I haven’t had a quiche for literally decades – one of my friend’s girlfriends used to make delicious ones – so on a whim I bought a smoked salmon quiche at a trendy and fashionable market recently. God, it was worse than awful in that it put my wife – who had never had a quiche before – right off the whole idea of the dish, when I suggested making one for the weekend.
I decided to do it from scratch, making my own pastry and only adding cheese and a few shallots to the traditional Quiche Lorraine which is made only with bacon, eggs and cream/crème fraiche.
This was no longer going to be a quiche lorraine in the purist sense because of the cheese and two shallots I found in the cupboard that I wanted to use up. I am neither French nor in Lorraine and as far as I am concerned, national dishes are allowed to develop once they escape from their country of origin.
For those who have no idea of what I am talking about, a quiche is an open-faced pastry pie with eggs, cream and lardons or bacon cubes. Of course there are endless variations with onion and garlic adding a more savoury flavour while added mature cheddar or a gruyère can be called, to keep the French flavour, a quiche au fromage, if you like. Add spinach and it becomes a quiche florentine, chuck in a few tomatoes and it becomes quiche provençale, throw in a handful of mushrooms and it is a quiche aux champignons.
Shocked by the amount of cream used in this recipe – the ultimate in cooking extravaganza? – I must admit it is not something I often use or buy. On the rare occasions when I do, for a luxurious Irish Coffee or some special occasion, I would feel vaguely guilty. But I remember, as a child, we always used to have cream, along with butter and eggs and potatoes and buckets of milk and it was all considered healthy. However, you can, if you like, use milk instead but you will be missing out, I assure you, on the rich succulence that only cream can provide.
So, to work! I threw the flour, the cubed butter and the egg yolk into my aged food processor and dribbled in four spoonfuls of cold water as the processor grunted and heaved its way through the dough. I bundled out not quite coarse ‘breadcrumbs’ onto a floury board and gave it a bit of a knead before forming it into a rough ball which I wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge to ‘set’ for thirty minutes or so.
Using a wooden rolling pin, (I immediately thought of Andy Capp’s wife, Florrie, her hair in rollers, behind their front door, tapping a rolling pin meaningfully into her hand as she waited for her sot of a husband to come home) I rolled the pastry out as thinly as I could before lifting the sheet up carefully and draping it over a round baking tin.
I trimmed the edges of overhanging pastry and squashed a sheet of baking paper down on top of the pastry, filling the entire tin. I didn’t have any baking stones so I used a handful of rice and spread that evenly over the baking paper before putting the lot into a 180 degree C oven for about 10 minutes. After that, I removed the paper and rice – didn’t spill any, either! – and put the pastry tin back in the oven for another ten minutes.
While that was baking, I chopped up two small shallots and tossed them into a pan with a spoonful of oil – I had no more butter, having used it all for the pastry. After the shallots softened a bit, I tossed in the cubed bacon and stirred it around for a while before leaving it for ten minutes or so.
Just in time I remembered to take the pastry tin out of the oven – a lovely golden hue and a slightly darker crust – and left it to cool slightly.
While the bacon and shallots were braising, I broke four eggs into a jug, added the leftover white from the first egg and then spooned in a substantial glop of the crème fraiche, although I actually used some type of cooking cream, and then several generous glugs of fresh cream and a good pinch of freshly ground nutmeg before giving it all a good whisk. By that time, the bacon bits and shallots were ready so I tipped them out onto kitchen paper to drain a bit and grated up two large handfuls of gruyère. Scattering the bacon mixture and the grated cheese into the empty piecrust, I poured my eggy-creamy mixture on top of the lot, filling the piecrust 3/4 full.
I pulled out the oven rack and gently lowered the nearly filled pie tin down before topping it up with the rest of the creamy egg sauce. That way, I didn’t slop any on the floor while banging the lot into the oven at 180 degrees C.
I took a look at it after about 20 minutes and it looked gorgeous but still runny so I gave it another ten minutes. Even then, it was still soggy in the middle so I put it back for a further 15 minutes, took it out and, third time, it seemed perfection … until I tried to get it out of the baking tin. Note to self: next time use one of those baking tins where you can push up from beneath the bottom.
Using a spatula and a wooden spoon, I managed to heave it out, almost unbroken, onto a plate and then … what’s the word for ‘heaven’ in French?
Hmmm, what am I going to do with the leftover fresh cream? Maybe … a coffee?
Ingredients (for the pastry)
175g / 6oz plain flour
100g / 4oz cold butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
4 spoons of cold water
Ingredients (for the filling)
150g bacon bits (or lardons if you can get them from a deli)
2 small red shallots, chopped finely,
50g / 2oz Gruyère
200ml / 7 fl oz cream
200 ml crème fraiche or cooking cream
4 full eggs plus the white left over from the yolk used in the pastry
Pinch of ground nutmeg.