Quiche is a surprise crowd-pleaser; no one ever picks quiche out as a dish to praise, but people inevitably fall on a hot quiche like vultures the moment it’s set down. With the right flavourings, quiche is the perfect summer dish, and tightly wrapped, it’s eminently transportable for picnics are parties.
A shortcrust pastry case and a savoury egg custard are the two prerequisites for a quiche, but the classic quiche Lorraine – hailing, unsurprisingly, from the Lorraine region in France – adds lardons to the custard. I have it on good authority from the mother of a French friend that if it isn’t quiche Lorraine, it isn’t quiche; it’s just a tart. But, given that the quiche actually originated in Germany (its name is derived from ‘kuchen’ meaning ‘cake’), as far as I’m concerned, you can throw in anything you like.
This is a textbook savoury shortcrust recipe, and it’s my absolute favourite: incredibly simple to make, with or without a food processor, and easy to shape and roll. It doesn’t get too soft too quickly, and can stand a little handling. And, of course, it tastes fantastic: just as short as it name demands.
Shortcrust pastry, like most things, is a matter of confidence, and self-belief. There are about five stages where it can feel like it’s all gone wrong. Listen to me: it almost certainly hasn’t. If the dough seems too crumbly, wrap it really tightly in the clingfilm, and let it rest in the fridge. If it won’t come together at all, add water – slowly, carefully drop by drop – and it will form a coherent dough. If it tears as you roll it, patch it up with excess pastry; no one will see or know once it’s filled with custard and cheese. If you’re particularly clumsy or nervy, you can carefully pour the last of the liquid into the tin when you’ve already lowered the tray into the oven, to minimise spillage. Spilling filling isn’t the end of the world either, it happens to me almost every time: just be careful to ease the cooked case out at the end, so that the pastry doesn’t crumble away.
I spent the weekend in Suffolk in glorious sunshine. Not even a flat tyre and a melting wedding cake could dampen our spirits. And as we passed the third sign for English asparagus, I knew what I had to bake when we got home. Asparagus is at the height of its season at the moment, fat and verdant, and it’s a delight with smoked salmon. What could be better for a summer lunch?
Smoked salmon and asparagus quiche
Makes: 1 large quiche (comfortably serves 4 hungry people)
Takes: 1 hour 20, including chilling
Bakes: 40 minutes
For the pastry
Pinch of salt
1 ice cube, taken out just before you start the process
1 egg yolk
For the filling
75g smoked salmon
8-12 fat stalks of asparagus
40g parmesan cheese
3 large eggs, beaten
100ml whole milk
1. First, make the pastry. You can do this in a food processor, if you have one: just pulse the butter, flour and a pinch of salt together a couple of times, until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the egg yolk and an ice cube’s worth of very cold water, and mix just until the dough comes together in a ball. You can do exactly the same with your hands and a mixing bowl. Either way, mix as little as possible. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
2. As you take the pastry out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 180°C. On a floured surface, roll the pastry into a circle about the thickness of a pound coin. It should be about two inches bigger than the circumference of your tin. Drape the pastry over the tin and, taking a little ball of the excess pastry, gently ease it into every nook and cranny until it lies flush against the tin. Chill for another 10 minutes.
3. Gently roll the rolling pin over the top of the tin, so that the excess pastry falls away. Prick all over the pastry with a fork. Spread a sheet of baking paper over the pastry, and weigh it down with baking beans or dried rice. Bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven, remove the baking beans and paper and return to the oven. If you have a teaspoon of egg yolk leftover, you can paint it over the pastry just before you return it to the oven, but don’t worry if not. Bake it for 5-10 minutes until it is lightly golden.
4. Meanwhile, shred the salmon and grate the cheeses. Trim the asparagus so that the stalks will fit in a clock pattern without overlapping. You can reserve the asparagus that you don’t use for other purposes, or slice it into slim coins and add that to your quiche filling.
5. Beat the eggs into the milk until incorporated, and then stir in the salmon and cheeses. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Place the pastry in its tin onto a baking sheet. Lay the asparagus in the empty tart case so that it resembles a clock face. Carefully pour the liquid over the mixture leaving about half a centimetre of pastry at the top.
7. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the tart is golden and taut. Allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving.