Friday, 26 September 2014

Goat's Cheese, Asparagus & Parma Ham Quiche

When I was younger, my grandmother would often make a quiche for a summertime dinner. She would serve it up with some coleslaw and a green salad. I absolutely loved her quiche and in its simplicity was actually one of the most delicious things she cooked for us. Her quiche took its inspiration from the classic Quiche Lorraine and contained bacon, onions and Irish cheddar instead of gruyere as used in the French version. It was truly delicious. I don’t know how my grandmother achieved it, but her custard filling rarely seeped out of its pastry case; I wish that I could say the same!!! It’s one of those baking challenges that I have to admit, I’m yet to achieve on a consistent basis – it drives me mad!
 
Since first eating my grandmother’s quiche, I have had a real fondness for savoury tarts and as I started cooking myself I regularly experiment using different ingredients in my quiches. Perhaps one of my absolute favourite savoury tarts is an onion tart, where what seems like a monstrous amount of onions are sliced and slowly cooked until they reduce down and become beautifully sweet and lightly caramelised. These are then mixed into the creamy custard and baked in the already blind-baked tart shell. So simple – but SO delicious.
 
Here I have included some spears of asparagus, some goat’s cheese and a little Parma ham in the filling for the tart. I was going to sweat off some onions and included them as well, but instead decided to chop up some fresh chives and I added a generous amount to the custard. These were ideal as they imparted a subtle onion flavour which was in no way overpowering. The custard that I made, in addition to 3 eggs was enriched with an extra yolk and some double cream. This along with the inclusion of goat’s cheese and ham does make for a rich dish but, if served with a simple salad, it isn’t heavy or stodgy to eat. In any event, you could use whole milk in place of the double cream, but I like the creamy richness of the cream.
 
I like to serve and eat tarts of this type at room temperature, but it can be served hot from the oven. Any leftovers are perfect eaten as a tasty lunch or snack the next day.

This is not a prescriptive recipe and in fact, I would actually urge you to experiment and try different ingredients in the filling. Sometimes, if I’ve made some pesto, I will add a swirl of it after I have filled the pastry case with the custard and other ingredients – yummy! The thing to remember is don’t pack loads of different ingredients into your quiche; simplicity is the keyword here so just pick two or three and you will be rewarded with a tart that will taste so much more than the sum of its parts!
 

Ingredients:

Pastry:
250g plain flour, sieved
125g butter, cubed
1-2tblsp cold water
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Filling:
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
200ml cream
75ml whole milk
1tblsp chopped chives
150g goat’s cheese (the type that is made in logs), rind removed
12-16 spears of asparagus, trimmed
4-6 slices of Parma ham
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 

Method:

To make the pastry:
1. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over 1-2 tablespoons of water and mix everything together with a fork to form a dough.
2. Turn out on to a lightly floured work-surface and knead briefly to form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the dough to rest.
To blind-bake the Pastry:
3. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan Oven 170C/Gas Mark 5. Place a 23cm x 3 cm deep round, fluted tart tin with a removable base on a large baking tray. Lightly sprinkle some flour on the base of the tart tin as this will stop the pastry sticking when it cooks. Set to the side.
4. Roll out the pastry as thinly as you can, into a circle large enough to cover the base and sides of the tart tin. Press the pastry gently into each of the flutes around the edge of the tart tin. Do not trip the pastry, but leave it so that it is sitting slightly above the tin, to allow for shrinkage that might occur.
5. Lightly prick the pastry with a fork and line with a sheet of crumpled non-stick baking parchment. Fill with dry beans and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
6. Take the flan tin out of the oven and carefully remove the baking parchment containing the baking beans. Set these aside to cool before storing. Gently brush the pastry with some of the lightly beaten egg white and return to the oven for a further 7-10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and using a sharp serrated knife trip the pastry edge so that it is level with the top edge of the tin. Discard the pastry that you have removed.
7. Set aside to cool slightly whilst you make the filling. Reduce oven temperature to 150C/Fan Oven 130C/Gas Mark 2.
Filling:
8. Place the eggs and yolk in a medium-sized bowl and whish together using a small balloon whisk. Add the cream and milk and whisk together to fully incorporate. Pass the mixture through a sieve into a clean large jug. Mix in the chives and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
9. Crumble the goat’s cheese onto the base of the blind-baked pastry case. Tear up the Parma Ham and arrange on top of the cheese. Finally arrange the asparagus spears in a circular fashion (like the spokes of a bicycle wheel) on top of the ham and cheese.
10. Open the oven door and place the baking tray containing the tart tin into the oven. Carefully pour in the custard to a level just below the top edge of the pastry. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until the custard is just set and is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. (I personally like to serve it cooled to room temperature).

Serves 6-8.