Never have we relied on the spirit of the British picnic more: faced with precious few other ways to meet our friends and drink warm beer this summer, we need to embrace the picnic now more than ever. We need to be even more prepared for, even more stoical about, that typical summer weather which ranges from ‘threatening’ to ‘apocalyptic rain’. We need to pack suncream, a spare jumper and a cagoule into our picnic baskets, because this time, nothing can deter us. We can’t run back inside for cover, we can’t decamp to the local pub. Nothing must stand in the way of us and our socially distanced picnics.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it once was to pop into an M&S as you approach the park, accidentally spending the best part of £30 on a quiche, some cocktail sausages, an enormous packet of crisps, and two bottles of premixed Bucks Fizz.
Luckily, I can help you with at least one of those items, and – forgive me, M&S – homemade quiche truly is one of those dishes that is astronomically better than even the good shop-bought stuff. Especially a quiche Lorraine.
While we think of quiche as French, not least because of its regionally French name, Lorraine, when the dish originated, the region of Lorraine was still under German rule, as a medieval kingdom called Lothringen. It follows then that the word ‘quiche’ derives from the German ‘kuchen’ meaning cake.
Traditionally, a quiche Lorraine shouldn’t have cheese in it: the filling should really only be three ingredients: cream, eggs, and lardons. But then also, in its original incarnation, the base was not made of pastry, but a bread dough, similar to brioche (which makes a little more sense of its ‘kuchen’ etymology). A purist would not sully the Lorraine with cheese. Thankfully, I am not a purist: little pops of gooey gruyere are rarely a bad idea, but in a quiche Lorraine, their salty, nutty savouriness bring an extra level to the tart. Plus, for anyone outside of the Lorraine region, the cheese has become a staple addition in the quiche for 80 years, and is found in both recipes and cafes in and out of France. And if it’s good enough for Delia, it’s good enough for me.
Here I use my failsafe rich shortcrust pastry, crumbly and buttery, but not so short that the cook should have difficulty handling it. Inside is a rich, satiny custard, with just the right amount of wobble, hiding cubes of smoked bacon (and the forbidden cheese) which have been rendered until golden and glossy; it is as good cold as it is warm.
Little pieces of smoked bacon are a good sub for lardons, if you can’t get hold of them; and if you don’t have crème fraîche, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your quiche is more authentic than mine. Should you wish to add sliced onions to your mix, your quiche jumps over the border into Alsace and becomes a quiche Alsacienne. A homemade quiche doesn’t call for any frouffing or faffing, which makes it perfect for the aforementioned picnic. All it needs is a crisp green salad with a mustardy dressing, and a glass of cold white wine to accompany it. Just don’t forget your rain coat.
Takes: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Bakes: 1 hour
For the pastry
170g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg, separated
For the filling
100g gruyere, cut into small cubes
150g smoked lardons
3 large eggs, beaten
150ml crème fraîche
- 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 a tablespoon 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.
- 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.
- 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. Bake it for 5-10 minutes until it is lightly golden. When you remove it from the oven, paint the fork pricks with a little egg white to seal; the residual heat will cook it.
- Place the lardons in a cold, dry frying pan, over a medium heat. Cook, occasionally turning the lardons, until the fat is golden and crisp.
- Beat together the eggs, cream, and crème fraiche and season with salt and black pepper.
- Place the lardons and gruyere at the bottom of the pastry case, then fill up with the creamy-eggy filling. Cook for 30-35 minutes until the surface is taut and golden, but retains a small wibble. Serve warm or cold.