It's been a cold, disgusting day, with just enough rain to make things wet but, as the Systems Administrator said, not enough to water the ground. It didn't actually start raining until the afternoon, but I never managed to do any gardening in the morning because I was cooking, having promised in a moment of enthusiasm to make a flan for lunch. After all, what's the point of having your own eggs if you don't cook with them?
My breakthrough flan moment came not long ago, when following Jane Grigson's instructions for Betty Bolgar's leek and mushroom tart to the letter. It is a very good recipe, which I've used over the years for entertaining, filled with leeks, onions and mushrooms lightly cooked and mixed with a mixture of single cream, milk, and egg, and because Jane Grigson said to mix the cooked vegetables with the beaten egg and milk and stir into the pastry case that's what I did. It dawned on me that this made an immensely better tart than my normal quick lunchtime flan method of putting the fried onion, grated cheese and whatever else I was using into the pastry case and pouring the custard part of the filling over them, and that is what I have done ever since.
Today's flan contained onion, gently fried until soft and a little caramelised, grated cheshire cheese because we have managed to end up with three packets of it, all of which need eating, and slices of tomato on top because just cheese and onion might have been a bit basic. We didn't have any cream, but semi skimmed milk was fine, with all the cheese. I blind baked the case first, using my fairly recently acquired baking beans, which are a vast improvement on my former method of pricking holes in the base, since dribbles of egg filling used to leak through the fork holes. The tart with filling was cooked for just under the hour in the top part of the lower oven of a four door Aga. I have never found any reliable one-to-one translation between Aga cooking positions and oven temperatures in degrees Celsius, and it so so long since I've baked on mains gas that I have to look up gas mark settings before I can follow recipes using them, so you will have to work it out for yourself based on your own oven. But I should say longer and cooler is better than hotter and faster when it comes to egg based tart fillings. The bottom of the Aga is too cool. You still have liquid custard swilling around in your pastry case after the hour.
Leeks or mushrooms, or leeks and mushrooms, are good. Ham is good, or a couple of rashers of bacon snipped up and fried. Almost any variation on the onion theme works, red onions or spring onions. The SA and I debated over lunch how we would do one with goat's cheese, and decided that red pepper would work, and onion, and that it would need to be a crumbly cheese. I like making flans. Granted, shortcrust pastry and a wodge of cheese and fried onion may not constitute healthy eating, but it is very cheering on a day like today.
In the same spirit I made a honey loaf, using my own honey, but the SA did not have room for any at teatime because he was still full of flan.