Back in the glorious years of my twenties, I spent a short time in Paris and it might not surprise you to hear that my fondest memory is of eating a perfectly cooked quiche. Don’t get me wrong, the city of Paris was beautiful, the buildings were regal, the Louvre was engaging, but oh… that quiche! The pastry was crisp, the filling still warm, the egg cooked to perfection.
I embarrassingly remember not even making it out of the door way of the patisserie before inhaling the smell from the brown paper bag and there and then taking my first bite. Of course, now that I’m in my thirties, and oh so much more mature, I’d at least leave the DOOR WAY before greedily gobbling down that quiche!
Now there will be those of you who will run screaming from the room at the thought of making your own pastry – yes my darling sister, I know that’s you – but really, stay calm! It’s a little challenging the first few times, but like I say to my 8 year old son – practise makes perfect . With just four basic ingredients, a rolling pin, and a little determination you will be rewarded with a sense of achievement when you make this short crust pastry dough with your very own hands.
There is that point, whilst making the dough, that it will seem dry and crumbly and you’ll wonder where you went wrong, persevere, be patient. The butter and ice water is eventually kneaded into the flour and quite suddenly you will have a smooth dough. You’ll need plenty of flour for dusting the bench as you roll the dough and it should be flipped often to ensure each side of the dough is floured. This will ensure the pastry doesn’t stick to the bench and make a horrible buttery mess.
You’ve probably read some where about blind baking. It’s simply cooking the pastry before you add a filling. It’s not tricky or hard, but is essential for a crisp pastry base. You do this by lining the tart with baking paper – use a large piece – and then weighing it down with rice, or, you can use those fancy ceramic baking pellets. I find the rice works just fine and it can be used over and over again. Store the rice in a container for next time, as once you’ve succeeded with this quiche you’ll want to experiment with other flavours and toppings and you’ll be blind baking pastry cases left right and centre.
I’ve learnt through out my years of baking quiche to keep the filling simple and not over load the flavours. This leek and hazelnut quiche is perfect because the leeks offer a gentle onion flavour and the hazelnuts add a nutty crunch – it’s irresistible. For other combinations of flavoured quiches, as a rule of thumb – two ingredients are sufficient.
So you can see, from a memory years ago, that I hold quiche dear to my heart. And really the only way I will get to relive my days in Paris – as I can’t see myself getting there anytime soon – is baking a quiche, and eating it whilst still warm.
Leek and hazelnut quiche
for the pastry
200g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp ice water
for the filling
1 tbsp butter
2 medium leeks
6 free range eggs
1/2 cup thickened cream
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Sea salt and white pepper
Place flour, salt and butter in a medium bowl. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour, break it up until there’s smaller pea size pieces of butter. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the ice water. Fold the flour in to combine the water. Turn the half made dough onto a clean floured bench and using the palm of your hand smear the remaining chunks of butter into the flour, continue to do this till the dough comes together. Don’t over work it once the butter is incorporated, pat it into a circular shape. Rest the dough for 15 minutes in the fridge.
Meanwhile, pre heat oven to 200C. Slice leeks thinly, place in a colander and wash. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a medium frypan, cook leeks gently with salt and pepper for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside. Grease a 24cm removable base tart tin with butter.
Remove dough from fridge. Lightly flour the bench again and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough. Every fourth roll, flour the bench again and turn dough over and roll on the other side. Roll dough out to a circular shape about 1/2 cm in thickness. Using a rolling pin, roll dough onto the pin – this makes it easy to pick up. Place dough over greased tin and un roll from the rolling pin to fit the distance of the tin. Press dough into the corners and base of tart tin. Again, use your rolling pin to roll over the top of the dough to trim and cut the edges to be level with the tin. Alternatively, you can trim the edges with a small sharp knife. Place the lined tart in the fridge and rest for 20 minutes.
Line the tart with baking paper, fill with rice or ceramic baking balls and cook for 20 minutes. Remove paper and rice and place empty shell back in the oven for a further 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs, cream and chopped parsley in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper. Take the cooked tart shell from the oven, scatter with cooked leeks and pour in the egg mixture. Sprinkle the top of the quiche with hazelnuts and then grated parmesan cheese. Place back int the oven to cook for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 5-10minutes. Eat quiche whilst still warm with a simple green salad to the side.