Monday, November 24, 2014

lemon poppyseed squares

Every time we have a work morning tea I can't decide whether I should make an old favourite or whether I should try out something new. So a few weeks ago I decided to make an old favourite but with a twist - tart lemon squares with a lemon poppyseed crust. 

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Lemon and poppy seeds are a natural pairing so I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised when I found other recipes for lemon poppyseed bars on the web. I made my normal lemon squares and added poppy seeds to the base but I wasn't happy with the first attempt - the crust was too hard and the topping was a bit gluey and not sufficiently lemony. So I made them again tweaking the proportions quite a bit.

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There is very little flour in the topping so it's quite soft. If you'd like a firmer topping you might want to add another tablespoon of flour but the colour of the topping will be less vibrant.

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The sugar content is also less than most lemon bars so these lemon squares are quite tart but I think that makes them all the better.

Here's the recipe for you. Make sure the base is still a bit warm when you add the topping or else it will go haywire! 

In all my recipes, I use a 20 ml tablespoon, a 250 ml cup and 60 gram eggs. My oven is a conventional oven so if you have a fan forced oven, you'll need to switch off your fan or drop the oven temperature by at least 20°C.

Lemon Poppy Seed Squares

110 grams (4 oz) unsalted butter
⅓ cup icing sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cup Plain Flour
1 tbl poppy seeds

Grease and line an 8 inch (20 cm) square tin with baking paper or tin foil.

In a food processor, combine the butter, icing sugar and grated lemon rind and process until smooth. Add the flour and process until a dough is formed, then add the poppy seeds. Whiz a few times until the poppy seeds are incorporated, then press into the tin. If you don't have a food processor you can make this by just creaming the butter and sugar in a bowl before adding the remaining ingredients.

Bake at 180°C/350°F (conventional oven) for about 20 minutes or until the base is lightly browned. Put to one side while you make the topping.

1 cup caster sugar
1½ tablespoons flour
Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
4 eggs
½ cup of lemon juice
Icing sugar

Lower the oven temperature to 170°C/325°F (conventional oven).

In a bowl stir together the sugar, the flour and the grated lemon rind until combined. Add the eggs gradually and mix to a smooth paste. Finally stir in the lemon juice and mix until combined. Pour the mixture over the warm cooked base and return to the oven. Bake until cooked, about 20-30 minutes. While still warm, sift with icing sugar. 

Allow to cool before cutting into squares or bars. You may need to re-coat the bars with icing sugar just before serving.

Makes 16 bars or squares.

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Christmas seems to be just around the corner. The shops are decked out in Christmas baubles and I heard my first Christmas carol on Saturday. I've made a start on the Christmas baking and this coming weekend it's time to tackle the Christmas card list. Where has this year gone?

To all my US readers, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

See you all again next week,


Monday, November 17, 2014

sunflower seed rye bread

David Lebovitz is one of my favourite food writers. When I read his post on rye bread, I decided straight away that I'd like to make a loaf. I grew up eating rye bread and I've not had any in an age. I had most of the ingredients in the cupboard apart from the sunflower seeds so after I picked up a packet at the fruit shop I was good to go.

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A year ago, I wouldn't have bothered because I couldn't make bread to save my life. I bought a stand mixer with a dough hook just before Christmas last year and my life changed. I'd put off buying one for years because they're pretty expensive in Australia and I was worried the mixer would take up too much of my precious bench space. Now I'm wondering why I waited so long! 

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David's adaptation of the rye bread recipe from 'Das Cookbook' by Hans Röckenwagner is very detailed so I followed the method to the letter but I did make a few tweaks to the actual recipe. I ran out of wholemeal flour so I had to use a cup of plain flour. The quantity of the honey in the dough seemed huge so I just used 1 tsp in the recipe. I made the dough up to stage 4 then left it in the fridge over night. The following day I took the dough out of the fridge, let it come to room temperature and continued the process. David's recipe is below with the original quantities.

Sunflower Seed Rye Bread
Adapted from Das Cookbook by Hans Röckenwagner
1½ cups (375 ml) lukewarm water
¼ cup (80 g), plus 1 teaspoon honey
2¼ teaspoons dry yeast 
2¾ cups (330 g) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (110 g) rye flour (dark or light)
2½ tsp sea salt
1 cup (125 g) lightly toasted sunflower seeds
Vegetable oil, for greasing the pan

1. Mix the water, 1 teaspoon of honey, and the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer. If making the bread by hand, mix them together in a large bowl. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Little bubbles should start to appear. (If not, you need to replace your yeast and start again.)

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the whole wheat and rye flours with the salt. Attach the dough hook to the mixer, or use a wooden spoon if mixing by hand. Stir the ¼ cup (80g) honey into the yeast mixture and then gradually add the flours. If necessary, add an additional bit of flour if the dough is too wet or another tablespoon of water if the dough is too dry. It should feel soft and moist, and when you touch it, your finger should just barely stick to it.

3. Knead the dough at low-to-medium speed until smooth, about 6 minutes.

4. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured bench top and knead in the sunflower seeds thoroughly, making sure that they are evenly dispersed throughout the dough. Return the dough to the mixer bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1½ to 2 hours.

5. Punch the dough down with your fist, cover, and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.

6. Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured bench top, shape the dough into an elongated rectangle, and place the dough in the pan. Cover and let rise 1 hour. (Note that it won’t rise much.)

7. About 15 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

8. When the dough is ready, bake it for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It’ll sound hollow when you tap it in the centre. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes, then tilt the bread onto a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.
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The recipe makes a very dense loaf which I topped with smoked salmon and ricotta cheese for my lunch. I stored half the loaf in the freezer and it freezes and defrosts very well. The bread is excellent toasted and topped with lashings of butter and your favourite topping. I couldn't go past Vegemite toast for my breakfast on Sunday and smoked salmon scrambled eggs last Sunday. Do you have a favourite Sunday breakfast?

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I had a very busy weekend in the kitchen. The 2 Christmas cakes have been made and are in their tins maturing their little hearts out; the cookies for the Christmas edition of Plate 2 Plate have been baked and I decided as I was already in the kitchen, I may as well make a batch of these triple ginger cookies. My finger nails are a mess and I've given up counting how many loads of washing up have been done.
See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen,


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance Day

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When I was in Brussels a few months ago, I spied this poppy growing randomly and it tugged at my heart strings.

Lest we forget.


Monday, November 10, 2014

sculpture by the sea 2014

It's a really nice time to be in Sydney at the moment. The jacarandas are in bloom and apart from last Saturday's 37°C, the weather hasn't been too warm.

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Farmer Andrew came to town last weekend and suggested we go to Sculpture by the Sea down at Bondi, a Sydney tradition. I live on the hill above Bondi and have glimpses of the ocean from my sun room. The exhibition is very popular as you can see by the queues for the bus to the beach, so we decided to meet at 7.00 a.m. to start the walk around the headline.

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It was a gorgeous day down at Bondi and even though it was early, the Icebergs Pool was filled with swimmers. I'm thinking of printing this diptych for my spare bedroom/office wall. What do you think?

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The walk from Bondi to Tamarama is a popular route at the best of time for walkers, runners and puppies.

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I'm going to take you for a walk along the headland with me.

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Some of the sculptures were so organic, they were a little hard to find.

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My favourite sculptures were the ones framed by the ocean.

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The view back towards Bondi.

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This sculpture wind stone by Koichi Ishino was one of my favourites and it also received an award.

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Two of the sculptures down on the beach at Tamarama.

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My favourite sculpture was this one called slow flow by Hugh McLachlan, highlighting two elements which define Sydney - sandstone and the sea.

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I hope you enjoyed this visit to Sculpture by the Sea, which ended on Sunday much to the relief of the local residents a bit over the grid locked traffic. 

Are you in the mood for Christmas? stocked up on candy canes on Saturday as I'm planning to make some more Peppermint Bark this yearIt was an absolute hit last year. I've also settled on a theme for this year's Christmas collection, which is going to be chocolate and cherries and I'm hoping to get started this coming weekend. It's also time to make the Christmas cake so you know how I'll be spending my weekend, up to my elbows in fruit, nuts, rum and spices!

I'll be back again next week with some more baking, so until then,


Monday, November 03, 2014

banana raspberry crumble loaf

A few months ago I went on a weekend course. All physios love their food so the catering was excellent. For afternoon tea, a banana and raspberry loaf was served and it was delicious! I decided to try and recreate the loaf. One of my work colleagues introduced me to this banana bread recipe from the Heart Foundation website. It's made without any fat so I was a bit dubious that it would be edible, but decided to give the recipe a try.

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I bought some bananas a few weeks ago and once they were black, I mashed the bananas and froze the pulp knowing I wouldn't have time to bake for a few weeks. 

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Raspberries are always ridiculously expensive in Sydney so I always use frozen raspberries in my baking. Ignore the instructions to thaw out the berries first - they're way too mushy and just disintegrate. I bought a cute little loaf tin at the shop and I decided to try it out. It's tiny so I made a half batch of the recipe and it was the perfect amount for the tin.

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I tweaked the original recipe quite a bit and decided to jazz it up a bit by adding a pecan crumble topping. Once cooled I had a slice with a cup of tea, just to ensure it was edible before taking the loaf into work.

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Here's my tweaked version of the recipe.

Mini Banana Raspberry Loaf

Crumble Topping
¼ cup (55 gm) brown sugar
¼ cup (35 gm) plain flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup each rolled oats and coarsely chopped toasted pecans
30 grams (1 oz) cold unsalted butter cut into small chunks

Place the flour, sugar and cinnamon into a food processor and whiz to combine.

Add the butter and pulse until butter is just incorporated. Tip into a bowl, add the coarsely chopped nuts and the rolled oats and chill for an hour. You’ll only need half the topping for this recipe so place the remaining crumble in an airtight container and freeze for later on.

1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup low fat yoghurt
¼ cup reduced fat milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup (2 large) mashed bananas
¼ large apple, peeled and grated
½ cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat conventional oven to 190°C. Grease a 20cm loaf pan with cooking spray then line with baking paper.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Add the milk, yoghurt, egg, banana and grated apple and stir gently until combined. If the batter is looking too thick, add a little extra milk. Gently fold through the raspberries.

3. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle over the crumble topping, forming it into clumps with your fingers. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand for 10 minutes in the pan before lifting onto a wire rack to cool.

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The girls at work loved this cake but I found it tasted just a bit too self consciously 'good for you'. I rarely eat cake and if I do, I want it to taste like a treat. 

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I went back to the drawing board and found another recipe online and again made a few tweaks. I made the cake yesterday and much preferred this version to the low fat one. Here's the recipe for version 2.

Banana Raspberry Crumble Loaf

Crumble Topping
¼ cup (55 gm) brown sugar
¼ cup (35 gm) plain flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup each rolled oats and coarsely chopped toasted pecans
30 grams (1 oz) cold unsalted butter cut into small chunks

Place the flour, sugar and cinnamon into a food processor and whiz to combine.

Add the butter and pulse until butter is just incorporated. Tip into a bowl, add the coarsely chopped nuts and the rolled oats and chill for an hour. You’ll only need half the topping for this recipe so place the remaining crumble in an airtight container and freeze for later on.

1 cup self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
80 gm (2½ oz) unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup (2 large) mashed bananas
¼ cup buttermilk
½ cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat conventional oven to 190°C/375°F. Grease a 20cm loaf pan with cooking spray then line with baking paper.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a small bowl.

3. In a medium bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract and light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the mashed banana and stir gently until combined. Add the flour, alternating with the milk until a soft batter forms. Very carefully fold through the raspberries.

4. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle over the crumble topping, forming it into clumps with your fingers. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand for 10 minutes in the pan before lifting onto a wire rack to cool.

I hope you had a lovely weekend. Farmer Andrew came to town and suggested a trip down to Bondi to visit Sculpture by the Sea. Of course I took my camera with me so I'll be back next week with some photos of this very popular event.

Bye for now,


Monday, October 27, 2014

chocolate mint tarts

Do you ever have an idea that rattles around in your head for a very long time? I have a chalk board in my kitchen on which I write a list of things I'd like to bake. I wrote chocolate mint tarts on that chalk board about 12 months ago and at last I found the time to make them. I don't have an excuse, life just got in the way.

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I didn't have a recipe as such and decided to just wing it.

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I knew I had some of my favourite chocolate pastry lurking in the freezer, made from the Popina Book of Baking. I used that to make the tart shells. The chocolate filling I adapted from this Valli Little recipe and I used some chocolate mints I've been hoarding in my pantry since last Christmas. I wasn't sure the chocolate mints would make the filling minty enough so I infused the milk with a peppermint teabag I found in the cupboard.

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Here's the finished product. The recipe made eight 7 cm tarts and two 10 cm tarts. I took the tarts into work and they were pronounced a success by the team. The tarts are very rich and chocolately with a subtle but not over powering mint flavour.

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Here's the recipe for you.

Chocolate Mint Tarts - makes eight 8 cm tarts or six 10 cm tarts

Chocolate Shortcrust Pastry 
(or you can use shop bought dark chocolate shortcrust pastry) 
225 g (8 oz) plain flour
25 gm (¼ cup) cocoa 
125 g (4½ oz) unsalted butter chilled and cubed 
85 g (3 oz) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten

Place the flour, cocoa, butter and sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 

Gradually adthe beaten egg until the dough starts to gather around the blade of the processor. Remove the dough and bring together into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until 3-4 mm thick. Line eight 8 cm or six 10 cm tart tins with the chocolate short crust pastry and trim the excess dough neatly around the edges. You won’t need all the pastry so freeze the leftovers for later use. Refrigerate the lined tins for another 20 minutes.

Preheat a conventional oven to 180˚C (350˚F) then prick the pastry with a fork to prevent rising. I line the tins with squares of baking paper before filling each tin with baking weights.  Place the tart tins onto a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are browned. Carefully remove the lining paper and baking weights and allow the tart shells to cool before filling.

100ml milk
1 peppermint tea bag
225g good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 eggs
1 tbl caster sugar
150ml thickened cream, plus extra whipped cream to serve (optional)
8-12 thin chocolate coated mints
Cocoa powder for dusting (optional)

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until just below boiling point. Steep the tea bag in the warm milk for 20 minutes to allow the flavour to infuse. Remove the tea bag from the milk, thoroughly squeezing the tea bag before discarding it but retain the milk.

Heat the oven to 160°C. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, not letting the bowl touch the water. Allow the chocolate to melt and then stir until smooth. Remove from heat and cool.

Gently whisk eggs and sugar in a separate bowl to just combine (don't allow the eggs to froth). Heat the cream and the infused milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until just below boiling point and then pour over the eggs, stirring. Return the egg mixture to the pan and stir for about 5 minutes over a low heat until thickened. Pour the mixture through a sieve over the bowl of chocolate, stirring gently until smooth.

Coarsely chop the mints and scatter 1 - 2 mints over the base of one of the cooled tart shells. Gently pour the chocolate mixture over the mints until the shell is almost full and level the surface, then bake the tarts in the pre-heated oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until just set. Leave the tarts in the switched-off oven for 30 minutes with the door closed. Remove and cool completely.

If desired, dust the tarts with cocoa powder and decorate with some mint flavoured chocolate cut outs and whipped cream before serving.

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I had a busy weekend. Apart from baking, I collected the new side table you can see in the photos and did some more furniture shopping, this time looking for a lamp. I went out for dinner at the new bill's at Bondi. It was a gorgeous day on Sunday and the first weekend of Sculpture by the Sea so Bondi was buzzing.

I hope you all had lovely weekends. 

See you all again next week,


Monday, October 20, 2014

plate 2 plate - mushroom quiche

Hi Every-one,

Do you remember I visited Zurich a few months ago? While I was there, I met up with my blog friend Juliana and we chatted about food photography and travel. Juliana was just about to take a food styling workshop so when I returned home to Sydney I suggested we participate in a styling challenge. We select a recipe to style and photograph which we then share on our respective blogs. Today is the first Plate 2 Plate column and we're hoping to make this a regular feature. Our next column will be in December, in time for the holiday season.

Juliana lives in the Northern hemisphere whilst I live in Sydney so trying to find ingredients which are in season in both hemispheres was quite a challenge. 

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For this month we chose mushrooms and after some discussion, we decided to bake and photograph a mushroom quiche from a tried and tested Margaret Fulton recipe. We didn't set any boundaries and changed up the recipe just a little to suit what was both in season and in our cupboards. 

My images have my regular logo and Juliana's have the Plate 2 Plate logo. Here's Juliana's take.

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Here's mine. Like Juliana, I used a combination of mushrooms in the quiche - button mushrooms, field mushrooms and swiss browns.

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I made my quiche in my old faithful rectangular tin and flavoured it with some fresh thyme as my little thyme bush is flourishing on the bathroom window ledge.

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Great minds think alike, because Juliana flavoured her quiche with some fresh herbs as well, though she used rosemary.

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As it's spring in Sydney and everything is nice and green, I wanted to reflect that in my images. 

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I had the quiche for my lunch and served it with a nice leafy green salad.

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Juliana's images were just so autumnal.

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Here's the original Mushroom Quiche recipe from the Margaret Fulton Cookbook

1 cup (150 gm) Plain Flour
Pinch each salt and baking powder
2 oz (60 gm) butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons iced water
Squeeze lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 oz (30 gm) butter
8 oz (250 gm) button mushrooms, finely sliced
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Plain Flour
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
½ cup milk
½ cup cream
2 teaspoons melted butter
1 oz (30 gm) grated Swiss cheese

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub the butter in lightly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Combine the egg yolk, water and a squeeze of lemon and sprinkle over the flour stirring with a knife to form a dough. Add a little extra water if necessary. Knead lightly on a floured board to bring together, then wrap the pastry and chill for 30 minutes or until required.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured board to fit a 8 or 9 inch flan ring standing on a baking tray. Roll the pastry into the flan tin pressing the pastry well into the flutes. Using a sharp knife cut the pastry level with the top of the flan ring. Chill the pastry while preparing the filling.


Preheat the oven to (200°C/400°F). In a medium saucepan melt the butter over a medium heat and cook the shallots in butter softened but not browned. Stir in the mushrooms, salt and lemon juice. Cover and cook over a gentle heat for about 8 minutes. Uncover the pan, raise heat and cook until the liquid evaporates.

In a bowl, beat the eggs, flour, salt, cayenne pepper, the cream and milk and the butter until well mixed. Strain the mixture through a sieve then gently stir into the mushroom mixture. Pour the mixture into the chilled flan case, sprinkle with the cheese and bake in a hot oven (200°C/400°F) for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to moderate (180°C/350°F) and bake for another 20 minutes until the filling is set.

Serves 4 - 6.

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Apart from using a selection of mushrooms and the fresh thyme, I barely altered the recipe. I can't remember the last time I made this quiche but it was seriously delicious. Lovely short pastry and a very tasty filling. It was so good, I might have to put it back on the menu.

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I hope you enjoyed the first Plate 2 Plate column. Check out Juliana's blog for her take on the challenge. Many thanks to my friend Mona who came up with the name for the column. 

I'll be back again next week with something sweet from the kitchen, so until then,