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Goat's cheese and herb quiche

You'll need

1 tbsp olive oil 1 finely chopped onion 1 finely chopped garlic clove ½ cup thinly sliced sorrel ½ cup thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley 12 finely chopped rosemary leaves 8 small sage leaves, torn into tiny pieces 4 thyme springs, leaves only, lightly chopped 2 handfuls English spinach leaves, blanched, excess water squeezed out, finely chopped 700 ml pouring cream (35% fat content) 2 fresh bay leaves A few gratings of nutmeg 5 eggs (65 gm each) 120 gm mature goat's cheese, rind removed, sliced or broken into small pieces 240 gm plain flour ¼ tsp fine salt 180 gm cold unsalted butter, diced into 1.5 cm cubes


  • 01
  • For shortcrust pastry, sift flour and salt onto a work surface, scatter butter over and toss with a pastry scraper or cook’s knife. Sprinkle with the 60ml ice-cold water and toss again.
  • 02
  • Gather the mass close to you and, using the heel of your hand, smear the ingredients away from you in a quick, smooth sliding action. Gather the emerging dough back to the starting point and repeat. Don’t be concerned when streaks of butter appear on the surface of the dough; this shows it hasn’t been overworked. Lightly knead it into a flattened disc, wrap in two layers of greaseproof paper and refrigerate to rest until firm but not hard (20-30 minutes; it should be a tiny bit soft when pressed with your fingertip).
  • 03
  • Preheat oven to 190C. Roll pastry on a lightly floured surface, flouring the pastry and the rolling pin, too, to about 37cm in diameter, lifting and dusting under the pastry as you go to prevent it sticking. Dust off excess flour with a pastry brush, roll pastry over the pin and unroll it over a 3.5cm-deep, 28cm-diameter loose-based fluted tart tin. Carefully loosen the pastry so it sits inside the tin. If there seems to be too much pastry, trim a little off, then fold excess pastry in and over, so it sits just above the top of the tart tin. Use flour-dusted knuckles to press the pastry into the side of the tin to form a thin, compacted wall all the way around that extends above the edge of the tin by about 5mm. Dust out any flour with a pastry brush, prick all over the base with a fork, line with foil and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • 04
  • Fill case with pastry weights and bake until wall appears set (10-12 minutes), then remove foil and weights and bake until base looks set (5-7 minutes). Reduce oven to 170C and bake until crust is very dry and slightly caramelised (10-12 minutes). The pastry case may be made a few hours in advance; reheat it in a 150C oven for 5-7 minutes before adding the filling.
  • 05
  • Increase oven to 180C. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onion and sauté until softened (4-5 minutes). Add garlic and cook briefly until fragrant.
  • 06
  • Stir in herbs (except bay leaves) and spinach. Bring cream, bay leaves and nutmeg to a simmer in a separate saucepan over medium heat and season generously to taste. Add herb mixture and simmer to develop flavour (1-2 minutes).
  • 07
  • Whisk eggs well in a large bowl, then add cream mixture, whisk to combine and check seasoning. Scatter base of pastry case with goat’s cheese.
  • 08
  • Carefully pour egg mixture into tart case, avoiding spillage over the side. (I place the tin on the oven shelf to do this, but it can be done on the bench.) Carefully slide into the oven, bake for 9 minutes, then reduce oven to 160C and bake until just set when tested with the tip of a paring knife; the centre should be firm without wobbling when you shake the quiche (18-20 minutes). Let it stand for 10 minutes, then slice with a serrated knife and serve with a leaf salad.

The scent of savoury custard cradled in buttery pastry as it emerges from the oven is one of the joys of a perfect quiche. The town of Lorraine on France's north-eastern border with Germany is considered the birthplace of quiche - hence quiche Lorraine - but it seems a forerunner called féouse was known in Nancy as early as the 16th century. The early versions had a yeasted crust, whereas today we use shortcrust or puff pastry.

The Alsace-Lorraine region is famous for both savoury and sweet quiches. The savoury varieties are usually made with vegetables, bacon and even rillettes set in custard, while the sweet quiches use local fruits, especially plums. The custard is generally made with eggs and cream, but some versions are part fresh cheese and part cream. The folk from Lorraine, however, insist quiche Lorraine contains only bacon, eggs and cream in shortcrust pastry; never cheese. The standard formula for the custard is three 60-gram eggs to 600ml of cream with seasonings.

The inspiration for the shortcrust pastry I've used here was a visit to the three-starred restaurant Frédy Girardet in the Swiss village of Crissier in 1980. The amuse-gueule was a sliver of onion tart with a shimmering onion-flavoured custard suspended in a crisp flaky crust that I could see wasn't puff pastry. Back in Sydney, my partner Josephine and I experimented with the simplest methods and achieved a near-perfect match for the master's magnificent tart.

I like to use a handmade method for this buttery shortcrust of two parts butter to three parts flour and just enough water to bind it. I sometimes use sparkling mineral water for a lighter crust. The logic behind the formula is to allow space for the richness of the flavoured custard filling.

Sift the flour with a good pinch of salt onto a work surface, scatter very cold diced butter over it, then toss with a pastry scraper to coat the butter. Splash with cold water then smear the ingredients away from you in a downward pushing action with the heel of your hand. Gather the partially combined dough and repeat; the French call this fraisage. The dough will look messy, with streaks of butter through it; these create a mild degree of flakiness to the cooked crust. Repeat this action to make a relatively smooth dough then form into a disc, wrap it in two layers of greaseproof paper and refrigerate it for at least half an hour. Don't let the dough get too hard, however, or it will have to be hammered before it can be rolled and this activates the gluten, causing the pastry to be tough.

Place the dough on a lightly flour-dusted work surface, dust it with flour and rub flour on the rolling pin, too. Roll out the pastry, lifting it and dusting it underneath, if needed, then rotate it and continue rolling until it's about 8cm-10cm wider than the tart tin.

The best tart tin for the job is a metal one about 3cm deep, with a removable base. Dust excess flour off the pastry, then roll it over the rolling pin and unroll it over the tart tin.

The key to a perfect quiche or tart shell is a crust that remains dry and flaky after the custard is cooked, so it needs to be baked blind: lined with foil, filled with weights and cooked for 10 minutes, or until the sides are firm. Metal or ceramic pastry weights are best, but if you don't have these, dried beans are a good option. I never use rice - it takes too long to absorb the heat of the oven.

Remove the foil and weights, and continue baking the crust until it's dry and golden.

Now add any pre-cooked ingredients such as asparagus, eggplant, zucchini or prawns, top with the hot custard and continue to bake. I combine the beaten eggs and seasoned, near-boiling cream, then slide out the oven shelf to add the custard so setting begins immediately once the shell is pushed back into the oven. Continue baking until the custard is set. Take care not to overcook the custard, or it will balloon up and fill with bubbles, and frankly taste unpleasant.

Test close to the prescribed cooking time by inserting a fine-bladed paring knife, which should emerge dryish. The custard needs to rest a little before serving - have a shallow bowl or smaller cake tin ready on the bench and place the quiche on top and gently allow the sides of the mould to drop to the bench, leaving the tart suspended on the base. Have a flat platter or wooden board on hand, then carefully slide the quiche off the base and onto the serving platter.

To cut the quiche, place two fingers on the outer edge of the crust and position a sharp serrated knife between them, with the tip in the centre of the quiche, then cut straight down. Use a cake slice to serve it.

The perfect quiche should have a crisp, flaky, slightly caramelised shell with walls that are not too thick, but strong enough not to crumble when cut. The custard should be silken and set only enough to hold its shape when portioned. The big test is with a soft-ingredient quiche, such as the onion tart we used to serve at Claude's: 2.7 litres of cream infused with an onion and a bay leaf for 30 minutes before being combined with beaten eggs, then ladled into the pastry crust for baking. The tip of the sliced tart would bow to one side, the silken custard just holding within the crisp, flaky crust.
It was a triumph.

At A Glance

  • Serves 6 - 8 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 - 8 people

Featured in

May 2016

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