Quiche echoes in time

In my neck of the woods that old adage that real men do not eat quiche still rings true, writes Hen­nie Fisher

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IT IS not that easy to find good quiche any­where in SA, and it cer­tainly is noth­ing like France where you are bound to be of­fered a good slice at any cor­ner eatery. Alan David­son’s Food Com­pan­ion says that re­luc­tance to in­dulge by so-called he­men in this de­li­cious, any time savoury was be­cause quiches tra­di­tion­ally did not fea­ture meat — and as we all know, men must eat meat.

To­day’s savoury quiches, his­tory tells us, were pre­ceded by sweet ver­sions that were mostly made with sweet pur­ple quetsch plums or golden mirabelles. From there the fill­ings de­vel­oped grad­u­ally into ones made with onions, chopped pork or veal and a cream/egg mix­ture. Quiche Lor­raine the most fa­mous of all, dat­ing back to the 16th cen­tury.

Aclassic tra­di­tional recipe pro­vided by El­iz­a­beth David is made with fried ba­con, dou­ble cream and an egg/egg yolk mix and sea­son­ing. This is of course a very cus­tardy fill­ing with not much to make it sub­stan­tial.

South Africans on the other hand have their own ver­sion of quiche, and I’m al­most sure it would not be pos­si­ble to trans­late it, as savoury tart is not re­ally what is meant by “sout­tert”. I’m not re­ally fa­mil­iar with its ori­gins or how one would make the real McCoy, but af­ter ask­ing around it seems the fill­ing is mostly made us­ing a white sauce (béchamel) base and not a cus­tard base.

A quiche with a sub­stan­tial fill­ing, such as the rather large ver­sion pro­vided here­with, is suit­able for a light meal served with a great salad of con­trast­ing tex­tures/colours and flavoured with a sharp vinai­grette.

Quiche tra­di­tion­ally also was not made with such high sides, and I think aes­thet­i­cally a quiche should have a scal­loped edge. But as an adap­tion of the Lor­raine, this ver­sion with melt­ing onions and darkly caramelised but­ter­nut cubes would make any­one queue up for more. Onions, cooked slowly and ever so gen­tly with just a touch of brown­ing to the edges of­fer a rounded umami taste to this or any quiche, while the but­ter­nut gives sweet­ness to the creamy rich­ness of the cus­tard. A soft melt­ing cheese such as Em­men­thal, Gouda or just white ched­dar mixed into the fill­ing con­trib­utes to a depth of flavour.

The tex­ture of the cus­tard is de­ter­mined, among other as­pects, by the egg, cream and tem­per­a­ture at which the quiche is baked. One is aim­ing for a medium-rich cus­tard with good mouth-feel, fine taste and a good set.

Su­san Purdy writes in Cook’s Illustrated that she tested var­i­ous com­po­si­tions and found that mix­tures with no cream tasted bor­ing, with no creamy mouth-feel. Cus­tard made with half skimmed milk and half cream was not as rich as the mix with half whole milk and half heavy cream. The best cus­tard is made with two whole eggs, two egg yolks, one cup milk and one cup heavy cream. And the ideal tem­per­a­ture to bake the quiche at is 190°C, which is per­fect to cre­ate cus­tard with a creamy con­sis­tency yet hot enough to brown the top. But­ter­nut and Ba­con Quiche For the short­crust pas­try: 300g flour, sifted Large pinch of salt 170g but­ter, ice cold and cut into cubes 1 medium egg 180ml ice-cold wa­ter

Rub the but­ter into the flour/salt mix­ture by lift­ing it out of the flour and flak­ing the but­ter be­tween your thumb and other fin­gers to cre­ate gen­tle lay­ers of but­ter. Aim for some­thing re­sem­bling coarse mieliemeal. Beat the egg and wa­ter to­gether and mix into the dough. Knead a lit­tle and wrap with plas­tic. Keep in the fridge un­til com­pletely firm. Fill­ing: 2 large onions, sliced thinly 2 large cloves gar­lic, sliced thinly 1 packet of rind­less ba­con, cut into pieces 1 kg but­ter­nut, peeled and cubed Olive oil 250g cheese, grated 2 eggs 2 egg yolks 250ml milk 250ml heavy cream Salt, pep­per and grated nut­meg to taste

In the mean­time make the fill­ing mix­ture. Toss the but­ter­nut cubes in some olive oil, salt and pep­per, and bake in a hot oven (200°C) un­til well browned and cooked. Fry the ba­con un­til crisp and the fat runs out. Re­move and fry the onions and gar­lic un­til soft but with a slight bit of caramelised brown­ing. Turn the oven down to 190°C. Line a large loose­bot­tomed cake tin with the short­crust pas­try and neaten edges.

Com­bine the onion/gar­lic, ba­con and but­ter­nut and layer into the pas­try case in al­ter­nat­ing lay­ers with the grated cheese. Mix the milk, cream and eggs to­gether, sea­son gen­er­ously and pour into the case. Place on a bak­ing tray and bake for at least an hour un­til the pas­try is nicely browned and the cus­tard set. Let cool for a bit be­fore serv­ing.

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