Saturday, 23 February 2013

Real men DO eat

I learnt how quick and delicious it was to make Quiche Lorraine from scratch, while sharing an apartment with a very dear French friend of mine here in Zürich. I had always been of the opinion that French food was excellent but living with her was a real eye opener in terms of how the French actually cook view food. My daily repetoire of food was heavily dominated by Italian food, but now I am keen to add more classic French dishes.

Quiche Lorraine is remarkably simple but freshly baked is so much better than shop bought, even if only for the satisfaction of having performed alchemy with milk, butter and cheese. And, although it is possible to buy nice ready made pastry and even ready blind baked flan cases, it really is very simple, quick and satisfying to make your own.

Aside from watching my dear great aunt Ada baking in her kitchen, my first experience of making shortcrust pastry was when I was 11 years old, having my first term of Home Economics classes at secondary school. The fearsome teacher, Mrs Cook (I kid you not!) barking orders at us as we all got our hot little eleven year old hands stuck into the beige ceramic bowls in front of us clouding the room in flour and melting the butter. I don't remember what the pastry tasted like but I remember being put off by this experience.

It is a commonly held belief that you need cold hands to make shortcrust pastry by hand, as warm hand melt the butter in the initial mixing with the flour and ruin the final texture of the pastry. If this was the  case then I would be doomed from the start since I have the warmest hands of anyone I know. Even in subzero temperatures my naked hands feel warm: it can get to -15 here in Zürich in the winter, and if I do venture out in gloves, I have to remove them within a few minutes as my hands feel too hot. As a child, my snowballs always melted as I was making them. However, by following a couple of basic tips, even I can make good pastry by hand.

First, make sure your butter is really cold. Unlike making cakes, making pastry calls for cold butter and not room temperature. Secondly, run your hands under the cold tap before putting your hands into the bowl and thirdly don't work too hard. The correct technique for rubbing butter into flour is a gentle tickling motion, picking up small amounts of flour and butter and combining them as they fall from your hands. It's quite sensual really, but I will stop there.

So here are some photos of my Saturday Quiche Lorraine made with a home made shortcrust pastry shell.

Blind baking the case with beans
add some lightly fried lardons

and some grated Gruyère cheese 
milk, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg

et voilà!


  1. My mother took me to task for not mentioning my grandmother's pastry, but the truth is, I couldn't really remember her making it (she died 30 years ago). But now, I do remember her making rhubarb pie for me as I loved rhubarb, so I am adding this as a footnote.

  2. I shared a similar experience re the nasty cookery's nice to know we have risen above it! Wish I had warm hands! When I make pastry with the kids, it takes forever because it feels so nice.....