Quiche, noun: Savoury egg custard tart in a pastry case containing a wide variety of vegetable, meat, or fish fillings. Speciality of Alsace and Lorraine in France.
Will we remember the Coronation Quiche in 50 years? We’re not sure about that but it set us thinking about our delectable quiche recipes and the rise and fall of the quiche over the years. Quiches have had their fair share of bad press but are currently being appreciated again with people discovering that a really good quiche, eaten at room temperature with a great salad, along with a glass of wine, takes a lot of beating!
In the early 1980s the satirical book ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche’ arrived with the consequence that many men really did refrain from eating quiches but would happily settle on pies. In those heady days of the eighties, our founder, Ros, 39 years young, had started a company, Piemaker, which sold quiches of all sorts from individual ones to large 12” catering size quiches. One of Piemaker’s then clients was Prue Leith, who was a caterer and restaurateur of note, and not the Bake Off Pru whom we all have come to know so well. Piemaker provided Leiths with a range of quiches (and a raised pie for the Orient Express).
It takes a lot to beat a really good quiche although a good specimen can be hard to find, leading people to believe that an overly chilled, dehydrated supermarket quiche is acceptable. Once you have tried the real deal, nothing except a freshly baked one with a crisp, buttery pastry and light, delicious filling will ever do again.
We have a few hints that will transform your ingredients into a sublime tart. To avoid the 1980s aversion to quiches, in 2003 when Cookery School opened, we called them tarts.
Cookery School’s top tips for a superlative quiche :
* Make a beautiful buttery pastry – nothing else will do – make it in advance and chill it to allow it to rest.
We learnt the art of pastry making by hit and miss methods in the 1980s (see photo above!). While baking quiches for a client, each time we baked the pastry blind, it shrunk. Had we rested the pastry before baking it, the shrink would not have occurred. Also to note, a plain pastry needs to be on the dry rather than moist side. It stands to reason that a wetter pastry will shrink more as the water in it evaporates.
* Use a layer of onion that has been finely chopped and fried in butter or olive oil until light golden colour. The flavour of a thin layer of onions on the base of your quiche will transform it into the tastiest of dishes.
* Use any filling ingredients that you fancy and cut them small so that you don’t encounter large chunks of anything in the lovely smooth quiche. Our favourites currently are mushrooms finely sliced and fried in winter and in spring/summer asparagus (cut into pieces and boiled) or courgette finely sliced and fried quickly in either olive oil or butter simply to wilt until tender and colour it lightly. It must not be mushy. Smoked salmon (we source wild smoked salmon) or crab are great fillings. Quiche Lorraine ingredients can be used too. Be generous with your fillings so that the custard is simply found in between and not a dominant, unpalatable, deep wobbly white custard.
* We like to sprinkle some finely chopped parsley in the filling as the greenness of the herb seems to add freshness and take away a little of the richness of the filling. Other finely chopped herbs that match the ingredients of the filling add to the flavour – these can be finely chopped thyme, marjoram or even a little rosemary.
* Make an easy well flavoured custard by beating 5 eggs and then adding 500ml of cream to it or a mixture of cream and full cream milk. Season with salt, pepper and a small pinch of nutmeg.
* Cook your quiche in a low oven so that the custard is creamy and not curdled. Dark well baked quiches that have holes in the custard are not delicious. Good quiches are lightly baked, light in colour and truly wonderful to eat. You know that your quiche is cooked when it is not wobbly and when a knife put into the custard comes out clean. Rather like any good custard that is well set.
So if you are celebrating the coronation of King Charles III, we suggest that you make a meal of it, splash out on a special filling for your quiche, a good bottle of wine and some really fresh salad ingredients and you may find that your quiche is the most memorable part of your day, a more-ish experience that you’ll want to repeat again – we hope so!