Real men always eat quiche
Once upon a time, a humble savoury tart became collateral damage in the war between the sexes and its fate was sealed. In 1982, Bruce Feirstein wrote a book exploring male stereotypes called Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, and, reputation-wise, I’m not sure quiche ever really recovered. Which is a shame, because a good quiche is a lovely thing; delicious and comforting, and easy to make.
Like many lovely things, the quiche was born in France, but possibly from an area of France that was once in Germany, as the word quiche comes from the German word küchen, meaning cake. It is thought that similar pies were also made in Britain as far back as the 14th century.
A quiche is essentially any savoury open tart consisting of a pastry crust, filled with a baked egg custard, to which pretty much anything else can be added—fish, meat, vegetables, cheese. One of the most famous and delicious is the Quiche Lorraine, a simple version made with eggs, bacon and cream.
Sadly, over the years, there have been so many crimes against the quiche—soggy pastry, tasteless fillings, served days old—that it is now rarely the first choice on any menu. There has been a craze recently for “crustless quiche” in a bid to rebrand it for the gluten-avoiding, clean-eating generation, but I personally think a dish whose name flags something lacking is always going to make the heart sink. Choose a proper quiche every time, straight from the oven, with its crumbling, buttery pastry clutching a delicate creamy filling.
In France, the quiche is often served as a first course or hors d’oeuvre but I love them at any time with a simple, well-dressed salad. There are a few secrets to a great quiche. First, you have to pay close attention to the pastry to make sure it doesn’t become soggy and lifeless. Always bake the pastry shell “blind” first, i,e. without the filling. The filling needs to be well-seasoned and bursting with flavoursome ingredients, like this roast vegetable version, a thyme-flavoured pastry crammed with Mediterranean vegetables and Parmesan cheese.
It’s irresistible, even for men.
Mediterranean Vegetable Quiche
For the pastry
200g wholemeal flour (atta)
1/2 tsp salt
100g cold butter, chopped into cubes
1 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped
4-5 tbsp ice-cold water
For the filling
4 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, stalk and seeds removed and sliced into 1cm strips
1 aubergine, chopped into 3cm rounds, each round quartered
1 courgette, chopped into 2cm rounds
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
A few sprigs of thyme
3 large eggs, beaten
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt and pepper
A 23cm pie dish or tin
First make the pastry. Put the flour and salt in a bowl, then add the butter and chopped thyme leaves. Lightly rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 4 tablespoons of cold water and stir with a knife until the mixture starts to come together. If necessary, add a little more water, then, with your hands, form the pastry lightly into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for around 1 hour.
While the pastry is chilling, make the filling. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Put the red pepper strips, aubergine and courgette in a large bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, mix well, then tip on to a large baking sheet. Bake until all the vegetables are soft and a little browned around the edges. Leave to cool a little. While the vegetables are in the oven, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons in a frying pan and cook the sliced onions until caramelized.
Reserve a little of the beaten egg, then mix the remainder with the milk, cream, Parmesan, salt and pepper.
Reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees Celsius. When the pastry has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 2-3mm thick, then line a pie dish or tart tin. Cover the pastry base with greaseproof paper, then weigh down with baking beans or dried lentils. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans. Brush the reserved egg over the pastry base (this helps to keep it nice and crisp) and bake again for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the caramelized onions over the base of the quiche shell and arrange the roast vegetables on top. Put the cherry tomatoes on top, cut side up, and pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Bake for about 30 minutes until the quiche is browned on top and the egg mixture is set. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve.
The Way We Eat Now is a column on new ways of cooking seasonal fruits, vegetables and grains.
The writer tweets at@eatanddust
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