Easy as pie

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 May, 2011, 12:00am


Quiche, for me, is the perfect dish for a light lunch - it can be made in advance (although it should be reheated before serving) and, to make a complete meal, it needs only a salad (mixed leaves, or better yet, blanched haricots verts tossed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil). The fillings can be varied: I like to mix vegetables with fairly distinctive-tasting cheese, but the cheese shouldn't be so strong it overwhelms the other flavours.

Quiche with sauteed leek and fourme d'Ambert cheese (pictured)

The custard and filling for this quiche are based on a recipe in Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook. Whipping the eggs, milk and cream makes the custard light and delicate.

The pate brisee recipe makes enough dough for two quiches; wrap the second piece in a double-layer of cling-film then a sheet of aluminium foil and freeze for up to several months.

For the pate brisee:

360 grams plain (all-purpose) flour

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp granulated sugar

250 grams cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1.5cm chunks

About 80ml ice water

For the filling:

3-4 large leeks (to yield 300 grams chopped leek)

20 grams unsalted butter

125 grams fourme d'Ambert cheese

For the custard:

4 large eggs

300ml milk

300ml cream

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3-4 gratings of fresh nutmeg

To make the pate brisee, put the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the cold butter and process until it's the size of small peas. Transfer the ingredients to a large bowl and drizzle in the ice water. Working quickly, mix the ingredients to make a cohesive mass that's neither wet nor dry; if needed, drizzle in more ice water. Knead the dough briefly then divide into two even pieces, shape them into discs and wrap them with cling-film. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

If the dough is too hard, let it soften slightly at room temperature. Roll it out on a lightly floured work surface into a large circle that's about 3mm thick. Lay the dough over a 22cm by 4cm deep quiche pan with a removable bottom and gently settle it into the contours of the pan, taking care not to stretch the dough. Double over the dough at the sides and press firmly so it adheres, then trim off the excess at the rim. Press on the sides again to thin it out slightly and so the dough is slightly above the rim of the pan (this allows for shrinkage when the shell is baked). Chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Use a fork to poke holes at even intervals over the bottom of the quiche base. Fit a large sheet of aluminium foil into the quiche shell and fill it with pie weights or uncooked rice or beans. Put the pan in the oven and bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat and bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake the quiche shell until pale golden, and the dough no longer looks damp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven temperature to 170 degrees.

Use only the white and pale green part of the leeks; the dark green upper leaves can be used to flavour chicken stock. Cut off the stem then cut the leek lengthwise. Cut the vegetable into 1cm pieces then put them into a colander and rinse thoroughly to rid them of any soil. Drain the leek. Heat the butter in a skillet, add the leek and season lightly with salt. Cook for just a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the leek is tender. Cool to room temperature.

Put the partially baked quiche shell on a baking tray. Crumble the fourme d'Ambert into small pieces. Spread half the sliced leek and half the cheese in the quiche shell.

Use a hand mixer to whip the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, cream, nutmeg, pepper and a little salt (the cheese is salty). Whip the ingredients until frothy then pour half the custard into the quiche shell. Spread the remaining leeks and cheese in the shell. Whip the remaining custard again until frothy then pour it over the ingredients to just fill the quiche shell (there might be some custard left over). Bake at 170 degrees for 15 minutes. Check the quiche - if the custard has settled, pour in more so the shell is again filled to the brim. Continue to bake until the custard is set (about 45 minutes in total). Cool for about 15 minutes before slicing then serve warm. If the quiche has been chilled, heat it (whole or in slices) at 180 degrees until warmed through.

Broccoli and garlic Boursin quiche

If you like, substitute soft goat cheese for the Boursin.

1 quiche shell, made and baked as in the first recipe

The custard filling, made as in the first recipe

About 400 grams broccoli

150 grams Boursin

Fine sea salt

Remove the florets from the broccoli then peel the stalk before cutting into bite-size pieces. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to the boil, add the broccoli and boil until just tender - do not overcook. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. Use a clean kitchen cloth to remove excess moisture from the vegetable.

Heat the oven to 170 degrees.

Put a layer of broccoli (primarily the stems) into the base of the partially baked quiche shell then add half the Boursin, crumbled into small pieces. Add the remaining broccoli florets-side up in the quiche shell and add the remaining Boursin. Pour the custard on top and bake as in the first recipe.