Just One

If I had to keep just one cookbook, it would be a red hardback wrapped in a bright blue sleeve with a lobster on the front, a single volume which comprises three of Elizabeth David’s classics of the kitchen; Book of Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking and Summer Cooking. I might have a moment of doubt and consider Jane Grigson’s ‘Good Things’ or my dog-eared copy of ‘English Food’. I may clutch my battered copy of Simon Hopkinson’s Roast chicken and Other Stories closely for a moment, but my definitive choice, my desert island trilogy, would be my crustacean adorned copy.

Elizabeth David is not just my favorite food writer, she’s one of my favorite writers and one of the reasons I absconded to Italy. For years I’ve returned to at least one of her eight books or one of the two anthology’s of her articles, letters and notes – which are invariably scattered all over my flat – most days, be it in the kitchen, in a chair, writing here, or last thing at night in bed. Her introduction to Mediterranean food, description of Provence in French Provincial Cooking and anything from An omelette and a glass of wine are all favorites to fall asleep to.

She is a masterful writer: scholarly, witty, informative, elegant, fiercely opinionated, and the passion and enthusiasm with which she communicates her love of good food, well cooked is contagious. Her writing, essays, descriptions of weather, food, herbs, colours, smells, tastes, and of course her meticulously authentic recipes collected during her travels in France, Italy, Corsica, Malta, India, Eygpt and Greece are timeless (she began writing in the 1950′s) and as bright and brilliant as sunshine. But for all their bright brilliance, Elizabeth David’s books, illustrated with John Minton’s black and white drawings, are also a refuge, evoking a way of cooking and thinking about food so entirely different from the loud, fussy, over styled but often hollow food culture I can (and do) bombard myself with.

Over the last five months Elizabeth David has mostly been a bedside companion. But now I’m emerging – sleep deprived, disoriented, quite grumpy but uncharacteristically content – from my postnatal vortex and my very bonny five and a half month old son, if armed with a wooden spoon and a Tupperware lid, is happy to bounce away in the doorway, I’ve started working my way through the fringe of bookmarks. The first being Quiche Lorraine.

In truth, this particular recipe for Quiche Lorraine from French Country Cooking has been bookmarked for years rather than months and the food memory behind the bookmark is decades rather than years old. Two and a half decades to be precise, 25 years, since I ate a slice of Quiche Lorraine at the vast kitchen table of the Renault family during my traumatic but gastronomically revelatory French exchange with the horrid Carolyn I was 14. I even mentioned this recipe when I wrote about savory tarts a while back. But I never made it. Then the other week my friend Ruth came over for lunch and I wanted to make something tasty, simple and nice, a thank you of sorts for all the meals her and her husband have made for me. The bookmark for the Quiche was particularly prominent, a postcard from France no less, so I finally made this Quiche.

This is the Quiche Lorraine I ate in France all those years ago, simple, authentic, understated and very delicious. Short, crumbly, flaky pastry – made with plenty of good butter and some lard – encasing a delicate, quivering, softly set filling of fresh thick cream and eggs studded with chopped bacon. This is my Quiche touchstone, the example which shames all the crimes against Quiche I’ve had the misfortune to encounter, those heavy leaden triangles of heartburn inducing pastry filled with rubbery custard and stuffed to the gunnels with too much cheese, béchamel, three types of vegetable, pineapple, two paperclips and goodness knows what else.

This may seem a mere slip of a Quiche if you are used to heftier more elaborate things! But I assure you it’s a lovely slip of a Quiche.  Unfashionably rich and unhealthy by todays standards, what with all the butter, lard, bacon and cream and just my sort of thing. My sort of thing too I can hear you shouting, hooray for butter, lard, bacon and cream. And after all, there will be salad too, crisp and green, hopefully with some bitter leaves to contrast the soft dairy creaminess of the Quiche.

It is pretty straightforward to make and involves four nice kitchen tasks all of which I am happy to interpret as dance moves if given the appropriate quantity of alcohol; rolling, tucking, frying and whisking. First you make the pastry by rubbing butter and lard into flour (with a pinch of salt) until it reassembles breadcrumbs, adding some very cold water and bringing everything together into a ball. You chill the pastry for a while before rolling it out into a circle and tucking it into a tart tin, preferably one with a loose base.  Then the frying, of the diced bacon – the smell of which along with thoughts of roast beef brought was the smell that brought me back from the other side . Finally the whisking together of the thick, fresh cream – luscious and lovely - with two eggs. Once you have sprinkled your diced, fried and provocatively smelling bacon into the pastry case and poured over the pale yellow mixture you manoeuver your Quiche (set on a baking tray)  into the oven, bake it for 30 minutes for so or until it’s set but still with a slight wobble, blistered and golden.

The Quiche is best about 20 minutes after coming out of the oven, so it has time to settle and the filling firm up a little. Also the  texture and flavors – as is so often the case – are best appreciated when the Quiche is warm as opposed to hot.

It seems appropriate that I give you Elizabeth David’s recipe as she wrote it - word for word – in French Country Cooking. I have however added metric measurements and some of my own notes at the end.

Quiche Lorraine

From Elizabeth David’s French Country Cooking

For six people

  • 6oz / 180g flour
  • 2 oz /60g butter
  • 1 oz / 30g dripping / lard
  • 6 rashers bacon
  • 1/2 pint / 250 ml cream
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 gill / 75 ml of water

Make a pastry with the flour, butter, dripping, a pinch of salt and the water. Give it one or two turns and then roll it into a ball and leave it for 1 hour.

Line a flat buttered pie tin with the rolled out pastry. Onto the pastry spread the bacon cut into dice and previously fried for a minute. Now beat the eggs into the cream with a little salt and ground pepper; when they are well mixed, pour onto the pastry, put into a hot oven and bake for about 30 minutes.

Let it cool a little before cutting and serving.

My Notes.

I only used 50ml of water. I think very very cold water (I add an ice-cube to the measuring jug) is best. I rest my pastry in the fridge. My tart tin has a loose bottom. I bought it here. It is a trusty tart tin. When I roll the pastry out and tuck it in the tin, I leave a pastry overlap which compensates for any pastry shrinkage when it cooks. I make sure I press the pastry firmly into the tin. I don’t worry about neat tart edges. I set my oven to 175°. I bake my tart case blind for 10 minutes before adding the filling. When I bake blind I don’t use baking beans, I simply pick the pastry with a fork – the pastry may well puff up but it quickly sinks down again. I use double, heavy cream. I think the tart is best eaten about 20 minutes after coming out of the oven.

46 Comments

Filed under antipasti, cream, Eggs, fanfare, food, pies and tarts, summer food, tarts

46 responses to “Just One

  1. I can relate to you cherishing your favorite cookbooks especially the ones written by the likes of Elizabeth David. Thanks for reminding me of this simple and delicious quiche.

  2. My very dear friend was well-known in New York culinary circles. When she died almost six years ago, the famous funeral parlor on the Upper East Side was standing room only. I had known her since I was sixteen and she was eighteen, long before she was a classically-trained chef who went on to head a New York culinary arts program, classically training chefs herself.

    At her request, after she died, her husband asked me to go through her cookbooks and take what I wanted. First, I wanted to make sure he had kept the really good ones for himself so I pulled a few out of the box he was donating to her school’s library to go back on his shelf. What I took for myself, with his gracious permission, was a little English Penguin paperback boxed set of Elizabeth David’s cookery books. I already had these books in hardback on my shelf at home, but now those reside side-by-side with the books my friend used and notated. So in addition to reading the always lovely words of Elizabeth David, I get to see which of those words my friend paid attention to and most treasured.

    That is glorious. And so is your post.

    • rachel

      What a terrific story – I’d like to hear more about this friend and the dinners she cooked for you! Oh and the notes, I’d love to know what she wrote, and on which recipes. Her books on your shelf seem a very fitting and quite lovely way way to remember her as you cook.

  3. She is masterful, to be sure. Thanks for the reminder to make a quiche. It has been too too long. And how about Patience Grey? She seems right up your alley too.

  4. Delicious looking quiche, nothing like a little butter, butter and cream to make for one very happy eating experience! Beautiful boy too.

  5. laura

    What a lovely surprise this morning! Happy First of March and thank you for your splendid post and tribute to Elizabeth David. Luca is a very bonny boy, indeed.

  6. I’d like to faint into that quiche

  7. You always get it just right!

    Timely too: my Granny just gave me her second edition of Italian Food, with those blocky, alive Guttuso illustrations. Stunning. And the instructions!

    “into your last glass of white wine after luncheon slice a peeled yellow peach. Leave it a minute or two. Eat the peach and then drink the wine.”

    What could be better than that?! Buona giornata, ragazza.

    • rachel

      Buona Giornata to you too. Hope it is a nice day wherever you are ?
      I know that passage from italian food and I agree it is pretty perfect. Lucky you to have original editions of ED – they are collectors items now – hang on to them.

  8. I remember eating Quiche Lorraine a lot in the Seventies, when I was a child and it was very fashionable. And then it sort of disappeared, just a couple of appearances in as many decades. Now, after seeing those pics of yours, I wonder why?

    • rachel

      I did too, it was an English dinner party, picnic, summer buffet standard in the 70′s – I don’t know about you? but most of the ones i encountered were pretty terrible, big leaden things full of god know what suspended in rubbery egg custard. It was a good thing they did fall out of fashion.

  9. How could you have known there was fresh lard, thick bacon and local eggs in the kitchen? There will be quiche. Thanks to your inspiring prose channelling Elizabeth David.

    You had me at “slight wobble”.

    • rachel

      I would expect no less from your fridge! And apart from quiche, I want to come over to you for an egg and bacon breakfast!

  10. I’ve dipped in and out of Elizabeth David but haven’t, yet, just sat down to absorb her words. I think I need to do that. I also think I need to make quiche, it always makes me think of eating lunch in my parents garden – quiche, a green salad, maybe some perfect jersey royals… can you tell I want it to be summer?!

    • rachel

      Gemma – with your love of words and books and your writing style, you will love her. I think you should sit in your parents Garden with Elizabeth David’s An omelet and a glass of wine (a compilation of her essays, letters and notes.)

  11. A beautiful, delicate quiche like this one next to delicate greens dressed in lemon juice and olive oil with a glass of wine, preferably sitting outside, is my idea of the perfect meal.

  12. Elizabeth David has directed so much of my eating life. And so my cooking. This quiche of hers I was first introduced to by a french exchange family who left me mute with shyness most of the time – except for meals. And now, when I see a perfect quiche fresh out of the oven in a french patisserie it makes my heart lift. That short journey home (the important 20 mins!) is all the better for the anticipation.

    • rachel

      Kate – so We not only have a love of ED but mute French exchange dinners in Common! I hope your Exchange wasn’t as horrid as mine though? I still growl when I think of how Carolyn humiliated me in front of her mean friends. I have to say I got my own back – a little – when she came back to England with me though.

  13. Hi Rach, I loved reading your fanfare to Ms. David, and I daresay that your writing is comparable in many ways to hers. I have also noticed that the much maligned Lard is making a comeback
    (Praise the Lard! we say in the South)
    embraced again by chefs for its uncanny abilities with baking and frying.
    Ah, the bonny one, Luca is growing so fast.
    xN

    • rachel

      I think you are right, there is a bit of a lard comeback at the moment. Good!. Praise the lard – Brilliant and my sentiments exactly. My granny made excellent pastry for pies with lard – it was delicious.
      Yes, he is growing fast, a little boy now and desperate to roll or crawl (think the roll will be any day now but the crawl a while). Hope all is well in nashville.

  14. Zea

    i never eat french food. but, i believe that your cake is one of delicious french foods. greet you from Asia.

    • rachel

      Greetings to you too and if you do fancy trying your hand at French food Zea, I highly recommend Elizabeth Davids book French provincial cooking!

  15. I am not overly familiar with Elizabeth David, but will be after a trip to the bookstore tomorrow.Your post is beautiful.

  16. Suse

    Elizabeth David’s gravestone glories, subtly, in mediterranean food stuffs http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10447196. Her true memorial, though, is here in all our kitchens – in this quiche of yours, Rachel, in every paper-thin sliver of Parma Ham with just a little cold, unsalted butter that I relish, in all the pleasure your correspondents here, and thousands of others, re-create from her lively literary legacy. Keep on cooking. And eating. And writing.

    • rachel

      What a lovely comment and I agree with you wholeheartedly – She does live on in our kitchens, our food, the way we eat. You have also reminded me of the parma Ham passage (I have neglected Italian food lately). Without sounding morbid, I would like to visit her grave one day – fancy coming along?

      • Suse

        Absolutely! Some time when you’re in the UK, and free for a little countryside outing – would be great to make it happen.

  17. Y’know, I’ve never really read much in the way of Elizabeth David, but I suspect her influence is there in my cooking never the less. It sounds like many of the cookery writers I read owe a lot to Elizabeth and her opening of the UK brain to Mediterranean foods. I wonder if Claudia Rodin and Madhur Jaffery will ever be considered to have the same influence?

    The quiche sounds like a real treat, even if it is one to have in moderation (something a lot of modern eaters like me struggle with i tink), with a glass of light red and a salad.

    • rachel

      I think Claudia Roden might! It sounds like we may like similar food writers so I recommend ED – maybe the weighty but excellent French Provincial cooking.
      With a glass of light red and a salad – quite!

  18. It does look “a lovely slip” and I want a slice with a salad, just as you mention it, with some bitter leaves. Soon.

  19. Mmmm. Quiche Lorraine was one of the first things I remember cooking in the kitchen with my mom. Thanks for conjuring up such a warm memory with your beautiful words and pictures.

    • rachel

      I remember cooking rice pudding with my mum when I was really tiny. Always glad to conjure up happy cooking memories.

  20. Ella

    Hello from London town, I have been reading your blog for a few weeks and thought it time to stop lurking! such inspiring and beautiful writing- thankyou. A welcome distraction from the daily commute on the old 149 bus! Have made your walnut pesto (though confess to not skinning the walnuts which I will next time..) which was so delicious… and soon to try the yog pot cake..yum yum. Look forward to your next post x

    • rachel

      I am trying to remember the route of the 149? But I can’t which is really frustrating as I used to consider myself pretty savvy with London buses.
      Hope you do try the cake and more importantly it turns out well. Thanks for message.

      • Ella

        Jus saw your reply- am new to the ways of blog land! The 149 bus goes Edmonton- hackney down to London Bridge..

  21. I also absolute love Elizabeth Davids’s books! They are an ongoing source of inspiration, the ones I return to over and over again and the stable of my cookbook collection. Without her books, I might never have become as interested in food, its culture, history and ability to connect different times, places and people, as I am now. Thanks for the post :-) (By the way, her tarte
    á l’oignon is also brilliant).

  22. this is precisely the quiche i intended to make this week, after far too many quiche-less years. how fortuitous and lucky to have come over to catch up. this shall, with any luck, be our dinner before friday.

    welcome to the second six months! they are pretty majestic (still exhausting, yes, but grand fun!)

  23. Pingback: Recipes to Try | Live and Learn

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