The arithmetic of quiche

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A summer quiche at Michaelhouse: pea, courgette & ricotta

Quiche is not a good word. In smarter cafes than ours the same thing is renamed ‘tart’. But when we tried calling it, for instance, a ‘roast pepper and goat’s cheese tart’ then customers would point at it on the counter and say ‘do you mean the quiche?’. So we’ve succumbed to the inevitable and ‘quiche’ it is.

The key to delicious quiche (and actually most food) is in the balance and the freshness. The freshness is simple but awkward. Simple because the only thing that freshness requires is immediate consumption but awkward because it’s tempting for the home cook (or the lazy cafe cook) to think that it might be convenient to cook a quiche today that you want to eat tomorrow. Quiche wants to be eaten when it has been out of the oven between15 minutes and a couple of hours. If you eat it straight from the oven the custard hasn’t quite settled down and the whole thing is too hot so that you don’t get the full flavour of the eggy/creamy/cheesey custard, but if you leave it too long then the filling will dry out and the pastry will become soggy.

As far as balance is concerned, the main elements to balance are: pastry, eggs, cream, cheese + the headline ingredient. And then some quiches will  benefit massively from a bost of fresh herbs or mustard. The headline ingredient is, for us, usually a vegetable, usually roasted or pre-cooked in some other way. There are also delicious quiches to be made with fish and meat such as Quiche Lorraine (the original egg and bacon pie), or creations using chorizo or smoked salmon. But the proportions then need to alter and so quiches based on animal or fish protein require a different arithmetic. So the numbers that follow are fairly universal for quiches where the star ingredients are the vegetables.

5 ways to go wrong with making quiche:

  1. use milk instead of cream;
  2. use too much custard (egg/cream/cheese mix) compared to vegetables – there should be just enough to bind the veg together;
  3. don’t use enough cheese or use too bland a cheese;
  4. cook it in too high an oven – about 170C is ideal, a bit less if it’s a fan oven
  5. cook it in too low an oven – I think a quiche is much more appetising if it’s slightly browned on top and the trick is to get a slightly browned top without scrambling the egg.

A lot of the smarter cookbooks recommend using half egg yolks and half whole eggs. We use just whole eggs and this provides what for me is the ideal texture.

7 universal quiche numbers
for a 28cm loose-bottomed tart tin about 2.5cm deep:

  1. 400g pastry We use our exceptionally good wholemeal pastry recipe (which you can find in either of my cookbooks) – and I say that as someone who thinks that wholemeal pastry is generally a disaster
  2. 700 to 800g vegetables If it’s a vegetable that loses a lot liquid (e.g. leeks) then use more; if it’s something that retains its volume when cooked then use a bit less
  3. 400 ml cream – we use double but whipping cream is also fine and single cream at a push but (just to repeat myself) don’t use milk or your hard work will be wasted
  4. 5 eggs (6 if they’re very small)
  5. 225g grated or crumbled cheese – a bit less if using, for instance, all parmesan and a bit more if using a less full-flavoured cheese such as Wensleydale
  6. 700g vegetable, prepared and cooked as appropriate
  7. A good dollop of mustard or a 50g bunch of herbs roughly chopped as appropriate

2 steps to make your quiche

  1. Roll out the pastry thinly, put it into the quiche tin and blind bake it i.e. bake it without the filling in until the pastry is just cooked (about 15 to 20 minutes at 180C)
  2. Mix everything else together and pour into the blind baked pastry. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 180C (160C for a fan oven) until the mixture is set and the top lightly browned

Top 5 quiche combos for use with the universal quiche numbers:

  1. Leek, mustard and gruyere
  2. Aubergine, tomato and basil (using half parmesan and half cheddar for the cheese)
  3. Roast pepper, flat parsley and goat’s cheese
  4. Roast courgette, feta and mint
  5. Roast red onion, potato and smoked cheddar

Top 2 places to eat your quiche: Cafe @ All Saints in Hereford and Michaelhouse Cafe in Cambridge!