Saturday, October 18, 2008

Butternut Squash Tarts and the Credit Crunch Lunch

The economic doom and gloom has crept into our kitchen. But it's a good thing. We worked out the school lunch meal bill for Alex and Freddie was about £1200 ($2069) a year. The meals are made from decent ingredients but I still think its a lot of money for a child's lunch. So here is the Great Big Veg Challenge Credit Crunch Lunch. Alex has switched onto packed lunches, Freddie is still unconvinced and every morning inspects his sister's lunchbox, looking wistfully...

"This is SO unfair. She is getting really nice food. You are trying to ma-nip-ul-ise me," complained Freddie.

"No Freddie, it is entirely up to you - if you want to have these lunches you only have to ask."

I know, its a sly trick. And the hardest thing is ensuring that I can maintain the irrestibility of the packed lunches. Our first Credit Crunch Lunch offering for the blog is Butternut Squash and St Agur cheese tarts. (Cost approximately 40 pence a tart)

Butternut Squash and St Agur Tarts

500g (1 1b) ready-made shortcrust pastry

For the filling

Half a medium sized butternut squash, roasted

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to season

3 eggs, beaten

1 egg yolk

150ml (quarter pint) creme fraiche

1 teaspoon of dried sage

125g St Agur cheese

Preheat oven to 180 C (350F). Cut the squash in half lengthways, scoop out seeds and rub a little oilive oil, season with salt and pepper and place flesh side down on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. When cooked, allow it to cool down, peel and cut into small cubes. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil and the dried sage. Mix together the beaten eggs, extra egg yolk and creme fraiche. Add a twist of freshly ground pepper.

Line the bottom of metal tartlet tins ( mine are around 12 cms in diameter) with non-stick baking paper. Lightly grease the sides of the tins. Line with the pastry and prick it . Bake blind for about 6 minutes in an oven at 190C . You can if you prefer make just one large tart in a single flan tin, or this recipe makes about 8 tartlets. Take them out of the oven and share out equally the butternut squash cubes between the pastry cases. Pour over the egg mixture and sprinkle equally between the cases little pieces of the cheese. St Agur tastes good but if you prefer milder tastes, some soft goats cheese. Place them back in the oven and bake for about 20 -25 minutes. The contents of the quiche will rise. Take care that the pastry does not burn.

I batch bake these and freeze them and they can be taken out the night before to be defrosted for use in school lunch boxes. They are just as delicious eaten cold as warm.


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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Anonymous1:37 PM

    If this will be a continuing feature (and I hope it will be!), can you also give us Alex's rating, as you used to do with Freddy?

    So enjoy your blog!

  3. Of course - Alex's rating was I am proud to say nine out of ten. Freddie also ate one for supper and gave it the same. I now batch freeze them for the lunch boxes as I dont have time during the week when I am working to bake much.

  4. These are beautiful...

  5. When I was growing up, school lunch was never this beautiful!

  6. I hope this is a continuing series because people need to know that good food can be cheap! I definitely want to try these tarts!

  7. Sounds like you've hit the spot with the Credit Crunch Lunch idea! My lunches usally consist of leftovers from last night's supper stuffed warmed up and stuffed into a toasted pitta bread with some salad.

    The tarts looks lovely - they'd work well with our Marina di Chioggia squash.


  8. This is just the best, THE best, recipe I have seen for a while. Delicious. Would be great with some of that wasted pumpkin that will be filling landfill site in a couple of weeks time.

    David x

  9. I'd definitely choose the lunchbox over any canteen food, even from a good one!

  10. Good thinking Charlotte! You are putting me to shame though, my lunches are a sandwich or leftovers. I love the idea of adding St. Agur. I will be copying this one down.

  11. What a great idea Charlotte. And 40p a tart, even with pre-made pastry, that's a bargain.

    It's horrific when you add up the total cost for a year, of something like buying lunch. Over the past six months we've been limiting ourselves to one bought lunch a week. The rest of the time it's home made.

  12. Have you looked at some of the Bento blogs out there? They do the best lunches ever.

    I'm at home for lunch, so no bento for me, but I am tempted sometimes to get a bento box anyway.

  13. Ursula L10:11 PM

    I'll second the suggestion to look at the various bento blogs - there are some clever options. In particular, you might like the "speed bentos" at

  14. I, too, often pack small homemade quiches for myself. I usually use wholegrain flour (in addition to being healthier, whole grains are a bit more filling) in the crust, but sometimes just use store-bought since it's so much faster.

    Some of my other favourites are:
    - couscous with roasted vegetables, tossed with a light but flavourful dressing -- such a versatile "dish", and the couscous stays tender (unlike its larger pasta siblings or rice cousins, which tend to adopt a funny texture over time)

    - puréed vegetable soup (though you must have a proper carrier for this), or stew over couscous or potatoes

    - small-diced potatoes, sautéed with onions, then tossed with rapéed (shredded/grated) carrots and shredded chicken and a vinaigrette -- I made this the other day and was really pleased with the textures and flavours. the carrots are crunchy and veg-tasting while the potatoes are rich and comforting. it's almost like a roast chicken dinner, in a lovely cold salad form; the fine dice/shred of everything allows it to meld together.

    - tonno e fagioli salad (good-quality tuna, tinned in olive oil, tossed with kidney or other beans, plus some coarse salt and pepper and olive oil, and I like to add sliced green onions). gets better with each day it spends in the fridge, and it takes approximately 5 minutes to put together.

    I use a tiffin box for the lunches I take to Uni, and it inspires me to bring a few different things (a salad, a piece of fruit, a homemade muffin) each time rather than depending on a sandwich. Also never fails to draw comment and question. :-)

  15. I don’t know on how I stumbled upon this cooking blog., All I know is that I’d better check out the archives for a good read. Ha-ha! Just droppin’ to say hi!

  16. Charlotte1:08 PM

    Bob - thanks for coming by. Come back soon!

    Eva - thank you so much for these wonderful ideas. the chicken one sounds perfect. I am in the process of trying to get a good food flask -one that keeps the food quite hot until lunchtime. I love all your ideas in fact - will be trying them out and bloggin on them - we are on holiday at present - but school is back next week. THANK YOU !

    Ursula and Supermouse - bento is a great idea - need to find a decent bento box as they seem hard to find in the UK.

    kathryn - It all adds up and when you are trying to budget you realise its the things you do everyday that are the big expense - they seem like nothing but when you calculate the eyarly cost its substantial. i am hoping to halve that bill for lunch at school and make it tasty and nutritious.

    Holler - Bet your leftovers are tasty though!

    David - I was thinking of doing pumpkin soup as well - that would be delicious. with the tart....nice lunch!

    Sylvie - Depends on the canteen I suppose - some schools have wonderful school lunches now. Really imaginatibve and delicious after the Jamie Oliver effect...but I still think I can do better for far less money.

  17. Hi, I just stumbled across your blog and already it's a favourite.
    I have overgrown zucchini that came out of my compost. It that what you'd call squash???
    I'll try to make these tarts because I don't like to waste food, only if I can't find the St Agur cheese what could I substitute? Ricotta and parmesan and perhaps leave out the cream?

  18. No we call Zucchini courgette - they might be a little flavourless for this. I think you may call it a butternut squash pumpkin or something like that...Any help out there in the US and canada? You could make it with some roast pumpkin instead.
    Instead of the St Agur cheese we also make them with Roquefort cheese - The flavour will be different but any blue cheese would be nice. Or if you cant get that try goats cheese.
    I find cream in these tarts a little too rich - I use half-fat creme fraiche and if not that - then I just add a little full fat milk to the egg mixture instead. I suspect ricotta would taste lovely too!
    Let me know how you get on

  19. Hee hee. Love the "manipulise". Very sweet.

    And gorgeous tarts too.

  20. Great Big Veg Challenge11:47 AM

    I liek it to - we should all do more man-i-pulising.

  21. Calzones go down well with children (and adults!) - I make mine with wholemeal dough, and stuff them with whatever is on hand - with a bit of cheese, and perhaps something tomato-ey, almost anything goes!

  22. Little has been on packed lunches for nearly three years as he said they overcooked the vegetables at school. This started in year 1 so when I say they're not fussy I should remember that they can be.

    His favourite lunches which aren't too hard hitting on the purse are grated carrot and hummus wraps, pasta salad with all sorts chopped into it. Soup is always a good one. I think packed lunches work out cheaper most of the time.

    I try to make cake or biscuits every week so that he has a treat which is healthier and cheaper than bought products.

  23. Butternut Squash Tarts prepared is very easy. It is very healthy food.



    Blaze Infotech

  24. I like to do vegetable pancakes for my packed lunches (yes, I am a grown-up and still do that! restaurant everyday is too expensive). I look forward to seeing the other recipes!

  25. Oh wow. It's been ages since I visited my favorite food blogs, and I find this every bit as tempting and gorgeous as ever!!! Hope you guys are well despite this lousy economy. Much love xo


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