When I first became vegetarian, back in the early 80s, people still seemed to be wrestling with the basic concept of vegetarianism. Not long after I’d abandoned meat, my parents, my brother and I popped into a local pub for lunch – as it happens The Rock Robin opposite Wadhurst Station. The pub is no longer there but it will live forever in my memory because when I asked the barman if they could do anything for a veggie he paused, had a good think about it and then replied, in all sincerity; “steak sandwich?”
There’s an innocence about some people in catering who seem to equate almost with good enough, as in ‘it’s almost vegetarian’ or ‘it’s more or less kosher’ or ‘it’s as good as halal’. In that spirit they still seem to hide small pieces of bacon in vegetarian quiches rather more often than you might imagine.
For that reason, among others, I used to be, at best, lukewarm about quiche. But beyond the unwelcome surprise of discovering unwanted bits of ham in your mouth quiche is generally a disappointment. Part of the problem is that they’re made in advance, stored in the fridge, the pastry becomes clammy and solid, the filling leaden.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
The marvellous Dan Lepard has the answer; home made puff pastry.
It sounds absolutely impossible but it’s not. It’s just a process and if you follow the steps methodically you’ll get puff pastry better than anything you’ll get in the shops.
If you want to make pastry for a smaller 20-25cm quiche use these quantities:
150g plain flour
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp cream of tartar (optional:)
150g ice-cold unsalted butter cut into 1cm chunks
1 egg yolk (save the white for the filling)
75ml cold milk
I tend to make 28cm quiches (which serve 10-12) and use the following quantities.
200g plain flour
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp cream of tartar
200g ice-cold unsalted butter cut into 1cm chunks
1 large egg yolk or 2 small
100ml cold milk
So here goes:
1. Put the flour, salt and cream of tartar into a bowl and mix them together.
2. In a jug mix the milk and egg yolks together with a fork. Put to one side in the fridge. Do not add to flour yet.
3. Cube the butter into 1cm pieces. Toss the butter in the flour. The idea is to ensure that the cubes of butter are individually floured and don’t stick together. You want to keep the butter as cold as possible throughout this process.
4. Add the milk and egg mix to the flour. Stir it so that you produce a wet dough. Do not knead it. The purpose of this entire process is to keep the butter from getting warm and worked into the flour. You want it solid and separate so as you roll it and re-roll it, it forms little buttery layers in the pastry.
5. Put the wet dough in the fridge for 20 minutes.
6. Flour a large board, flour the dough and using a rolling pin roll it into a square about 12”x12” (30cm x 30cm). Fold one third of the square back on itself (so it now measures 20×30…yes?), then fold the other third of the square on top of the rest so you should have a piece of dough with 3 layers measuring roughly 10cm x 30cm. Roll it with the rolling pin again to push the layers together but not to flatten out the dough any more than you have to. Then fold a third of the dough in, then the other third so you have a 10cm x 10 cm square. Don’t roll again at this stage.
7. Wrap it in cling film and put it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Dan reckons the fridge will do but chilling (not freezing) the dough is absolutely essential.
8. Roll the dough out to 30×30 again (12”x12”) and repeat the whole rolling, folding, wrapping and chilling routine five or six times – chill for 20 minutes in the freezer between each rolling.
9. Roll out the dough to the size you need for the quiche dish. I like to fold it up over the lip as the biggest challenge with pastry this right is preventing the sides from collapsing. Chill again for 20 minutes. Use greaseproof paper to line the inside of the pastry and fill with baking beans pushing the beans up against the sides to stop them collapsing. I tend to prefer a solid quiche dish as if the sides don’t quite stay up then the filling doesn’t leak out in the same way as with a loose bottomed one.
10. Bake the case blind for 40 minutes at 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas mark 4. Remove the beans and the paper a.s.a.p. to stop the paper sticking to the pastry.
Then the filling – it’s the easy bit. I use goats cheese and caramelised red onions.
Slice the red onions (I’d use at least two medium ones for a 28cm quiche, possibly three) thin but not very thin, stir with olive oil, sugar and a dash of balsamic vinegar (optional) before putting in a baking tin (you can roast them along side the pastry case. Stir occasionally so they all get crispyish.
Cut a log of chevre into slices (1cm thick is generous) and arrange around the cooked base. Next liberally sprinkle the onions around.
Then beat together eggs and double cream (1 medium egg per 50ml cream) and pour over the mixture. Five eggs and 250ml of cream should be enough (6 plus 300ml at a pinch). Put back in the same oven, same temperature – (ie 180C/160C fan) until the egg mixture has puffed up and browned nicely.
Serve warm! You can prepare the pastry in advance and have it rolled out in the tin and unbaked a day in advance, but this is really wonderful if you bake the pastry, throw in the filling and sling it back in the oven and bring it hot to the table.
Make sure you tell your guests that making the pastry is actually really very, very hard and takes years of practice. There’s no harm in soaking up a little adulation even if it isn’t really warranted.