Archive for May, 2011

Duck Egg Quiche Recipe

I am not a Quiche purist.

The great thing about Quiche, to me, is that it is an idea – maybe even a philosophy.  There’s no great rules and the ones that do exist can all be broken.  As long as I have dough (optional to some), cheese (optional to some) and eggs (pretty much a given though I’m sure there are exceptions), then I have a Quiche. 

Quiche is an amazing vessel for any home-dried goods you have.  Dried mushrooms, celeriac, chives, ramps, tomatoesonions, hot peppers, fire-roasted peppers and more all make great additions.  If you’re a meat-eater you may also enjoy homemade bacon (especially if smoked).

You can use fresh ingredients as well although the prep time increases slightly – using dried ingredients makes this a super fast dish that can be assembled in minutes.

Our basic ingredients:

  • 1 homemade pie crust. For the Quiche pictured below we doubled our recipe and used 75% of it to make a thicker pie base and the additional 25% for the loose lattice that is the top
  • 6+1 eggs at room temperature.  We used 6 duck eggs and once chicken egg (in part because I ran out of duck eggs).  The chicken egg was used to brown the crust at the end.
  • 2 cups of cheese.  Any will do – I like to combine several types – this one had 1 cup of ricotta 1 cup of 18 month-old cloth-wrapped cheddar.
  • Other ingredients per above – we used dried chives, bacon, fresh ramp leaves, dried celeriac, dried hot peppers and our onion flakes. 
  • Salt and pepper to your liking (I use white pepper as it’s a little more subtle and not as visible in our mix).


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Crack 6 eggs in an oversized bowl.  Mix vigorously, ideally with a whisk. (Many add 1-2 cups of milk or cream as well – I skip and keep this fairly thick.  It’s not quite a frittata with the amount of cheese I use but if you wanted a lighter Quiche you could easily ‘thin it out’ by adding milk here)
  3. Toss in all ingredients other than the cheese – mix well. 
  4. Dump cheese and fold it gently in.  You don’t have to be to ‘fragile’ but I like to be delicate at this stage. The Quiche should be thick – as thick or thicker than pancake batter.  If it isnt’, add more cheese or dried ingredients which will help thicken things as they rehydrate in the liquid as things cook.
  5. Pour the lot into the pie crust, level with your spoon.
  6. If you have leftover dough, lay strips across.  There’s no magic here for (i.e. these aren’t braided over/under each other- they are laid in one direction and then the other.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and brush with remaining beaten egg.  I like to use the back of a spoon/ drizzle the egg as it makes the browning uneven and to me that’s more rustic/ interesting.  If you want an ‘even’ brown, brush with a pastry or bread brush.
  8. Bake for an additional 10-20 minutes.  A toothpick should come out clean and the pie should just jiggle when lightly shaken.  You’re looking for af fairly firm set and you will know it when you see it.  Honest. 🙂

That’s all there is to it!

Any other tips fromt he veterans out there?  We love to hear your ideas and variations!


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There is nothing I have ever found (after much looking) that you can buy at any store in the world that comes close to the absolute yumminess that is homemade pie crust.  And making it really is pretty simple stuff.

Pie crust is about a simple ratio of 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part liquid (although I find that this often becomes 0.5 part liquid if your fat is not super cold and firm).  This ratio is often called the 3-2-1 pie dough recipe and a key is ice-cold ingredients (other than the flour).

When baking, you are always better to use weight than volume.  I encourage you to buy a small scale (digital models can be had for $20-30).  You’ll be surprised how often you use the thing…

Any fat will work (butter, lard, rendered fat) but the secret is to have it cold and firm.  The ultimate technique is to freeze ‘sticks’ of your fat and grate them with a cheese grater (or even better, a food processor with a crater attachment on it).  This allows that fat to remain as ‘little chunks’ in the dough which create a flaky crust.

A second key is not overworking your dough – mix it together (by hand, with a dough hook or plastic blade on a food processor) just enough to bring things together.  Gravity will hold it in the pan – you don’t need to knead it into a steel-like structure.

Lastly, add your water slowly.  You can’t take it out once you put it in.  Being careful not to over-knead is especially important once the water is added so this is a tricky balance (if using a food processor, just use your pulse setting sparingly rather than running it on full speed).

Here’s a sample recipe (double for a ‘lid’):

  • 6 ounces of flour
  • 4 ounces of lard
  • 1-2 ounces of ice water
  • a small pinch of salt to season

The technique

  1. Quickly mix dry ingredients.
  2. Combine fat and flour by hand or with machine to form pea-sized bits of flour-fat.  I like to use the food processor, plastic blade and frozen grated-lard.  I prefer the machine as the heat of my hands and length of time to produce generally heats the lard.
  3. Add a bit of ice water, pulse the mix.  Repeat until comes together (scraping the side of the machine as you go).  I pulse the mixture for less than a second, add water and repeat…
  4. Turn the oven to 325 to preheat.
  5. Flour a cutting board and roll into a disc, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 15 minutes before rolling into a circle.
  6. Place your dough in a buttered pie pan.  If it rips, gently work it back together in the pan – it’s not the end of the world.
  7. To prevent the pie from buckling when it is filled with ingredients, pre-bake the crust.  You need to weigh it down at the same time.  I do this by lining the flour-lined dough with parchment paper and fill with 2 cups of dried beans (I use the same ones every time and will never eat them as they are super-dry from all the oven baking).
  8. Cook with the weight on for 20 minutes.  Remove the beans and parchment paper (sometimes a bit of the top layer of dough attaches to the parchment paper – I remove the beans with a spoon before carefully peeling it back).
  9. Cook for another 15 minutes until the dough is slightly browned.

 We’ll share a Quiche recipe tomorrow and show the finish product once it’s all cooked!

Any other crust tips out there?

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I am obsessed with polenta and have learned a lot about making it since I originally shared our recipe and one of the meals I cook with it (polenta, chevre and roasted peppers).

Since that time I’ve spent a lot of time cooking it, discussing it with others and picking the heads of some of the best Chefs in the city who have all been glad to offer their opinions and techniques. I thought it was time to pay back their generosity with me and return the favour.  Here’s our top tips:

  • Although any cornmeal will make fine polenta, if you can find exceptional cornmeal, you can make exceptional polenta (I am so thankful to Kawartha Ecological Growers who found an additional 3 kilograms (6 pounds) for us to get us through to next winter).
  • As is suggested in our comments of the original article, milk is not needed – but it really does add something extra to it.
  • Bringing the liquid to a boil before adding the cornmeal definitely produces better results.
  • Remove the pot from the heat when adding the cornmeal and reduce heat before returning it to the burner.  The slower the better.  I tend to lower the heat to the lowest setting and whisk every 5 minutes or so for the best results.
  • Let it cool naturally.  Putting it in the fridge or freezer to cool causes condensation.  I let it cool in the pot and whisk every few minutes.  I form it into a loaf once cooling is more than half done (when the polenta stops easily falling through the whisk, its time to form in a loaf).  This will also help prevent cracking and/or breaking of the loaf.
  • Make it the day before (or more).  Its far easier to slice and more likely to stay together when cooking if it is cold.  We’re experimenting with freezing slices.
  • I’ve moved away from trying to make ‘tubes of polenta and switched to loaves made in a gently buttered loaf pan.
  • Once polenta is poured into the loaf pan, I gently butter the back of a spoon and push down on the loaf to help ensure a ‘flat’ top as well as to coax air pockets out.
  • Replacing the water with stock was not a huge advantage and disguised much of the corn flavour.
  • Adding moderate amounts of dried goods will work – but will require more liquid as those rehydrate in the polenta.
  • Tomato paste adds a great hit of Umami (savoury flavour).

Any other tips out there?

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If you`re not comfortable with deep-frying, you`ll want to skip this one.  Water is the enemy of oil (and will cause grave problems) and tofu is packed in and with water.  Make sure you know safety techniques with frying such as having a lid and baking powder to smother if needed.

  1. Drain the tofu well and wrap with a clean towel.  Press firmly to coach extra moisture out.
  2. Cut into cubes, press again.
  3. Wrap the cubes back in the towel and place between two cutting boards (with the heaviest on top).  Wait an hour.
  4. Pat the cubes dry.
  5. I like to dredge them (this is not traditional).  I generally use paprika, cayenne and hot pepper flakes.
  6. Heat enough oil to cover your tofu in an oversized pan.  You don`t want it to smoke but you do want it hot (when you dip your first piece of tofu in, things should feverishly sizzle).
  7. Gently place each piece of tofu in the oil – the easiest way to do this is using a spatula with holes in it.
  8. Once they are a golden brown, remove and rest on paper towels.  (Some will deep fry a second time).

Many people actually pour boiling hot (i.e. from a kettle) water over their tofu right before serving which leeches any remaining oil – and keeps things crispy.  I haven`t tried this yet but it`s on my list of things to do!

I serve it with hot sauce and soya sauce (I`m a sucker for sauces).



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Some of our newer readers may be surprised to find that sustainable hunting is a topic on WellPreserved.  It is a topic I continue to struggle to write about and something I typically reserve for the fall when the hunt occurs.

If the topic makes you squeamish, I understand.  If you’re curious to see more about my perspective on the topic (and how I’ve struggled with the decision to consume meat and hunt and preserve part of our diet), a good intro to my struggles and process around deciding to hunt follows (there are NO pictures of deceased animals):

It has also become a fall tradition that I share my complete journal entries from 9-10 days in the woods for the moose hunt.  Again you’ll find no pictures of dead animals but I have tried to share an intimate perspective on a way of life that spans 100’s of years (if not longer) in my family.  Each of these series is 8,000-12,000 words (over multiple posts) and they were a labor of love to write – and to read (the easiest way to navigate is through a link at the top of the page or you can find the complete index here – just read from bottom to top):

The choice to eat what we eat is deeply personal and emotionally complex.  I encourage questions, comments and opposing views – as long as we all remain considerate of each other.  I was trained to not talk about hunting for most of my life as it can raise a lot of emotion with others.  In this age of factory farming, genetic modification and irreversible changes to our environment I believe it is essential to discuss such things.

Wild game is, by most definitions and in most environments it is naturally found in is free-range, ethically raised and hormone-free.  The selective harvest of the species allows for surveying the population (we have to submit a report on how many we see in our area every year), the health of the population (the jaw is examined by the Ministry for Health in many cases), and helps ensure that the population is not over-harvested or under-harvested.

According to Car-Accidents.com (who attribute the following to the National Highway Traffic Safety Act) there are:

  • 1.5 million car accidents per year involving deer in the US.
  • 150 human fatalities
  • 10,000 personal injuries
  • potentially much higher numbers as there are inconsistencies on how different states report deer accidents

This doesn’t include agriculture and other losses.

I should be clear that I don’t think deer are vermin and part of the problem is how we are encroaching on their wild habitat.  I’m simply trying to demonstrate that, in some cases, there appears to be a very real conflict and competition between the number of deer and the number of people in our world.  The solution is not to mass exterminate.

Dramatic shifts in populations of a single species can throw an entire ecosystem out of balance.  Beyond the ‘inconvenience’ to humans, large populations of deer populations provide more food for wolves.  A significant boon of deer is generally cycled a few years later by a boon of wolves who feast until the population falls significantly enough that the wolf population begins to starve off.  Uncontrolled pendulum shifts can throw the entire system into vast chaos (whether humans are capable of managing such populations is an entirely up to debate and one that I haven’t even resolved for myself let alone others :)).

The State of Maryland has become the first state to approve a chemical contraceptive for deer (source article from the CTPost).  According to the state’s director of wildlife, the intention is to use it sparingly.

The current process to apply to contraceptive is as follows:

  • Tranquillize the deer
  • Inject it with the chemical
  • Tag the animal with a notice that it’s been injected and that it should not be consumed by humans.

And the fine print:

  • It costs $1,000 a deer
  • It is 80% effective in the first year
  • 50% of the animals injected will become pregnant the following year if the process is not repeated then (note that the tags do not allow tracking of the animals so this is a ‘hit and miss’ exercise)

This raises so many questions to me:

  • What will happen to the wolf that eats it?
  • What will happen as these animals do produce offspring and how will they be genetically effected?
  • If a hunter harvests one of these animals – do they leave it for waste (I would become physically ill to kill for the sake of killing)?
  • How will this potentially balloon the harvest?  For example, Ontario allows most hunters to harvest a single animal.  Since you can’t consume a drugged deer, does this mean that killing one gives you a ‘second chance’ to kill another?  This would lead to more harvested than planned.
  • Who is paying for this process and who is making money off it?
  • Can we not control it through increasing the harvest and teaching people the ways of the past?
  • Are we slowly evolving the philosophies of factory farming and applying them to our wild resources?

There are so many more questions that I just can’t find the words for.

I understand the emotional, physical and spiritual ramifications of hunting animals for food are very complex and impossible to accept for many.  I hope we can look at all ways to maximize the sustainability of our forests and the world around us and I’ll try to keep an open mind at all techniques.  I’m just going to have to work extra hard at understanding this one…

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Like any of my posts on wild leeks or ramps, I share a word on sustainability (so let’s get it out of the way early): I plead with you to only harvest or purchase them sustainably.  Once they are harvested they do not grow back.  Picking less than 5% of remote patches  is the general barometer of sustainability.

We’ve made pesto with ramp leaves before – I wanted to find a different use for the leaves this year and have almost no freezer space left.

Ramp leaves are thicker-celled than most ‘herbs’ we deal with within our kitchen.  They have more of a ‘leathery’ feel than a typical leaf and take longer to dry than many greens.  I dried these at the typical 95 degrees used for most herbs (they took over 12 hours) although I think they could have taken more heat (the risk being that too much heat will turn them brown and/or kill the flavour).

When in doubt, I far rather going too cool and extending drying time of the product in the dehydrator.  The exception to this being meat for jerky which needs extra heat for the preservation process.

The leaves dried brittle – but the stems stayed a tad soft – so I removed them with a pairing knife.  The next time I dry ramp leaves I will cut the thickest part of the stem off (including cutting a notch in the leaf itself) by removing its thickest parts.  This will reduce the drying time as I won’t have to worry about the thicker stem and will allow further dehydration of the leaf as the notch will allow some moisture loss.

I’ll be storing the leaves whole.  Big pieces of any dried good will retain flavours longer than smaller pieces (which have more total surface area and, thus, more exposure to oxygen).

When we’re ready to use them, we’ll make flakes or powder them by chopping or grinding.  This will be added to sauces, gravies, dry rubs and more!  The garlic-onion flavour is an ideal savoury ingredient that I can’t wait to cook with.

We also dried the roots this year (to learn how and why as well as see a different version of my pesto, click here) – they remain one of my absolute favourite ingredients in my kitchen.

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I love wild leeks – so much that I`m going to risk repeating myself by pleading with you to only harvest or purchase them sustainably (I`ve promised myself that I`ll put this disclaimer out there each time we post about them).  Once they are harvested they do not grow back.  Picking less than 5% of remote patches  is the general barometer of sustainability.

Ramps are almost a combination of onions and garlic.  The bulbs are generally preserved via pickling (and I adore them – especially with old cheddar).  I adore me pickles but I wanted to try a different take – and something that will leave the flavours closer to the original so that I can use them through the year.

We washed them, sliced them super thin (when the ends got too close to my fingers to cut comfortably, we tossed those in sherry vinegar to infuse flavour) and placed them in the dehydrator at a super-low 95 degrees (standard would be about 130).  I am very curious as to the shelf-life of these as the temperature seems awfully low but the end product seems perfectly dry and I`m glad we didn`t go any hotter.  I will report back on this post in several months to see how things progress but I am very happy with the results.  An absolute key was slicing them thin and drying for a long time (about 18 hours in total).  The lower temperature came because we were drying herbs at the same time.

The end result are wonderfully crispy, pure white rings of rampy-goodness.  I could eat them just like that but am looking forward to cooking with them and eating them with old cheese and on top of sashimi.

If there`s a downside to this technique it`s that a lot of ramps make a very little amount of dried slices (the flip side is that a very little go a long way).  We`ll share what to do with the greens tomorrow.

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