Smoky Pea, Cheese and Prosciutto Quiche

I love it when I manage to source Italian ingredients from my local supermarkets. Although I normally shop at Morrison’s (mostly because it is the biggest in town), I sometimes like to browse the shelves at M&S for new and intriguing ingredients. Don’t ask me why, but they seem to very interested in widening the range of food they have on offer. Also, they import quite a lot from Italy. True, the majority of the food you find there is overpriced (£6 for 100g of Gianduiotti, seriously?!?) and please be aware most of these goods are specifically packaged and manufactured for exporting purposes. That said, they seem to be pretty much on the ball in terms of sourcing new ingredients, such as new varieties of oranges, etc.

It was in one of my latest trips to this wonderland that I found a close equivalent to speck. I have talked about this ingredient in previous posts, mostly complaining because I could not find it here. Well, now I can (happy me!). True, it is called ‘smoked prosciutto’ and it’s not the original one, but being as close as it gets, that will do. This is a recipe which I improvised to make good use of it – and what better way than to use it in a quiche? The traditional Quiche Lorraine, after all, also includes lardons, so why not stay more or less on the same theme? I added peas and smoked cheese because I think they work well together, but asparagus or cherry tomatoes would also taste nice.

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Ingredients (for the pastry)

  • 225g plain flour
  • 50g unsalted butter, fridge-cold
  • 50g lard, fridge cold
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks (keep one of the whites)
  • 200ml double cream
  • 100ml creme fraiche
  • 2 x 83g smoked prosciutto packets
  • 50g smoked cheese, finely grated
  • 100g peas (frozen is fine)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. To make the pastry, put the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Cube the fat (butter and lard) and add it to the flour mixture, then use your fingertips to rub the fat into the flour until you get a breadcrumb consistency. Don’t overwork the fact or the pastry will be tough, but don’t leave big lumps of fat in the mixture either.
  2. Now add the water. I normally add 4 tbsp icy cold water to the mixture and it works fine every time, but start with 3 and take it from there. Use a round bladed knife to mix the water into the flour mixture and to bring the mixture together. Switch to your hand to briefly work the pastry into a big ball. You are looking for the pastry to be fairly dry and not excessively wet.
  3. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm, gently press it down so it turns into a rough square and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  4. After this time has elapsed, remove the pastry from the fridge and use a rolling pin slightly dusted in flour to roll out the pastry on your work surface. Please ensure to lightly flour the rolling pin and the work surface. Don’t flour the pastry or you’ll compromise the balance between flour, fat and water. Roll out the pastry to a round big enough to line a 20cm fluted round tart tin. Gently press the pastry in place and ensure it closely adheres to the fluted edges, then use a knife or run your rolling pin onto the tin to cut the excess pastry overhanging. Working with your fingers, gently press the pastry upwards on the fluted edge so that the pastry comes approximately 2-3mm over the edge of the tin. This way, when you bake it, the pastry has room to shrink.
  5. Prick the tart base with a fork, then chill the pastry case for at least 30 minutes to relax the pastry.
  6. Move on to the filling. If you’re using frozen peas, gently poach them in simmering salted water for about 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. In a large frying pan set over high heat, fry approximately half the smoked prosciutto slices until crisp, then set aside to cool. Chop then finely, then combine with the peas and the grated cheese. In a bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks, double cream and creme fraiche with a pinch of salt and pepper. Go easy with the salt as the prosciutto and the cheese are already quite salted. Combine with the peas, cheese and chopped prosciutto, then set aside.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Slide a flat baking tray in the oven to warm up. Line the pastry case with baking parchment, then fill with baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment, then bake for another 10 minutes until the base is fully cooked.
  8. Use a pastry brush to lightly cover the cooked base of the pastry with the egg white, then return to the oven for 3 minutes to cook. This layer will make the pastry waterproof, ensure you get a nice crispy bottom and insulate the pastry from the wet filling.
  9. Lower the oven temperature to 180C. Remove the cooked base from the oven and arrange half of the uncooked slices of smoked prosciutto on the bottom so that they evenly cover it. Pour in the filling, then arrange the remaining slices on top in a pattern you fancy. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown on top and fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before removing from the tart case. Slice and enjoy!

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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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