Gruyère, Spinach and Bacon Quiche (with Walnut Pastry)

This is another great summer dish and a creative variation on the ‘quiche’ theme. Sometimes I wish I could just pack a big carrier bag and go on a picnic somewhere sunny. Unfortunately, the weather in this country doesn’t allow me to go very far before pouring rain down on me and, after some sunny spells in the past few weeks, you’ll all be pleased to know the weather is back to being cold and bleak. Just wonderful. That said, even if you can’t organise a picnic somewhere, this shouldn’t prevent you from making this dish from scratch and from enjoying it with a fizzy cocktail, possibly in good company.

Rather than being encased by a traditional shortcrust, this pastry is made up of flour, butter and finely ground walnuts. With that in mind, it helps if you have a strong food processor, as the nuts will need to be pulverized. Please be gentle when you handle it as the pastry is very brittle. After all, nuts are not as sturdy as the combination of butter and flour. I have amended the recipe for the pastry to include a whole egg, but if you prefer you can just use the yolk. Needless to say, if you don’t like bacon or would like to make it a vegetarian dish instead, just leave it out. The filling is rich enough as it is and bacon here only brings saltiness and a bit of texture.

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Ingredients (for the pastry)

  • 350g plain flour
  • 100g shelled walnuts, finely ground
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 200g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp cold water

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 150g bacon lardons
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 300g baby leaf spinach
  • 5 large eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g gruyère, grated
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. To make the pastry, add the flour and salt to the finely ground nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the chilled and cubed butter, then pulse again until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the egg and pulse until the mixture comes together. You might not need to add the water but, if you do, just pulse again afterwards to combine the ingredients.
  2. Tip the pastry out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to make it even. Shape it into a ball, then flatten it into a disc, wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, fry the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and dry on kitchen paper. Add the onions to the frying pan, then cook until translucent. Tumble in the spinach leaves and wilt down, mixing constantly.
  4. Transfer the onion and spinach mixture to a sieve and press gently with a wooden spoon to extract as much juice as possible. leave to drain and occasionally squeeze some more juice out.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  6. Take the pastry out of the oven, then roll it on a lightly floured surface to line a 23cm fluted tart tin. You are looking for a 4mm thickness. Cut the excess off by rolling your pin over the top of the tin, then gently ease the pastry in shape and press it lightly upwards, so that the pastry is slightly taller than the dish. Prick the base with a fork and chill for another 30 minutes.
  7. Line the inside of the pastry case with baking parchment, then fill it with baking beans and blind bake the case for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and the beans, then bake for another 20 minutes until the case is golden and completely dry.
  8. To assemble the tin, spread the spinach and onion mixture on the bottom of the tart case, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. This will ensure any remaining liquid seeping out will be absorbed and won’t give you a soggy bottom. Scatter the bacon lardons on top.
  9. In a jug, combine the eggs with the cream, cheese and some seasoning, then pour over the rest of the filling. Bake for 50 minutes, until golden.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, then unmould and serve. Best enjoyed at room temperature or cold.

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