I thought it was a joke when I heard that some enterprising company was selling so-called Brexit Boxes, a stock of freeze-dried meals (and a water filter and fire starter) to see householders through any food shortages following a No Deal Brexit. I laughed even harder when I realised they were charging nearly £300.
What makes it funnier still is that the meals include Italian, Indian, Mexican and Chinese dishes. But it’s okay, folks, it’s all made in the UK. No foreign muck here, grazie, dhanyavaad, gracias and xiè xie.
To any non-Brits who haven’t been following the story, a No Deal Brexit describes a situation whereby the UK leaves the European Union with no arrangements in place for what happens afterwards. The deadline is March 29 and so far the imploding political parties have failed dismally to come to any agreement.
This could mean border checks being re-introduced and the severe disruption of trade and transport between the UK and the EU. According to our government, we are only 60% self-sufficient when it comes to food, and 70% of our food imports come from the EU. The UK Food and Drink Federation has warned that shortages could hit within days, with some brands vanishing from supermarket shelves, at least in the short term.
Some supermarkets are stockpiling non-perishable goods and so, apparently, are some households. So the joke I made to a friend about wartime ration cards being dusted off and re-issued is not as funny as I thought it was.
During World War Two, all members of the population were issued with these cards. The quantities and types of foods on ration fluctuated but meat, fats, sugar, milk, eggs, tea, jam and confectionary were all doled out in what by today’s standards were very small quantities.
The government issued recipes advising people on how to make the most of what was available. One such was the Woolton Pie, named after the then Minister of Food, Lord Woolton, although it was invented by the top chef at London’s Savoy Hotel, Frenchman (yes) François Latry.
It consisted of root vegetables, thickened with porridge oats, enlivened with a racy spoonful of Marmite and topped, usually, with a pastry made from flour, mashed potato and the absolute minimum of fat. I’m told it’s actually quite edible but dammit, no cheese? Boo.
So, ladies, gentlemen and persons of non-specific gender, I give you … my Brexit Pie. It contains some of the things I love most and which may be in short supply or increasingly expensive in the coming months, and which we can’t grow ourselves at least until high summer (first having dug up the rose bed to plant potatoes). Like the Woolton Pie, it is vegetarian, but a great deal less austere. And like the Woolton Pie, it is French in inspiration. It is, in fact, a galette.
The ingredients came from France, Italy and the UK.
About 200g all butter shortcrust pastry
1 fennel bulb
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic, skins on
2 tbsp olive oil
About 75g roasted artichokes in oil, drained weight
85g Quark soft cheese
20g Roquefort cheese
1 heaped tspn fresh thyme leaves, ideally plucked from a sunny hillside in the South of France
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A knob of butter
Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
Lay the pastry on a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a round approx 24 cm in diameter. Leaving a 4cm strip around the edge, prick inside the circle with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and chill in the fridge.
Cut the fingers and fronds from the fennel (save the fronds for garnish), remove the core and cut into wedges. Peel the onion and slice into similar-sized pieces.
Place in a roasting tin with the garlic cloves, drizzle over 2 tbsp olive oil (or use the oil from the bottled artichokes), season with salt and pepper and roast for 20-25 minutes until starting to soften. Remove and cool.
Spoon the Quark into a small bowl and squeeze in the softened garlic, discarding the skins. Mix, then stir in the crumbled Roquefort and thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and spread the centre section with the Quark mixture. Arrange the fennel and onion wedges and drained artichokes on top. Don’t pile them too high or the crust will not crisp up.
Bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and brown. Remove from the oven and let the tart cool slightly on the baking sheet.
Slide the parchment paper and galette onto a cutting board and garnish with fennel fronds and a few more thyme leaves. Cut into wedges and serve. It works well with a chicory and (in season) blood orange salad.