Friday, October 21, 2011

Prêt à Manger

With the weather turning warm and daylight saving upon us, it is the perfect time to head outside, find a patch of grass and enjoy lunch or dinner in the fresh air. Picnic food should always be easy to transport, simple to store and most of all delicious and un-fussy. Today's recipe is something that ticks all of these boxes and really embodies the French idea of Prêt à Manger (ready to eat). My smoked chicken and broccoli tart is easy to make, but nice enough to serve to guests and is perfect to take to a picnic. It can be eaten warm or cold, by itself or with a side salad and can also be made the day before.

Smoked chicken is a great, flavoursome ingredient that is also terrific in salads. That lovely smoky flavour is delicious, and it works really well in this tart. You can buy smoked chicken at most large supermarkets these days or gourmet delis. The chicken is usually sold in peices - breasts, thighs or drumsticks. I recommend the drumsticks or thighs over the breasts - lots more flavour. Just cut the meat off the bones. (Save the bones for your stock pot) and ensure there are no stray bits of bone in the meat, before adding it to your dish.

This recipe could easily be made into individual one serve tarts or even tiny cocktail sized ones - Great as finger food or BBQ nibbles.

My nasturtium plants have gone crazy in the garden in the last few weeks and are blooming profusely right now, so I decided to serve my smoked chicken and broccoli tart adorned with these lovely edible flowers - perfect for Spring.

Smoked Chicken and Broccoli Tart

You will need: 1-2 Sheets shortcrust pastry (depending on size/shape of the dish you will be cooking it in), 4 free range eggs, 150ml cream, 1/2 cup thinly sliced spring onion, 1 cup finely diced smoked chicken, 2 cups broccoli (or broccolini),  1 cup grated cheese (I used half cheddar, half mozzerella), 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.

Method: Line a quiche or pie dish with the pastry. Put the dish in the fridge for about 10 minutes to chill down.

While the pastry is chilling, steam the broccoli until only just cooked. (I use the microwave to do this) Set the broccoli aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Lay a sheet of baking paper over the top of the pastry and then place baking weights on top (if you dont have these, dried beans or rice are a good substitute) Cook the pastry for about 15 minutes, until it starts to turn golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, cayenne, a generous pinch of salt and a generous seasoning of pepper.

Remove the weights and the baking paper from the pastry case. sprinkle about a third of the cheese over the base, then all of the spring onion and smoked chicken. Top with another third of the cheese.

Arrange the broccoli on top, sprinkle over the last of the cheese and season with a little pepper. Gently pour the egg mixture over the top, ensuring that it is evenly distributed.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the egg mixture is just set. Remove from the oven, allow to cool.

Serve warm or cold.


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