Saturday, November 17, 2007

Looking beyond the Obvious

Quiches, these start with a pastry case, often first baked blind for about 15 minutes (at which point it can be filled immediately, or can be left to get cool, and the filling and baking done later). The one thing to remember is make quite sure your pastry has not developed any cracks once part-baked or the filling will run out. A good precaution is to brush beaten egg or just the yolk, over the base and sides of the pastry case while it is still hot, this cooks on in the heat and helps to seal and also prevent the base getting too soggy. As to the pastry itself, use short-crust, to which extra flavour could be added by including grated cheese or a pinch of dried herbs to the flour, or could be rolled in if using bought.

Chefs always recommend, when lining the quiche tin or ring, to allow plenty of pastry and leave the overlaps intact to be shaved off when the filling has been cooked. Trimmed before baking, the pastry tends to shrink and so you can end up with rather a shallow filling or leakage. Sometimes I fold the overlap back, pinching and pressing it together, which makes it slightly thinner, and gives a higher, upstanding edge which tends to stay in place. This way, there is no waste.. Also, the quiche should be cooked until just set in the centre. It is often better to reduce the temperature and cook it for longer. Cooked too long at too high a heat the custard will rise up and souffle, which at the time looks fine, but once out of the oven will collapse and then the end result does not look good. Aim for a deep custard tart texture - which after all, is basically what it is.

The fillings are a matter of choice, almost anything you fancy (within reason of course and usually cooked), bound together in an egg custard. Grated cheese is often added to the custard, or could be just tiny cubes of feta or mozzarella tucked in with other fillings. Flaked cooked salmon or smoked haddock can also make another good base. Generally the cooked meats uses are ham and bacon.
Recently I have seen chefs cook the custard before pouring it into the pastry case, myself I just beat the eggs with the milk (or you could use cream, creme fraiche or thick yogurt), season well, and then either add the other ingredients, or pour the custard over them, then let it cook in the oven. Use one medium egg to each quarter pint of milk.
An asparagus quiche can be made using a can of drained asparagus, cutting off the spear heads, and blitzing the stalks with the milk to flavour the custard, arranging the spears on the top. There are so many variations with a quiche, I have recently seen a cauliflower one, which is virtually small florets of cooked cauliflower held together in an eggy cheesy sauce, almost cauliflower cheese en croute.

Sometime I make individual quiches in those Yorkshire Pudding tins with four sections. They can also be made smaller for buffet parties. Here is a recipe which might just encourage children to eat their greens, but also gives an idea of how a quiche is made from start to finish. If you wish for a large one, just make the one pastry case, double or treble the ingredients, and bake it for longer (about 25 mins).
Mini Cheese and Ham Quiches: makes 12
12 oz (350g) shortcrust pastry
4 fl oz (120ml) milk
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar
3 oz (75g) cooked broccoli, roughly chopped
1 oz (25g) diced cooked ham
Roll out the pastry, fairly thinly, and cut into 3" (7.5cm) circles. Press into a bun tray.
Mix together the beaten egg and milk and season to taste. Share the vegetables amongst the pastry cases, put half the cheese into the egg/milk and pour this over the veggies. Sprinkle remaing cheese on top. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 -15 minutes or until golden. Carefully remove from the tins and leave to get cold.

This next is a completely different type of tart in that it has quite a number of ingredients in the filling, uses no milk, but still is classed as a quiche, so I hope will give inspire everyone to experiment. A slight feeling of deja vu here, so I either intended posting this or something similar before, or may have already done so, in which case I apologise.
Mediterranean Quiche: serves 6
12 oz (350g) shortcrust pastry
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tblsp olive oil
1 x 400g) can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano/marjoram
same of basil
4 oz (100g) blue cheese
4 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
black olives, stoned and halved
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Roll out the pastry to fit a large flan tin (remembering not to trim off the excess pastry). Line with baking parchment or foil, and fill with beans, flour, old coins, or whatever you normally use when baking 'blind'. Bake in a hot oven 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 12 minutes. Then remove the contents and reduce temperature to 180C/350F, gas 4.
Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until softened, add tomatoes and herbs and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Crumble the blue cheese and beat (or blitz) with the eggs until smooth, then add this to the tomato mixture. Season to taste.
Fill the flan case with this mixture and dot the top with the olives, sprinkling the Parmesan over the surface. Bake at the lower temperature for half an hour or until browning on the top. Can be eaten hot or cold.