The universal quiche

“’Please, comrade! I just want to chop him up for the stew!’

‘And that’s another thing! I’m tired of stew! I want to put him in a crust and bake a light fluffy quiche!’

‘QUICHE?! What kind of food is THAT for a monster to eat?!’”

Jeff Smith, Bone, Vol, 1: Out from Boneville

The cartoon which is the featured image of this post crops up everywhere in one version or another, on greetings cards, tea towels and much else. But it is old-fashioned – it harks back to the days when you had to go to the chemist to buy olive oil, a time when a quiche was exotic and foreign, and people didn’t know how to pronounce it.

Now quiche is ubiquitous, and not always the better for its popularity. Many quiches are sad, dispirited things, a synonym for tired bourgeoisie. Not something that any self-respecting monster would eat!

But in these days of lockdown, more than ever we need flexible dishes, where the basis provides structure to accommodate whatever is available, or languishing in the fridge. These dishes can be pilafs, risottos, omelettes, curries, soups and salads. And they can be pies and sublime, soft, light, aromatic quiches. 

I’m not alone in thinking quiche is an ideal solution for the frazzled lockdown cook. On April Fools’ day 2020 the director general of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced that he had created a book of quiche recipes dedicated to the ‘all-time stars of British TV’. It included recipes for Quiche Lorraine Kelly, Penelope Quiche… and Quiche Chegwin. Hmmm. 

In any case, the quiche can be further pared down in terms of time by using ready-made pastry, but making the pastry is really dead simple, especially if you don’t bake blind (go here for how not to do that). 

What really defines a quiche? It’s the egg custard filling that’s the key – so it’s the milk/cream cooked with the eggs that gives the quiche its identity. You can have a quiche without cheese (although those with cheese tend to be more successful); and you can also have a crustless quiche, but it is a sad thing indeed. 

Serve them ideally warm… still moist and creamy. But – if you have to, they are not bad cold on a picnic.

how to make a quiche

This is what to do.

how to make a quiche
It should still be slightly fluid inside….

Ideas for quiche fillings

The celebrity among quiches is the quiche Lorraine. But just because it’s well known, doesn’t mean it is the best. And just because you are exploring what you have doesn’t mean it won’t be wonderful. This is the time to let your creative juices flow. Most quiches include cheese – most commonly cheddar and Gruyère – and one or two other fillings which should be already cooked. For some excellent British melting cheeses you can try instead of Gruyère and which you might never have heard of, go to British substitutes for French and Swiss melting cheeses such as raclette, Gruyère, Comté, or L’Etivaz.

  • but try pairing a goats cheese with a peppery rocket or watercress
  • or mix spinach – or courgette –  with feta
  • or salmon and ricotta
  • cheddar, tuna and broccoli
  • tuna, tomato and cheddar
  • any cheese with bacon, lardons, or ham is effectively a quiche Lorraine
  • chicken, Gruyère and onion works well
  • asparagus and blue cheese
  • broccoli and gorgonzola – or goats cheese
  • caramelised onions with cheddar
  • cooked crab – about 150g for four; and cherry tomatoes – about 300g; chives… banana shallots…
  • caramelised leeks and nutmeg (traditional in Picardy, a favourite of Rick Stein)
  • watercress and smoked trout
  • one from Ottolenghi…. butternut squash, membrillo, and stilton
  • leek and mushroom
Leek and mushroom quiche – for this you will need a slow-cooked leek and a couple of large field mushroom, lightly fried.
And don’t forget you can add things to the pastry – a courgette quiche made with walnut pastry is fabulous.
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