|My best piecrust ever!|
We had some of the man's family to stay over Easter, so I'd taken myself to Borough on Thursday in order to be well on top of planning. As a concept it worked a treat, except that I discovered when I got home that I'd managed to leave behind the eggs I'd bought from Lizzie - and what's Easter without eggs?! I picked up some more elsewhere but then popped back in to the market Saturday to show the visitors and reclaimed my eggs, ending up with far too many for the week. Made a rich chocolate mousse for suppper Saturday and still had lots of eggs. Had to be quiche....
I was interested to try using lard to make the pastry - specifiically some I'd bought at Brindisa a while ago that is made from the fat of acorn fed Iberico pigs and mixed with a little pimenton to give a gloriously rich sunset red jar of silky fat. It is fabulous stuff, mostly used till now on hot toast thick sliced and topped, sometimes, with an egg. I'd done a bit of a google and the consensus seems to be that the best balance for shortcrust pastry is half lard/half butter mixed into double that weight of plain flour, then enough cold water to bind. The finished dough was a fairly vibrant orange and after a bit of blind baking it came out of the oven looking like a perfect summer. Crisp and short and wonderfully rich, it was possibly the best pastry I've ever made.
The filling was easy - had a handful of banana shallots that I cooked down very slowly to a soft winey mass, then lifted it with a tiny splash of balsamic for added ooomph. Our visitors were from Cornwall and had kindly brought us some yarg, a semi hard Cornish cheese made from grass rich milk and wrapped in stinging nettles. To keep the Cornish theme running I used a tub of clotted cream that was in the freezer to whip with the eggs, and the whole lot baked beautifully.
Served with a herbed white bean salad and a crunchy mix of fennel, carrot and celery it was a seriously good meal for early spring - now we just need the weather to match!
Cheese & Shallot Quiche
This takes a little while to make as the pastry needs to rest before being blind baked but there is very little actual work involved for this lovely supper. It's such a beautiful colour, you can even pretend it's spring!
Serves 4 - or 2 warm dinners and 2 lovely lunches next day
For the pastry
200g plain flour
Generous pinch of salt
50g lard - iberico if you can get it
50g unsalted butter
About 100ml ice cold water
1 egg white, beaten
For the filling
400g banana shallots, peeled and roughly diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
200g yarg or other semi hard cows milk cheese, grated
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
100ml of cream, rich as you like
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Make the pastry first - sift the flour into a bowl with the salt and cut the lard and butter into it in small lumps. Using just your fingertips, mix the fats into the flour as fast as you can - you want to keep everything cold as possible for the lightest result. When it looks like breadcrumbs add half the cold water and mix in with a knife. Keep adding the water gradually till the pastry comes together in a ball. Push it all together in a ball, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or for a day or two if you're planning ahead).
While the pastry is in the fridge, heat the butter and oil in a skillet over a very low heat and add the shallots and garlic. Cook, covered, for about 30 minutes until you have a soft oniony mess. Take off the heat and leave to cool
Sprinkle some plain flour onto your worktop and rub a little into your rolling pin. Take the pastry from the fridge and roll it out into a circle that is big enough to fit your pie dish - I used a 23cm loose bottom dish but use what you have. If you keep turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll it out you end up with a reasonably good approximation of a circle. When it's big enough, drape it over the rolling pin then gently fit it into your greased pie dish. Use a little ball of pastry to push the edges into the base of the dish so it all fits snugly. Trim the overhanging pastry and put it to one side. Prick it all over the base with a fork then put the pastry back in the fridge for another 30 minutes or so. You can freeze it at this point for use another day if you want to.
Heat the oven to 180C. After the pastry has rested for half an hour line it with baking parchment and fill it with baking beans - I re use about 500g of butter beans that are now almost as hard as ceramic but cost pennies not pounds. Bake the piecrust for 30 minutes, then remove the beans and parchment, repair any little holes with the pastry you saved from trimming the edges and seal it with a little beaten egg white. Bake for another 5 minutes, brush the whole base with beaten egg white and bake for a further 4-5 minutes.
Take the piecrust from the oven and allow it to cool slightly for 15 minutes or so. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and cream together until lightly foamy and season with salt and pepper. Spread the soft cooked shallots across the base of the pie then sprinkle most of the grated cheese on top. Pour the eggs over the top, then sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
I'm a scaredy cat through bitter experience of having more than one quiche leaked onto the bottom of the oven so I always put the quiche onto a larger flat tray to bake - it's way easier to clean! Bake the quiche for about 25 minutes till it's gloriously golden on top and still a bit wibbly in the middle.
Let it sit for a couple of minutes before serving out big slices to go with some fresh salads.
One way or another I will make spring come!