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Sunday 30 June 2013

City Kitchen Quiches Roundup

My local shops are always a bit strange about their stock - it seems that there's a constant run of test products coming through, so very few new products seem to stick around for more than a few months. A couple of years ago, Higgidy had shelf space in a Sainsbury's Local only minutes from my home, while now I have to go to one of the larger branches, even to find their smaller quiches. The Happy Egg Company, meanwhile, are present only in the form of six-packs of eggs - no more quiches at all (not sure I've seen them even in the larger shops, but should probably investigate more closely).

Since I'm a huge fan of quiche, it should come as no surprise that, when a new brand turned up in my local Tesco (and exclusively there, according to the packaging), a selection were snapped up and sampled.

Now, when I say "a selection", it turns out I mean the whole range - they currently only do four different kinds, and it struck me as interesting that only one of them is vegetarian, as the usual thing with such a small range would be to have a couple of each.

The packaging is a curious mix of Higgidy's hand-scrawled look with photographic elements but, while Higgidy use full cardboard boxes with plastic windows, The City Kitchen are using plastic clamshell cases with cardboard bands. The upshot of this is that, bar the ingredients list, the most pertinent information is on the inside of the band, rather than on display.

But obviously the packaging is a secondary concern - what's more important is how tasty the contents are.

Hot Smoked Salmon, Pea & Wasabi
Since I'm a fan of salmon, this should be the easy winner... and there's certainly a fairly decent portion of fish atop each one. However, flavour-wise, this is a tad bland. The smoked flavour of the salmon is barely noticeable in comparison to the Happy Egg Company version, the peas add very little by way of flavour and the wasabi, while present to some degree in every mouthful, doesn't have the impact I would expect - or at least hope for... it's a mild seasoning rather than a full hit of wasabi. Eaten hot or cold, this was a disappointment... but perhaps my expectations were too high. It's certainly not a bad quiche, but it lacks the kick implied by the ingredients. Hot is definitely the preference, though.

Bombay Potato & Sweet Mango
This one claims 'coconut flavoured pastry' on the packaging but, were it not for that statement, I'd never have known. Likewise the coriander topping. This quiche is where I first experienced The City Kitchen's 'trick': the mango chutney is nothing more than a layer (possibly more accurately described as a smear) on the bottom of the pastry case, below the main bulk of the quiche filling. Considering any kind of chutney wouldn't mix into a quiche very well, this is probably a good idea, and it does ensure that hints of mango can be detected in almost every mouthful. I'm no connoisseur when it comes to Indian food, but I live in an area which is abundant with Indian restaurants so, when a product boasts that it's inspired by Indian food, I have certain expectations, and this quiche didn't live up to them. Whether the mango chutney somehow managed to overpower the "aromatic spices turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg and coriander", I'm not entirely sure... but they weren't exactly prominent... and the pastry was indistinguishable from the others, for the most part. This one also works best when hot, as the mango chutney oozes out provocatively when the quiche is cut.

Hickory BBQ & Monterey Jack Cheese
If you've ever tried one of those pizzas where the tomato purée is replaced by barbecue sauce, it's safe to say you'll have a good idea what to expect from this quiche. Like the Bombay Potato & Sweet Mango variety above, the BBQ element is a layer of sauce at the bottom. Not being a cheese expert, I couldn't tell Monterey Jack if it jumped out of my fridge and attacked me (and, given how much cheese ends up going to waste due to mould in my kitchen, I'm pretty sure that will eventually happen) , but I'd have to say there wasn't anything especially cheesy about this quiche. Its saving grace was the maple bacon which, while in short supply (compared to the salmon in the first quiche, above) certainly added to the flavour. Of the four, this is the only one that tastes as good cold as it does hot.

Chorizo, Red Pepper & Onion
I was a little wary of trying this one, since my usual experience of chorizo ends up leaving my stomach feeling very acid. Buoyed (strangely enough) by the comparative dearth of bacon in the quiche above, I gave it a whirl... and I'd have to say the chorizo contained therein was of decent quality - spicy, but not excessively so... or, at least, moderated by the other ingredients, in particular the eggs. Oddly, I found the red pepper more noticeable and flavoursome than the onion, so there's something wrong either in the preparation or the balance of ingredients.

Overall, they're not bad... of the range, I'll most frequently buy the first two... but if it comes to a choice between these and something by Higgidy, there's still no contest.

Monday 10 June 2013

A Couple of Shout-outs

Apologies for the lack of updates recently (again)... My most recent job has now wrapped up, so there's a slim chance I might do a bit more 'proper' cooking in the next couple of weeks, depending on levels of motivation (currently a little low, but it is Monday...)

In the meantime, a couple of shout-outs to foodie places I discovered last weekend (1st June) at the Brent Cross Food Market.
  • Wildes Cheese - had a selection of their awesome cheeses. Now, I'm not massively into cheese, but I like their style, and rather enjoyed their creamy Number 3 (with herbs) and absolutely loved their brie-beating Number 4 (aka the Londonshire). I still have a chunk of Number 6 (aka Ally Pally) sitting in my fridge. Amazing stuff.
  • Franchini & Figli (fb/tw) - my lunch that day was one of their 'Ultimate Beef Sandwiches' and, frankly, I lack the superlatives to do it proper justice. The meat was literally melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the smoky flavour was subtle, but surprisingly distinct. You know how 'barbecue' and 'smoky flavour' things invariably just taste like HP Sauce? Well, forget that... this is how smoked meat should taste. Nick, manning the stall that weekend, took a photo of my ecstatic face as I munched on the sandwich, saying it was for Twitter... hasn't gone up yet, so I may have to pop back another weekend for another sandwich... or two. Or just some sliced, smoked beef. Or both. They also sell on Hubbub which, sadly, does not yet deliver to my area.
There were plenty of other cool stalls despite the relatively small area the market occupies and, when the weather is fine, it's worth going to Brent Cross just for the market.