Say 'quiche' and everyone thinks 1970s buffet lunch: a little bit passé and a little bit gauche. We're not convinced that's an entirely fair judgement. What's not to like about taking just about any combination of flavours that piques your fancy, covering them gently with a blanket of custard, and baking in a pastry crust? You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want, and use as cheap or as expensive ingredients as you want. You can then serve it hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold. Really, this is all kinds of win.
When we first served this, which was at a buffet for quite a few people, the menu plan said nothing more than 'leek and cheese quiche'. Credit must go to Neal's Yard Dairy, in Covent Garden, whose staff spent a good twenty minutes in conversation with DEB and let her try all manner of their produce, before she settled on a Childwickbury goats' cheese. For those of you not fortunate enough to have Covent Garden five minutes' from their office or liberal access to small Hertfordshire cheesemakers, you're looking for a light, fresh, firm goats' cheese, to complement your tender, young leeks, both of which will have their flavours accentuated by the addition of lemon.
If you want to make your own shortcrust pastry, go right ahead. If you prefer to use ready-made pastry, we won't tell.
Ingrediments serves eight to ten as part of a buffet
- 3 long thin leeks — sliced (preferably in ½ cm (¼ inch) rounds, but we're not too fussy)
- Knob of butter — be generous
- 200g (7oz) goats’ cheese — in ½ cm (¼ inch) cubes
- 500g (1lb) short crust pastry — store bought or homemade (there'll be some spare, freeze it, use it to make jam tarts...)
- 3 eggs (although we happened to use 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks, because they were kicking around and needed a good home)
- 350ml (12floz) full-fat milk
- Rind of one lemon
Preheat your oven to 180° Celsius.
Melt a generous knob of butter (really, this recipe comprises pastry, full-fat milk, and cheese, you will not save your arteries or cholesterol level by skimping on the butter), perhaps with a splash of oil to prevent it from catching, in a large pan. Toss in the leeks, mix about to coat them with fat, and let them cook gently until soft and beginning to caramelise. This will take around 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, roll out your pastry to approximately 5mm (¼ inch) thick and use it to line a 24 cm (9½ inch) flan dish, trim the excess from the sides, prick the base all over with a fork, and blind bake. We couldn't find the DEB-family jar of rice and pulses that is used for the purpose, it must've got lost in the recent house-move; so a slightly smaller flan dish was shoved on the pastry, instead. 20 minutes in a hot oven.
Pour the milk into a measuring jug, beat in the eggs, add most of the cheese, season with salt and pepper, and grate in the lemon rind.
When the pastry shell is ready, remove from the oven, and remove the baking beans, selection of old rice and pulses, small container, or bag of crushed child, that you have been using to weight it down. Replace with the leeks, and then pour over the egg/milk/cheese mixture. Add the rest of the cheese in places where it's looking a little under-represented, and then return to the oven for about 40 minutes. When it's cooked the custard should be set, but still give to your touch, and will have a golden tinge.
We said it serves eight to ten people as part of a buffet, but it might serve a single, very hungry person. If you're lucky.