In February 2007 I chanced upon a marvellous cookbook: The Ultimate Recipe Book by Angela Nilsen. It had just been published, so I'm not sure how (or where) I came across it so soon, in the days before my compulsive food blogging.
But I was instantly taken with Nilsen's approach of selecting 50 classic dishes and setting out to define the ultimate recipe for each one. In her quest she used her own considerable skills and knowledge of cooking and also consulted with many expert chefs, food writers and regional specialists to glean as many insider tips and suggestions as possible. Then she tested, tested and tested again, fine-tuning as she went.
The result is this wonderful cookbook, published by BBC Books under the brand of Good Food Magazine (for whom Nilsen worked as Food Editor and then Acting Food Director before creating the Ultimate series of recipes).
In her introduction to quiche Lorraine, Nilsen points out that "what you don't put into a quiche Lorraine is as important as what you do". It's a good reminder that quiches with "salmon, watercress, brie, even broccoli" might be jolly nice but are not Lorraine!
Quiche Lorraine is a simple dish with just a few ingredients. To me, that's where it's beauty lies.
One of Nilsen's advisors for this recipe comments that a great quiche Lorraine should be "like a rich savoury custard with lots of bacon gently set in it. The custard should be creamy, not solid, and the tart slim."
We enjoyed this quiche recipe when we first made it, not long after buying the book but with the huge influx of cookery books I've amassed in the last couple of years, the book had been neglected at the back of the shelf. Recently I yearned for a good home-made quiche and dug the book out again.
Angela Nilsen's Ultimate Quiche Lorraine
175 grams plain flour
100 grams cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
200 grams smoked or unsmoked lardons
50 grams Gruyere
200 ml crème fraîche
200 ml double cream
3 eggs, well beaten
pinch of ground nutmeg
We used smoked Denhay bacon cut into pieces.
We used a strong, well-aged Gruyere and doubled the amount to 100 grams.
As it was the nearest available pack size, we used 170 ml of double cream.
We added the extra egg white (leftover from the pastry) into the custard filling, which compensated for the reduced cream content.
- Make the pastry by putting flour, butter, egg yolk and 4 teaspoons of cold water into a food processor. Process in pulses until the mix binds.
- Line a 23cm diameter flan dish or tin (we buttered and floured ours). Nilsen suggests a tin that is about 2.5 cm in height.
- On a floured surface roll the pastry out as thinly as you can.
- Ease the pastry into the base of the dish, trimming the edge so it sits slightly above the lip of the dish (to allow for shrinkage). Lightly prick the base with a fork and chill for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C (180 C fan).
- Line the pastry with foil and weigh down with baking beads (or any other suitable weight – we used a smaller metal pie tin). Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove the beans and foil and bake for another 4-5 minutes until the pastry is pale golden.
- If you notice any small holes or cracks, patch up with leftover pastry trimmings.
- While the pastry cooks, prepare the filling.
- Dry fry the lardons for a few minutes until they start to colour. Nilsen suggests discarding the cooking fat and draining but we tipped it into the custard mix for added flavour.
- Cut three quarters of the cheese into small dice and finely grate the rest.
- Scatter the cooked lardons and diced cheese over the pastry base.
- Beat together the crème fraîche, double cream and (pre-beaten) eggs. Add nutmeg and seasoning. (You shouldn't need much salt given the bacon and cheese).
- Pour into the pastry base, over the bacon and cheese.
- Scatter the grated cheese on top.
- Bake for about 25 minutes at 190 C (fan 170 C) or until golden and softly set. The centre shouldn't feel too firm.
- Remove from the oven and allow the quiche to settle for a few minutes before serving.
As you can see, our pastry was just a touch soggy in the base, though this didn't detract at all, for me. This may be because we didn't roll the pastry thin enough or because it needed an extra minute or two of blind baking.
This is a really delicious recipe and very straightforward. I definitely recommend that you try it.
Use only the recommended 50 grams of cheese if you want a milder, more custardy flavour.
The Ultimate Recipe Book by Angela Nilsen is currently available from Amazon for just £10.90.
A list of the recipes covered can be found in one of the customer reviews.