Tuesday, July 08, 2008


This is a serious throwback to another time in my life. When I was about 14 I was given a french cookbook for christmas - a wonderfully exotic and foreign thing in small town seventies' Australia. I pored over the pages, unsure to an extent even how to pronounce the names, let alone decode the photos.

I think the first thing I made was beef bourguignon - and it came out a rich beef stew that was different dish to the kind of thing my mother made at the time. New and exciting - I was smitten. Next I decided on quiche lorraine, but with a little trepidation. The recipe called for green bacon and gruyere cheese. I had no idea what either thing was - bacon was bacon and cheese was generally cheddar or else processed slices to melt on toast. My mother suggested I try asking at the new delicatessan at the bottom of the hill. Because I had really no idea what I was looking for I remember being hugely embarrassed to be asking. I started off by skulking around the shelves and chiller cabinets desperately hoping that I could find on my own the ingredients I wanted clearly labelled on a prominent shelf. No such luck.

Eventually I asked the woman behind the counter who was delighted to help. She explained that green bacon was simply unsmoked bacon and she sliced me the required amount. She also knew of gruyere though had none in stock. She told me it was a pale coloured Swiss cheese that had a nutty flavour and tiny holes. I must admit I was confused by this description but was too timid to say. She suggested Emmental as a substitute as it would also melt well to combine with the rest of the filling.

I took her advice, went home and set out to make my first quiche, which also involved making my first ever batch of pastry. With the kindness of hindsight I am sure it was perfect but that may well be the blurring of memory. I know I made a lot of them for a while because I was really taken with the way the cheese, bacon and pastry melded in to the most extraordinary shell for the cooked egg - rich, silky, subtly flavoured. I just loved them.

Then I left home and stopped making them - though I have bought quite a few, most recently from Paul. Then the other day, the sun was shining and we were looking to have a simple supper. I had a flick through Larousse Gastronomique and got me a recipe. Obviously, as it is a slightly more authoritative source than my book from all those years ago, this quiche lorraine had no cheese. Cheese is not an ingredient of the original Lorraine recipe, as Julia Child informed Americans: "The classic quiche Lorraine contains heavy cream, eggs and bacon, no cheese." Though most contemporary quiche recipes include Gruyère cheese, making it a quiche au gruyère or a quiche vosgienne. The addition of onion to quiche Lorraine makes quiche alsacienne.

The first one I made was cheese free. The second one, a week later, had some rocchetta pinched into pieces and mixed with the bacon. I lovd them both, but most of all I loved the second one.


For the pastry

250g plain flour
125g butter
A generous pinch of salt
1 egg
3 tbspns of very cold water

Rub the butter into the seasoned flour to make crumbs then add the egg and, gradually, the water, kneading the dough to make a firm ball. Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for a couple of hours.

Split the ball of dough in half, keeping one half out and putting the other half in the freezer for another quiche another day.

Flour the bench and roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a thickness of 4mm/ 1/4 inch. Carefully roll the pastry around the outside of the rolling pin and then unroll it into a buttered and floured (preferably loose bottomed) tart tin or pie dish, 22cm/9inches in diameter, bringing the edges of the pastry up to extend slightly beyond the tin edge. Prick it all over and line it with baking paper weighted with baking beans if you have them or a handful of dried beans if you don't. Cook in the oven at 200C (400F, gas 6) for 12-14 minutes. Take out the beans and leave to cool.

For the filling

250g unsmoked streaky bacon, cut into 1/2 cm strips
1 tbspn butter
100g cheese - either grated gruyere or a soft sheeps cheese (or whatever you need to use up)
4 eggs - the best you can find
250ml / 1/2 pint double cream
Salt, pepper and fresh grated nutmeg

Blanch the bacon for five minutes in boiling water. Refresh under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Melt the butter in a small pan over a gentle heat then brown the bacon very lightly.

Spread the bacon and cheese over the cooked pastry base. Beat the eggs with the cream; add salt, pepper and a generous grating of nutmeg, then pour the mixture over the bacon and cheese.

Cook for about 30 minutes in the oven at gas 6. Serve hot with salad, warm with salad or even leftovers cold for breakfast.
People say you can never go back and it's probably true. But if not, then I would suggest that this was better than the versions I made in my teens and so is very much the product of moving forward.

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