glass. Or broken a tooth as you bit into it. It was very hard and totally unyielding.

Ten years on however, after much trial and error, my Mum has cracked Jess Friendly pastry. For lunch in the run up to the wedding, Mum made a quiche with a light, flaky shortcrust pastry that literally melted in your mouth. It had a lovely wholemeal flavour from using oat flour. You would never have guessed it was gluten and dairy free.

I have made the quiche twice since Mum’s wedding week one. And the pastry worked beautifully both times, even though the first time was my first attempt at making pastry ever. Gluten free or gluten full. Somehow, despite a love of cooking, I had reached the age of 31 without making pastry. It wasn’t perfect to look at, but it tasted very good which is all that matters in my eyes.

Some gluten free pastries suggest rolling out between two pieces of clingfilm, I didn’t need to do this with this pastry, but it may help. Pastry is a challenging friend, so do whatever helps you get it into the baking dish! I would say though do not chill the pastry in the fridge before rolling out. In my Mum’s (pastry chef extraordinaire) experience that just makes the pastry hard once baked.

Summer produce ready to be the quiche filling © Jess Bruce 2015

Summer produce ready to be the quiche filling © Jess Bruce 2015

Back To The Egg

My quiche filling was less successful the first time around than my maiden pastry voyage. After blind baking the pastry, I followed the guidance of a famous British celebrity chef (who shall remain nameless) whose recipe said to bake the quiche for 15 minutes and then the egg mixture would be set. Erm no. I baked it for 25 minutes and then thought it was done. It was firm to the touch in the centre. But on cutting into it, there was still a steady stream of liquid egg. Although I definitely wouldn’t advocate eating semi cooked quiche, it did taste very nice! I can thank the pancetta and caramelised onion filling for the delicious flavour rather than the runny egg.

Second attempt at quiche making resulted in the recipe and photos that I am sharing today. Even if I say so myself, it looks mighty fine! This time I ignored Mr celebrity chef’s advice and asked my Mum – Mum’s know best correct? Correct! Mum advised a much longer cooking time and the result was a perfectly set egg filling to the quiche, moist but not runny. And the pastry again was delicious, light and flakey.

Quiche comes in hundreds of different guises. My recipe here is for a vegetarian filling. I used a bounty of summer produce – sautéed courgette, slow roasted tomatoes and caramelised red onion. If you don’t have to avoid dairy,  feta or goats cheese would be an amazing addition. Or if you’re an avid meat eater then smoked ham or bacon would be delicious too. The pastry recipe is the star here, beyond that go forth and be adventurous with your choice of filling!

Here’s the recipe:

A Summer Quiche

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Gluten, dairy, nut and soya free

Ingredients

For the Pastry:

  • 100g rice flour
  • 100g oat flour (I grind my own from gluten free oats) + extra for rolling
  • 1/2 tsp xanthum gum
  • 80g solid vegetable fat (I use Trex)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6-8 tbsp of cold water (I chill a jug in the fridge to ensure the water is cold before use)

For the Summer Quiche Filling:

  • 6 eggs
  • 5 slow roasted tomatoes (I used a recipe from the Intolerant Gourmet‘s first book)
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 courgette
  • rapeseed oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sesame seeds

Steps

For the Pastry:

  1. Preheat your oven to 220ºC (fan oven 200ºC)
  2. Line the base of an 8 inch round shallow dish with baking parchment and grease the edges of the dish with rapeseed oil
  3. Sift the flours into a large bowl, add the xanthum gum and salt, stir to mix together
  4. Cut the vegetable fat into small pieces and add to the bowl
  5. Rub the fat into the dry ingredients with your fingers until you have a breadcrumb type texture
  6. Gradually add the cold water, 1 tbsp at a time,  mixing with a metal spoon as you go. You need enough to bind the crumbs together but you do not want it too wet or sticky
  7. Once the crumbs have started to come together, gently kneed the dough with your hands for a couple of minutes until it forms a ball
  8. Place the ball on a floured surface and gently roll it out into a thin circle (mine was about 1/2 cm thick I think) and then, the trickiest part, place it into your prepared dish. Do not be afraid to patchwork your pastry if there are any cracks or holes. The egg filling will seal it all together later
  9. Lightly prick the base all over with a fork
  10. Place a piece of baking parchment paper over the base and cover with baking beans
  11. Bake blind for 10-12 minutes.

For the Summer Quiche Filling:

  1. Whilst the pastry case is baking, prepare the filling by cracking the eggs into a basin and lightly whisking with a fork
  2. Slice the onions into half moons and add to a frying pan with a little seasoned rapeseed oil. Once the onions have started to soften and brown add the vinegar and sugar and stir well. Cook for 5 minutes until nicely caramelized.
  3. Slice the courgette into thin strips, cut length ways. Heat a little rapeseed oil in another frying pan and sauté the strips for a few minutes until softened
  4. Once your pastry case is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Reduce your oven temperature to 180ºC (fan oven 160ºC)
  5. Arrange onions, tomatoes and courgette slices in your pastry case before pouring over your whisked eggs. Finish by sprinkling sesame seeds over the top
  6. Bake for 40 minutes or until firm in the centre (I used the clean tooth pick test to be sure), allow to cool slightly before cutting into slices.

Do you have a favourite quiche filling? Or any tips for working with pastry? Don’t be shy, please share in the comments below!

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Jess’ Theory: Digestion is King

2 Sep
Digestion is King. Photo credit Morgue Filer User naama

Digestion is King. Photo credit Morgue Filer User naama

So I have a theory. A theory about the connection between the food I eat, my digestion and subsequent fatigue and migraine headaches.

It is only a theory, not backed up by any precise science or medical research.

It is a theory based on the solid evidence that my body has presented to me time and time again. My body the great scientific experiment 🙂

My theory goes something like this:

(I warn you it is not a particularly pretty theory..)

  1. I eat a food that is technically ‘Jess Friendly’ (a technical term meaning gluten and dairy free)
  2. Sometimes immediately, though often up to day or two later, I have a severely bloated and distended abdomen, I suffer with spasms of cramping pains and most significantly to this little theory of mine, my digestion grinds to a halt. No pooping. My body has firmly dropped anchor at constipation-city.
  3. I can’t stop yawning. I have a never ending need to rest and when I do I fall asleep. My energy is drained, reaching new lows.
  4. My head is filled with haziness for a day. And then a dull ache builds up on the left side of my forehead. It creeps up gradually, often so slowly I don’t always recognise what’s happening. But the pain always starts on the left side. It spreads down behind my left eye and inches across my face and down my nose. I feel nauseous, dizzy and generally spaced out. Bright lights and loud noises are horrible. On the worst occasions I end up in bed horizontal and not moving with a cold compress over my eyes.
  5. I take co-codomol, the pain reducing drug, which, if I’m lucky hits the spot and gives respite for a few hours. The side effect of this glorious drug…constipation. A classic catch-22. Either, a) I try and relieve the pain by taking the drug and thus exacerbate the constipation, which caused the headache in the first place or b) I just suffer in agony, waiting for the pain to pass.
  6. Once the acute pain is passed, usually after a long sleep, I’m left with a head that feels physically battered and bruised. I feel fragile and very sore, as if someone has been pummeling my head with their fists. This gradually subsides over a day or two.
  7. Slowly after 3-4 days the cogs of my digestive system slowly begin to grind into life once more and things begin to return to normal.
  8. Oh and to top it all off, around stage 2, a giant spot (or three) forms on my chin, huge, red and very painful. The toxins literally popping out to say hello any way they can.

This was the story of last week for me.

I ate a, supposedly, gluten free and dairy free pizza whilst at a friend’s house. I suspect the base was gluten free (it was too hard and tasteless to have been wheat filled) but the toppings (despite pertaining to be Jess friendly) most likely were not, or at least had been contaminated in some way. I reacted immediately with bloating and stomach pains and then as the week progressed, the full theory played out.

This is not the first time this pattern has happened for me. A few months ago, Mr B and I ate dinner at a (new to us) local pub. I was ecstatic that this place served gluten free dairy free fish and chips! And the main course was, and has been on numerous occasions since, fine. When I’ve only had the fish and chips I’ve been fine. No reaction. But that first time in my over eager state I ordered the gluten free crumble for dessert. So overjoyed that there was a gluten free dessert, that I forgot the key ingredient to a good crumble topping is of course butter. Dairy. It wasn’t until several spoonfuls down that I made the connection. Oops. And the next day I paid the price with the above theory cycling into action.

There was another time involving sausages at a friend’s BBQ. And another involving crème brûlée (yes I know it’s dairy laden, I was so brain fogged at the time I stupidly thought it was just made from eggs) and another after eating pâté. These are just the incidents that I have recognised and remembered as preceding a severe headache.

The fact it is not usually an immediate reaction is my excuse for why I have not joined the dots before. It was a real light bulb moment when the penny finally dropped last week. ‘I’m so tired, I have a huge spot, I haven’t been to the toilet properly all week, my head is so sore, yesterday I had a migraine’ I complained to my Mum and Sister over Skype. My Mum (always the wise one 🙂 ) asked, ‘what have you eaten?’ And then after a few moments of back peddling through my memory in search of a ‘bad’ meal, I realized. The pizza on Sunday. I bet that will have been it.

I’m not a doctor. And medically what I’m saying may make no sense. But I think from the research and reading I have done on the topic, our digestion is at the heart of our health and when it fails to function optimally, negative consequences show up across our bodies. It may not be headaches and migraines for everyone. But for me I clearly have a vulnerability in that area and too many times now my body has followed this pattern. So for me and my body my theory makes sense. Digestion is clearly the king for me and when he decides to have a day off, it has as huge knock on effect, with the rest of the kingdom going down with him.

Through having ME/CFS I have had it drummed into me to ‘listen to my body’. One of the causes of the severity of my illness was me ignoring all the warning signs that my body gave me. Now ‘listen to my body’ is my mantra. It helps keep ME/CFS at bay. It is not full-proof but it helps most of the time. And now it has helped me identify another symptom inducing pattern at work.

I’m not sure what the solution is to my theory, other than to be uber cautious (even more than I already am) of everything I put in my mouth and perhaps to never eat out again (which is just too restrictive and dull to be a viable option), but now I can clearly see the problem, I’ve got a better chance at finding a solution.

What about you? Do you suffer from headaches and migraines when you eat something wrong?

Do you listen to your body? What does it tell you?

Date Night @ Pure Taste Restaurant

13 Feb
Root Vegetable Cobbler  © Jess Bruce 2015

My Main Course: Root Vegetable Cobbler © Jess Bruce 2015

Last week marked 11 years since Mr B and I started dating. To celebrate our anniversary we went out for dinner at Pure Taste Restaurant in West London.

Pure Taste is no ordinary restaurant. It is a Jess friendly restaurant! Everything on their menu is gluten and dairy free as it is a paleo restaurant. They cater for all sorts of different diets from vegan to Whole 30, Specific Carbohydrate and Gaps, low Fodmaps and even one I’d never heard of – the Weston A. Price diet (advocates whole foods and fats from local unprocessed sources  – see this article to learn more – I learn something new everyday!) There is a key on their menu detailing for which diet each dish is suitable.

Pesto Crab Amuse Bouche © Jess Bruce 2015

Pesto Crab Amuse Bouche © Jess Bruce 2015

The restaurant opened late last year and we had been wanting to go ever since. Despite having read a few unfriendly reviews in the mainstream British press, I wanted to see for myself. In the healthy food world, Pure Taste had been celebrated as a new dawn in the London restaurant scene, causing quite the stir with its pictures of amazing light crunchy gluten free breads and creamy dairy free desserts. I am keen to try any restaurant where I can order anything from the menu and eat without the fear of ‘has this got gluten in it’,  ‘does the waiter actually know that the sauce is milk free’ and without having to cross examine the person taking our order with 20 questions about whether or not the menu item is safe for me to eat.

My Starter: Scallops and Apple Caviar © Jess Bruce 2015

My Starter: Scallops and Apple Caviar © Jess Bruce 2015

None of that at Pure Taste! On being seated the waitress asked if we were following any special diets and quickly explained the menu to us. Pure Taste calls itself a fine dining restaurant. The menu is selective with a choice of 6 starters, mains and desserts, spanning meat, fish and vegan options for all courses. As well as having bread and petit fours to perfectly top and tail your meal. See the menu in full here.

Mr B's Starter: Asian Pork © Jess Bruce 2015

Mr B’s Starter: Asian Pork © Jess Bruce 2015

I was in heaven. It was the best feeling knowing that I could safely order anything. I’m not used to going to restaurants and actually having much of a choice. Once you eliminate gluten and dairy you knock out half of most restaurant menu options. Add in trying to eat as little meat as possible, the list of possible options gets even smaller, especially as most veggie options seem to come slathered in cheese.

So what did we eat? The all important question! (Warning, we ate a lot!)

Gluten free focaccia!  © Jess Bruce 2015

Gluten free focaccia! © Jess Bruce 2015

We were first given a small spoonful of crab and pesto as an amuse bouche. This was utterly delicious. Creamy with the tang of basil just cutting through.

Basil Blood Orange Palette Cleanser © Jess Bruce 2015

Basil Blood Orange Palette Cleanser © Jess Bruce 2015

Then we enjoyed the garlic and rosemary focaccia with avocado butter and olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was crunchy on the top and bottom and soft and squidgy (technical term..) in the middle. The garlic and rosemary flavour shone through and it was gorgeous dipped in the oil and vinegar. The avocado butter was good too, with a very mild avocado flavour. I haven’t had a ‘normal’ foccacia (or any bread for that matter) for years so it’s hard for me to compare it, but Mr B seemed to think the bread was good, perhaps just a bit more doughy or cake like in texture than a standard gluten full loaf. But it was very tasty.

Rib of Beef, Mr B's meaty main © Jess Bruce 2015

Rib of Beef, Mr B’s Meaty Main © Jess Bruce 2015

I had the scallops as my starter which were delicious, perfectly cooked and paired with a creamy parsnip puree and a refreshing apple caviar, the latter was the highlight. Who knew you could imitate the texture of caviar with apple? It worked really well to cut through the richness of the rest of the dish. Mr B had Asian pork with cabbage and crispy potatoes, must have been good as he polished it off in 30 seconds flat (or possibly the portion was small?!)

My Dessert, Chocolate Orange Ganache © Jess Bruce

Chocolate Orange Ganache © Jess Bruce

We were then treated to a blood orange basil palate cleanser that was really refreshing and flavorful. And then came the mains. Making the most of being able to order a non-cheese laden veggie option, I chose the root vegetable and mushroom cobbler. This was a medley of winter veg and mushrooms cooked in a satisfying (almost meaty in flavour) light broth type of sauce and topped with herbed scones. The veggie stew was really good and the scones soaked up the sauce juices perfectly. The scones were crisp on the outside and dense, yet still soft, in the middle. They were very tasty, if a little sweet. I suspect they were made with coconut flour. Mr B stayed true to his carnivorous roots and had the beef short rib. The meat fell off the bone, it was incredibly tender. He wanted a little more than just the kale, onion and and apple puree it came with. A side of mixed veg for the table might have been nice, though given how much other food we ate I’m not sure we really needed it.

Pure Taste Banoffee Pie © Jess Bruce 2015

Pure Taste Banoffee Pie © Jess Bruce 2015

And finally dessert. We ordered the chocolate orange ganache and the banoffee pie and shared them. The ganache was good, a lovely rich texture with a deep chocolate flavour with little bursts of orange curd on the plate. But the banoffee was the best. It was a deconstructed banoffee pie with a piece of baked banana, banana toffee ice cream, toffee sauce and a rich almond biscotti crumb.

As we clearly hadn’t eaten enough I ordered a peppermint tea which came with a choice of petits fours. We had the mini maple donuts. SOOO GOOD!

Mini Maple Donuts © Jess Bruce 2015

Mini Maple Donuts © Jess Bruce 2015

We washed all our food down with a bottle of Prosecco and marveled at how busy the restaurant was (no table was free), a clear sign of how London is embracing alternative healthy diets.

At £130 for dinner for two, even with the £30 bottle of wine and 4 courses, Pure Taste definitely has a fine dining price tag and is perhaps only for special occasions. But the best part of the whole thing? Not feeling bloated or sick from eating out. That was priceless 🙂

Pure Taste, we will be back but in the meantime if you’d care to open a restaurant in East London, we’d be very grateful. At 19 stops on the tube across London, it was worth the travel but we’d love it if it were closer!

Have you been to a paleo / health restaurant that you’ve enjoyed? Please comment and share your experience below.

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