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A Feast From Next To Nothing In These Strange Times by Judy Leigh

This week, the online shopping delivery was due to arrive one Sunday evening. On Sunday, the cupboard was looking a little empty. I had a few lentils, a bit of flour and oat milk, a solitary tin of tomato purée, a few sprouting potatoes and a few dog-eared vegetables. It didn’t look great. But I did have a bottle of Merlot, so it was going to be feast time.

I thought of my mother, as I often do when there’s no-one to turn to, and I could hear her telling me that it’s possible to make something out of nothing when push comes to shove. ‘As long as you’ve a potato, you’ve a dinner.’ So off I went to make the last supper before the delivery van arrived. By way of celebrating a really nice meal, I thought I’d share the recipe with you for Lentil quiche and roasties.

First of all, I made pastry from two cups of plain flour, a pinch of salt and I rubbed two tablespoons of plant-based margarine and two heaped tablespoons of vegetable shortening. (I always keep a tin of Crisco in the fridge.) I rubbed the fat into the pastry in the usual way to resemble fine breadcrumbs and added a bit of cold water, little by little, until the mixture came together. Then I wrapped it in film and put it in the fridge.

I sautéed the last shallot and a stray bit of garlic from the garden in oil, then I added a cup of red lentils and cooked them in water until soft, which normally takes half an hour. I sliced the end half of a red pepper and roasted it in the oven for twenty minutes until it was soft but not blackened.

I drained the lentil mixture and added a pinch of salt, some nutmeg, some black pepper and a good tablespoonful of the tomato purée, then I mixed in a tablespoonful of gram flour (any flour would work) and some plant-based cheddar cheese. I added a little water to stop the mixture being too stiff – it needs to be thick, but not sloppy or stodgy.

I parboiled the old potatoes, having cut them into chunks. I found an old swede and a bit of carrot, and I threw those in for good measure.

I set the oven at 180°C. I rolled out the pastry to line a greased flan dish and filled it with the lentil mixture. I decorated the top with the strands of roasted red peppers and a stray, solitary baby tomato. The top was sprinkled with ground nutmeg and the whole thing went into the oven. The quiche takes about fifty minutes to cook – the top is set and the crust is golden brown. It smelled delicious.

I always make a quiche like this a couple of hours before I want to eat it. I let it cool first so that it can set properly, to let the flavours develop and I can warm it through later.

The parboiled potatoes were put on a tray with a bit of oil, salt, thyme, rosemary, black pepper and a bit of lemon juice to roast for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. They need shaking every so often and checking for progress. For the last ten minutes of cooking, I popped the quiche back into the oven to warm through and steamed any old vegetables I could find, which turned out to be the end of a bit of broccoli, some kale and a few frozen peas.

The quiche, sliced and served with roasties and veg, is delicious and nutritious. It’s even better with a glass of red wine.

I wonder what my parents, who are no longer with us, would have made of these difficult, unpredictable times. I can imagine them summoning up the spirit of war time, insisting on sticking together, being resilient, carrying on. They were only kids themselves then.

They would certainly have found everything very confusing and troubling as they became older: having to queue two meters apart at supermarkets, thinking about when and why to leave the house, listening to the news and being anxious at the number of deaths mentioned daily, being alone in a quiet house.

My heart goes out to people at the moment and I know that all of us, in our own small ways, are trying to support friends and neighbours at a distance.

I’m also so pleased that the brilliant work done by the NHS, care workers, delivery drivers, people who work in shops and supermarkets has not gone unnoticed. Praise and appreciation for these people is as important now as it’s ever been and, after this crisis is over, I hope that gratitude will continue in the form of improved pay, conditions and funding.

We’re all looking forward to a time when we emerge from this crisis and hopefully, the spirit of neighbourliness and co-operation will remain. Out of difficulty, small good things may emerge. But I’m trying to be positive and to focus on good things to come.

For now, I’ll share my recipe: a lentil quiche is something satisfying that has come from a place of paucity, something from nothing. Let’s hope the future will bring better times. But for now, we’ll manage, we’ll make do and we’ll do it with a smile on our faces and a delicious meal made from scratch on our plates.

Wishing you good health and love. Stay safe.


Judy’s book Five French Hens is available in ebook, audiobook and paperback now! And Judy’s upcoming book, The Old Girls’ Network is available for pre-order now.

Get your copy by clicking on the covers below. 


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