On this blurry, blustery day, the skyline in Doha is fuzzed around the edges as miniscule sand particles take to the wind. Now, with the school reopening its doors to grateful parents, I’ve got fat chunks of that elusive thing that all parents seek. Time. So, nestling a hot cup of tea while leaning on the kitchen table, I allow myself to settle into a mood that’s been brewing. A mood for flakey, golden pastry, barely holding a cheese drenched vegetable filling. Oh yes, I want that much loved and loathed, 70’s-80’s, buffet party classic. La Quiche.
My mother’s quiche was anything but, a quiche. You have to understand; she is otherwise, an excellent cook, flitting between Indian and ‘Western’ food with ease, a natural. However every ‘Super’ has an Achilles heel and mum’s was pastry. Her shortcrust was more shortbread and she tended to lattice the top of it with pastry offcuts. The filling was a mix of ham, loads of bacon, eggs and something else, something green but I cannot be sure it was spinach. Be that as it may, it was absolutely delicious and us kids were stood at the oven, drooling like pups, waiting for a slice. However… robust, buttery and smokily porky as it was, it was no quiche. Sorry Ma. It was the beginning of a love affair, so I have to thank you for that.
Surfing the web while watching the pampas grass prostrate to the wind, I started noseying around Smitten Kitchen’s blog. And lo and behold, there was a Spinach Quiche. One she has been making for years. And so good, that she blogged about it for the second time. You have to be daft, not to take the hint.
I had a bundle of large, evergreen coloured leaves in my kitchen. I wanted to put them to good use, since; they are not yet quite in season and I have fought hard to secure their space in my vegetable drawer. Apparently, there is much love for this iron flavoured leaf locally. You have to apply a touch of elbowing and shimmying, to wiggle your way within reach of the spinach crate dominated by the presence of the generously sized abaya-clad granny. You don’t mess around with them. Ever. It’s a technique I am trying to master. I got lucky this time.
The recipe is simple itself. Make a shortcrust pastry/pie dough/pâte brisée. Cook and drain the spinach, add it to the cream cheese and eggs, pour into lined tart tin and bake. I used the pâte brisée, as per SK’s instructions and its a doddle to make. It is however, a wee bit unyielding. The best way to deal with it, is between two sheets of cling film. It allows you to maintain the flour/fat ration, stops the pastry breaking and most importantly, is practically no-mess. Roll it out the the desired size, between the sheets, lifting the plastic lined pastry and adjusting it in the tin as you go along. I always do this right after I make the dough. After rolling and lining, I place the tin into the fridge until I need it. Or just whichever shortcrust recipe you like. Puff pastry would work here too.
Debbie says she often doesn’t blind bake the pastry. I wish I did. My oven has the manner of a tempermental soul, turning cold and dipping alarmingly in temperature when something is forced upon it. It might account for the difference between a perfect flakey tart base and an almost flakey one. Placing the filled tart on a pre-heated baking tray might circumvent the soft-bottomed issue, without blind baking. Your call.
After that, I did things a little differently. The original recipe calls for frozen spinach. Which I never have. I will from now on, just so I can make this quiche at a whim. I used double the amount of fresh. This recipe is very forgiving, so a little more or less of the greens will not render your efforts futile. I also added a healthy, generous grating of heady, fresh nutmeg. Spinach can’t do without it.
Can I tell you my quest is over? The pastry was golden, buttery, flaky and delicious. I would say this was the tastiest shortcrust I ever made (should be, with all that butter). That against the soft, iron toned, nutmeg infused, cheesy soft filling was pleasure itself. I intended it as a light supper for us all, but ended up eating a quarter of a 10″ quiche while waiting for dinner time to come round. I couldn’t pass it without cutting yet another, thin sliver. Which when added together, makes a couple of rather fat ones. If my mum were still here in Doha, she’d be my accomplice.
I have been charitable though, putting it out of sight until the family managed to get excellent portions. I did glare a bit, when The Scotsman went in for another helping. Not that he cared to notice. He was courting the quiche.