I adore quiche, in a way that I’m sure isn’t quite normal. It was so popular in the dinner party repertoire of middle-class Britain in the 70’s that its effect is quite clearly still rattling around the national psyche of the fairly young. I wasn’t around in those blackforest gateau years, but even so, there’s a thread of quiche running through my life, from my mum’s (rigorously with wholewheat pastry and sliced tomatoes on top), to Grandma’s (salmon or broccoli, on very cold plates) to Marks and Sparks’ (with free-range eggs, during my workfest in the City of London).
Quiche lorraine is, predictably, my ultimate favourite. With its combination of the pale wobbly custard spiked saltily with ham and the crisp pastry shell, and served with a sharply dressed salad, it is one of my favourite lunches, as good hot from the oven as it is cold. Of course, there are many different variations on quiche fillings, and I don’t pretend this one is authentic or definitive at all – it’s just the one that I cook at home. Once you’ve worked out the amount of pastry and custard that work for your tin, then it’s easy to adapt the filling to what’s in the fridge.
The amount of pastry given will line two quiches – I give double quantities as I don’t like making “just enough” pastry. It’s not that I might muck up rolling it out (this method seems to produce resilient pastry that rolls out brilliantly in even the hottest of kitchens and the clumsiest of hands – i.e. mine), but that having an extra bit of pastry waiting in the fridge isn’t really a problem. Just seeing the little ball of resting pastry opens up all sorts of possibilities that you might not bother with if you had to make pastry from scratch. I’m a fan of using unsweetened pastry even for puddings, especially ones with very sweet fillings such as treacle tart. (The search for the ultimate treacle tart recipe may be a holy grail type quest, or at least deserving of its own blog – but I will at least make a start soon…)
For the pastry (double quantities) (Nigella Lawson’s method)
240g flour, I use 00 flour as she suggests
a little iced water with a squeeze of lemon
For the quiche:
150g single cream
150g whole milk
3 tablespoons grated cheese
150g cubed pancetta or bacon
1 white onion, chopped
1 fairly deep 20cm fluted pie tin, with removable base
About 90 minutes before you want to eat, start making the pastry. Measure the flour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the fat, cold from the fridge in 1cm dice, and bung the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. When it comes out, process until it looks like oatmeal. Start adding the iced water a tablespoon at a time, processing in between, and stop just when the mixture looks like it’s all about to start to stick together, but before it actually does (don’t panic, I invariably add more water than was actually needed, and it turns out fine). Then take out the dough, press together, and divide into two halves. Wrap both in clingfilm and into the fridge to rest for half an hour.
While the pastry is resting, preheat the oven to 170°C. When ready, roll out one of the balls and line the quiche tin. Then put in the fridge to rest again for 20 minutes. Sauté the onion in a little olive oil, adding the pancetta after 5 minutes or so, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and pat with kitchen towel, just to remove some of the extra fat.
Put the tin on a baking tray, for ease of maneuver, and bake blind for 15 minutes, until the pastry is turning golden. I don’t bother to faff around with baking beans and foil, but just prick the base with a fork, more through tradition than rationale, and keep an eye on it during cooking. If you have lined the tin carefully, making sure that the pastry isn’t stretched across the base, then it shouldn’t rise too much during cooking. If it does start to bulge up, I just reach into the oven and gently push it down again with a tea-toweled hand. This works for me, but I’m sure experienced cooks all have their own routine!
In a measuring jug, mix together the eggs, milk, cream and cheese with a fork. Spoon the pancetta and onion mixture onto the pastry, distributing evenly, and pour over the custard. Return to the oven and cook for 30 minutes until the custard has just set and is just browning a little on top. If you like, you can lay some sliced tomatoes on top about half-way into cooking time, when the custard has firmed up enough to support the weight of the slices.