Monday, 24 February 2014

The French Kitchen Project: 2 – Quiche Lorraine – change of plan, no Tarte Tatin!



This recipe involves one of my culinary fault lines, pastry.

I’m not good at pastry.  My mother Louisa used to say that for pastry you need cool hands, my hands are cool sometimes, but not in the heat of the kitchen. Usually, I reach for the ready made kind in supermarket’s frozen section. But that would be cheating, wouldn’t it? And I think that this particular recipe calls for the real thing, so here goes.

So what have I learned so far? Try to have all the ingredients to hand, don’t be tempted by latte or gossip, read the recipe all the way through before embarking, and remember to take photos.



So this time, reading the recipe through, before I begin, I assemble,  250 gm flour sifted. 70 gms butter, and 55gms baking fat,  cut into small pieces.  So combining the flour butter and fat I rub it all together until it resembles breadcrumbs, as instructed, and voila, I achieved the breadcrumbs.




Suddenly am not feeling so anxious about pastry.  Ooooooo it looks like I may have my mother’s pastry making gene after all.  Now for two egg yolks lightly beaten with two tablespoons of water.  I have real guilt about separating the yolks from the whites, what will I do with the whites? Oh the guilt if I have to throw them away. Unfortunately, I do have my mother’s frugal gene, known by some as the McGahon Frugal Gene (hereinafter referred to as the MFG!).

So mixing the egg yolks and water I pour into the breadcrumb mixture, using a knife in a circular motion to bring the breadcrumbs and the egg mixture together.  At first I start to panic as it does not look as though it is going to form the “ball” suggested in the recipe, but gradually it begins to come together in the ball form.  OK, now the recipe says “knead until smooth”. Knead? I thought only bread is kneaded! Oh what the hell, go for it….  Knead. So I knead, this is quite mindless meditative movement, but I’ll be glad when it’s done, but I am not sure when its done!

Four minutes of kneading, form the pastry back into a ball, because something tells me that pastry in a ball form will make it easier to roll out a round pastry for the round dish.  I hope.  You see I usually make rectangular or square pies/tarts, no really, one its much easier than pastry for round dishes, and two, I don’t waste pastry (remember the MFG).  I have spent too much time, even with the ready made pastry, trying to get the pastry to fit round dishes without waste. And too much time when I’ve made my own pastry filling in cracks in pastry that doesn’t quite fit the dish. So pastry formed into ball, wrapped in cling film, goes into the fridge to chill. And I will chill with a coffee.

Right now, with the upcoming attempting to roll out a round piece of pastry, I really need to follow the pastry into the fridge and chill also. But as Louisa used to say, there’s no peace for the wicked, now to cook the bacon, another pan spitting at me.

 So I take my kneaded, chilled, ball of pastry out of the fridge. Unwrap and lay on lightly floured surface and wield my rolling pin. After about three minutes I swear, I wanted to hit the pastry, not roll it. It’s like trying to flatten granite.  What I really need is a steam roller, not a rolling pin.

I’ve managed to flatten the ball into a semicircle, but it’s far too thick and I am moments away from throwing it in the bin in desperation and frustration and reaching for the ready-made frozen stuff, which I still have time to defrost and have the quiche ready for tea.  And then I have a brainwave, oh yes, somewhere in the cupboard under my stairs is one of those many gadgets that get bought, used once and then consigned to the cupboard, rarely to resurface, and only then to be sold on ebay or donated to the local charity shops.  A Pasta Maker!

Only takes me five minutes to locate the little devil, and I set it up and feed my lump of pastry through it’s jaws, once, twice, three times and I have smooth piece of pastry, ok, so it is no longer a circle, and there will be some waste, (forgive me MFG), but, needs must when the devil drives.  And this piece of pastry was deffo the devil tempting me into a meltdown. So now I have a piece of pastry, homemade, granted not the circular shape I was aiming for, but what the heck, I lay it on the 30cm push up tart tray and hey presto we are half way there. There, I’ve found a use for that darn gadget after all!

So the oven is heating to 180c and the bacon sizziling gently on the pan for 5 minutes, I beat the egg yolks, crème fraiche in a bowl, throw in some black pepper and sea salt with flourishes a la Jamie.

And I really like the idea of some steamed green beans in this otherwise it will look all eggy and pasty coloured, so I quickly steam some beans.
Bacon is ready, lay it on the pastry case, pour the liquid into the pastry case, sprinkle the green beans on top and hey presto we have Quiche Lorraine on it’s way to the oven!

Now it’s time for me to throw all the utensils into the dishwasher, yes I do have one, though it is rarely used.  In fact it is so rarely used that when it is, I have spent time looking for utensils, wondering where they went only to remember that,  we used the dishwasher - but I think I deserve a rest from the washing up, don’t I?

So Quiche Lorraine bakes for 35 minutes at 180c, then the temperature is reduced to 160c and baked for 15 minutes more and hey presto, well it took more than a magic rolling pin, we have supper.

And it wasn’t bad, as it says in the recipe, "once you have tasted the home-made variety you will never want to buy another one again", and I second that.  When of course I have gotten the knack of the pastry making down to a fine art, that does not involve steam rollers!!





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