We got back from a long New Year’s weekend on a farm clutching fresh eggs from the cuckoo marans that pecked around the muddy yard. I may have clutched them a little hard as one or two were broken by the time I unpacked them along with the freshly liberated holiday cottage book I was halfway through. Karmic, perhaps.
The beginning of the year is a great time for excitement and cosiness. The gloriousness of Christmas may be over with skeletons of trees littering the streets and limp unilluminations dripping from town centre lampposts, but that is no reason to not carry the spirit a little further. Joyful January is a perfect time to keep those candles burning, read more books and generally treat yourself kindly. And that goes for food too. This is not the time for kale and hemp smoothies and press-ups at dawn. By all means do that if you want, but it wont last.
Now is the winter of our content, made glorious by this quiche of Lorraine. It’s a pleasure to make, comforting in its method and taste. Rich, bacony and filling, this kind of dish on a grey and raining January day should surely lift the spirits a little and make the kitchen a brighter place with its matronly wobble as it comes out of the oven. And I find making your own pastry to be a calm and thoughtful exercise, and that can only be a good thing, any time of year.
For the pastry:
60g self-raising flour
140g strong plain flour
95g cold butter, cut into large flakes
A few tablespoons of very cold water
For the filling:
160g lardons (mine were apparently “outdoor bred”. I have no idea how you breed lardons)
4-5tbsp creme fraiche
A knob of melted butter and a splash of milk
75g grated Emmental or Gruyere, plus extra to sprinkle
A good grating of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Make the pastry by putting the flour, salt and butter in a large bowl. Mix well and quickly with your fingertips until it becomes as soft and powdery as sawdust. It’s a good idea when making pastry to keep a bowl of iced water nearby to keep your hands cool, this helps stop the pastry becoming greasy with melted butter and gives a crisp finish.
Mix in the water with a rounded knife until you start to get a soft dough. Don’t add to much so it becomes sticky.Wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for about half an hour. You can make the pastry in the food processor if you lack the time or enthusiasm, but you’ll then have to wash that up, so why bother?
Make the filling by sautéeing the lardons until crisp, then deglaze the pan with a splash of water and transfer to a bowl.
Heat the oven to 190c/gas 7, and line a greased 18cm quiche tin. (I think ‘Pam’ is a wonderful invention for this job).
Roll out the pastry and line the tin with it. Chill for a further 10-15 minutes then line with paper and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, prick the pastry base all over with a fork and return to the oven for five to ten minutes, until it looks drier and has an even colour.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the milk and butter then add them to the lardons with the cheese. Sir well and gently fold in the creme fraiche until well mixed. Season a little with nutmeg, salt and pepper and then pour into the pastry, sprinkle with a little more cheese, turn the oven down a little and cook for 30-35 minutes, until golden and set with a little wobble.
Leave to cool for a bit, this is far better eaten warm than hot, and serve with a zingy green salad. And smile, for God’s sake, it’ll soon be Spring.