Real men don’t eat Quiche

“Quiche is for girls” was a comment I received recently when we had the alleged non-masculine dish on the lunch menu one day. This reminded me of the comment once used by what I thought was a comedian but through further research found it to be a best selling, tongue in cheek book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche by an American author Bruce Feirstein. Satirising stereotypes of masculinity, it was published in 1982 and popularised the term quiche-eater, referring to a man who is a dilettante, trend – chaser, an over -anxious conformist to fashionable forms of lifestyle and socially correct behaviours and opinions, one who eschews or merely lacks the traditional masculine virtue of tough self – assurance, and so to this day, it is still phrased in 2019. I’m sure whoever carried the joke to an audience got the roars of laughter that were required, and I do find it funny myself, but isn’t it funny that said flan (just to add to the confusion) if it was called that on a menu would perhaps be more sociably acceptable until it was presented in a public place and if we touch briefly on the debate of what makes a flan a tart or a tart a pie, a pie a pastry, a pasty a pastry, a pastry a quiche, a quiche a tartlet or a tartlet a turnover?

Surely, a quiche holds more gurth than any other egg related dishes, with it’s pastry base, although short, light and flaky with its countless varying fillings from roasted vegetables, tomato, basil and Brie, spinach and ricotta, smoked haddock and potato (or Cullen Skink), seafood or hold all the components of a full breakfast to name a few. It’s limitless really and all this goodness held together with a few eggs, liquid and seasoning, take said eggs in other forms can be somewhat deemed sociably acceptable, served almost naked in the form of poached, where the delicate simmer, plop of water gives a delicate finish to the whites or a little longer in the water and giving the water more prominence resulting in a firmer bite from the white or for the more adventurous perhaps 3-4 eggs lightly beaten, a splash of cream for extra viscosity, a whiff of salt, a gentle crack of pepper and a good knob of butter that has gone slightly noisette through no fault but your own, trying for an adequate temperature before adding the now hardy seasoned liquid to the pan, working it with some quick wrist action with a spatula in hand, a quick toss or fold and watching it rise almost soufflé like can be mesmerising. Varying fillings can also be added like hot sausage, cheese, spring onion or chives for extra theatrics. With the debate now open to criticism, I think it’s good to know not just where our produce comes from, but the importance for me to have the knowledge of the beginnings and evolution of any dish that I make which lends to more of an appreciation and respect for it.

With our beliefs being that quiche is a French dish it actually originated in Germany. Traced to the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, which the French renamed Lorraine. The word ‘quiche’ in German is ‘kucken’, meaning cake, so… slice of cake anyone?

This quiche was actually a request to break the taboo on it being difficult or faffy to make, with the worries that entails not just with pastry (making, rolling, breaking, cracking, sinking, soggy bottom) but also the savoury custard that we fear may scramble. What we are aiming for with this recipe is simple and stress free, which is why I have put as many step-by-step pictures as I can. The old phrase of, to be a good pastry chef you need cold hands does ring true as a rule of basic science, which pastry is, but what we will do, is for convenience without affecting quality is to make the pastry in a processor. Don’t get me wrong, I believe any young cook starting of must be instructed with the rubbing in with the fingertips to get, not just the feel of making basic pastry for the first time, but also the respect, understanding and appreciation. All we have to do is make sure everything is as cold as possible, from the mixing bowl, to the fats and ice cold water, a method for simple rolling, lifting and shaping that will ensure that your pastry will turn out thin and light with a flaky texture and the promise of the pastry never sinking again, so man up and get this quiche made!

Hot Smoked Salmon and Spring Onion Quiche

Preheat the oven to 200°c

Ingredients

Short pastry

300g plain flour

75g salted butter,chilled

75g vegetable lard, chilled

6 tbsp ice cold water

Salt

Filling

Hot smoked salmon (about 180g)

4 spring onions

5 eggs

Bunch of parsley, chopped

400ml whole milk

100g cheese (50g for filling/50g for topping)

Salt and white pepper

Paprika

Method

Place the flour, pinch of salt and fats into the cold processor bowl and pulse until a fine breadcrumb texture is reached.

Add the ice cold water and pulse until it comes together.

Knead it gently until it forms a ball. Do not over work it as the more you work it the tougher it will become, wrap in cling film and chill for 2 hrs.

On a very lightly floured surface (too much flour will make the pastry become dry) with a rolling pin start gently rolling the pastry, applying a gentle rolling motion.

The theory is, if we start with a round we will finish with a circle.

With each roll, give the pastry a turn to keep the round shape. If needs be apply a whiff of flour to the surface and to the rolling pin, as long as you keep moving the pastry it won’t stick.

Check the size of the pastry by measuring the flan ring to it. If it will cover the sides and enough for draping over the edges, gently roll it onto the rolling pin for ease of placing over the ring.

Gently with the back of your hand, press the pastry into place. The pastry should now be just over lapping the edge of the ring. Tear a marble size piece of dough and use to press the pastry along the bottom edge of the flan for a neat finish then prick the bottom of the flan with a fork. Chill for half an hour.

Cover the ring with cling film or tin foil and add a covering of baking beans. Ceramic are good but if you have rice or dry pulses they will work and can be used again and again, and no, the cling film won’t melt in the oven.

Place the pastry case in the middle of the oven directly onto the shelf rather than onto another tray as we want the heat to distribute evenly around the ring quickly, bake for for 25-30 mins until the edges are golden. Carefully remove the case from the oven and turn the oven down to 170 degrees Celsius remove the baking beans and cling film and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the base is cooked.

While the pastry is finishing cooking we can prepare the filling. Some recipes only ask for the yolks to be used for the custard for a richer, luxurious finish and to reserve the whites for another time, for meringues perhaps, which is great if you have the time, but we will use the whole eggs and milk for a lighter result and at the same time it will have a good hold of the filling, which is the purpose of the actual custard.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and give a good whisking adding the milk, a whiff of salt and white pepper ( I like the creaminess that white pepper brings to white sauces and can’t be doing with the specks that black pepper would bring visually.

Slice the spring onions thinly, chop the parsley and flake the smoked salmon. It is at this point you can decide how flaky you want the salmon before adding to the custard, followed by the spring onion and 50g of the cheese. Gently mix everything together.

When the pastry is cooked carefully pour or ladle the custard mix into the case while still hot. The mix should up to the brim of the case (no point on scrimping and leaving gaps) then a little sprinkle of paprika to finish and bake for a further 30 minutes or when you tap the flan it should have a little wibble in the centre.

You should have a golden colour on the top which is going to give the quiche extra flavour and a filling that holds well and not scrambled.

If you notice that one side of the quiche is cooking/colouring quicker as I know some ovens can generate heat spots just give the quiche a little turn.

Once cooked remove from the oven and rest for 10 mins.

To remove the quiche from the ring, take a tin from the cupboard or a small glass bowl and place on the work top and sit the quiche as central on it as possible. Slide the ring downwards away from the quiche which should be sitting proud on its little stage and gently slide the quiche onto a cooling wire. If you have got to this stage then you have cracked it.

Quiche is best eaten either warm or cold so a little further patience is required. Eaten hot, you do not get the full flavours.

Once you have mastered this I urge you to try other flavour variations. It has to be one of the most multi functional meals there is. The way I look at it is- the pastry is the plate and I can put what ever I like onto it. Enjoy and happy cooking!

I’d love to see what you create! Upload a picture to Instagram and tag me at @TheNiseachChef or use the hashtag #TheNiseachChef

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