I am often asked to share my recipe for quiche. Recently a number of participants of the Conversational English program I coordinate at our church inquired about my quiche, and I promised to give them a copy of my recipe.
Every couple of weeks I am on a roster to provide food for supper, which is an integral part of the weekly Conversational English @ St Andrew’s program. Two weeks ago it was my turn, so I baked a vegetable quiche. It was a great hit. My international friends wanted to know its name, what’s in it and how it is made. They also wanted to know if quiche is an Australian dish.
So, in response to my friends’ queries, here is a little story about quiche and its French-German origins, a few other French culinary delights to rouse your tastebuds, and my quiche recipe.
The name “quiche”
“Quiche” is a French word. You may have heard of Quiche Lorraine. This very traditional French dish is named after the “Lorraine” region of north-eastern France where it was first made. The filling for Quiche Lorraine combines eggs, cream, gruyère cheese, bacon, spices and herbs.
According to Gabriel Gaté, Quiche Lorraine is perhaps the best known French dish outside France. Gabriel Gaté is a French-born Australian chef, author and television presenter. Since 2005, he has travelled to France to produce and present Taste Le Tour, a television segment featuring the best of regional French cuisine. My husband Tony and I love watching Taste Le Tour, which accompanies the television coverage of the Tour de France each year in July.
During a visit to France in December last year, Tony and I tasted an authentic Quiche Lorraine at a café in Strasbourg. The quiche was served with a crisp green salad as a luncheon dish. It was delicious, with a silky smooth soft texture and light pastry base.
Its French-German origins
Some claim that “quiche” is a corruption of the German word for cake, “Kuchen”. This may be so, considering the history of the Alsace-Lorraine area from which quiche originated. Sometimes this area belonged to Germany, sometimes to France. Not surprisingly, many inhabitants speak both languages (French and German).
Today, Alsace and Lorraine form part of the Grand Est (or “Great East”) region of north-eastern France. Alsace shares a border (the Rhine River) with Germany and extends westward towards the mountains (the Vosges). Lorraine is on the western side of the Vosges. For centuries, France, Austria and Germany fought over Alsace and Lorraine. In fact, these regions changed hands four times in 75 years following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871!
What’s in a quiche
A quiche is a savoury egg pie with a pastry crust. Eggs are the main ingredient. Typically, shortcrust or puff pastry is used for the pie crust. Quiche may be served hot or cold, for breakfast, as an entrée, lunchbox addition or with salad as part of a light meal.
When I was growing up, my mother made Egg and Bacon Pie. She didn’t call it quiche, even though today we probably would. As its name suggests, this old-fashioned pie contained eggs and bacon, along with butter, a little milk and chopped parsley. It was an oven-baked savoury egg-custard tart. My mother always made her own shortcrust pastry for the pie crust.
From the list of ingredients in my recipe at the end of this post, you will discover that in addition to eggs I include oil, self raising flour and chopped or grated vegetables in my quiche. Sometimes I add crumbled feta cheese or chopped bacon to the mixture.
How a quiche is made
The beaten eggs, oil and flour form a cake-like mixture to which the vegetables and other ingredients are added. Unlike my mother I do not make my own pastry; instead, I use pre-prepared puff pastry sheets for the crust. I sprinkle grated cheese on top of the mixture prior to cooking. The method section of my recipe lists the steps required to prepare and cook the quiche.
A few other French delicacies of Alsace and Lorraine
When Tony and I visited Alsace and Lorraine last year, a couple of weeks before Christmas (5-7 December), besides Quiche Lorraine we discovered other specialty food and wine, popular in this part of north-eastern France.
At Colmar’s Christmas markets
At Colmar, in the south of Alsace, we wound our way with the holiday crowds along the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, past historic half-timbered buildings to Colmar’s famous Christmas markets. Here the sights, aromas and tastes of the region’s gastronomical specialties and Christmas fare enlivened our senses.
We saw a woman dressed in a Santa hat selling “Manalas au choix” (“choice Manalas”). Manalas are small traditional brioche buns, in the shape of snowmen, made at Christmastime. Brioche is a sweet French pastry similar to bread, but much richer and a little crumbly due to its high egg and butter content.
Next we lingered at a stall selling speck (cured pork, like bacon) and a local Alsacian smoked sausage made from beef and pork. Everywhere throughout the markets, the sweet spicy fragrance of hot mulled wine permeated the air.
In Strasbourg, the capital and largest city in the Grande Est region of north-eastern France and seat of the European Parliament, we had lunch at a little café called Patisserie Barthelemy. The café is an outlet for fine pastries and specialty chocolates. There were so many tempting sweets to choose from. We followed our main course of Quiche Lorraine with an éclair (Judy) and a coffee cream and hazelnut slice (Tony). The following photographs give you some idea of how amazing these and the other desserts looked.
The German influence is unmistakable in this part of France. The Kougelhopf, one of the Alsace area’s signature foods, sounds German to me. In fact, a similar cake is popular in southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It’s a light yeast cake or sweet bread, an upside-down round fluted fruit cake, sold in every patisserie and bakery in the region. The original Kougelhopf contained raisins, almonds and cherry brandy. We photographed these examples on display in a patisserie window in Strasbourg.
In the same patisserie window, we spied the following sweet delicacies. Palmier (“pig’s ear” or “elephant’s ear”) is a French pastry made in the shape of a palm leaf or butterfly. The main ingredients are puff pastry, butter and sugar.
Fine dining in Phalsbourg
Phalsbourg is a small town of about 5000 people, located high up on the western slopes of the Vosges in the Lorraine region, about 40 km north of Strasbourg. Without doubt the culinary highlight of our visit to north-eastern F to give them a copy of my reciping at Phalsbourg’s Hotel Restaurant Erckmann Chatrian. Along with our son and daughter-in-law, we were guests of the chef and his wife, the restauraters.
Here Tony and I sampled some of the region’s specialty food and wine. One is foie gras, fattened goose or duck liver, a popular and well-known French luxury food. After chicken soup with dumplings, we were served a small portion of smoked foie gras as an entrée. For the main course we feasted on venison in a red wine sauce, crepe and vegetables. Our dessert was a tantalizing parfait of cake, chocolate and cherries soaked in cognac, topped with cream. The meal, which consisted of 7 courses, ended with coffee accompanied by a selection of in-house Christmas shortbreads and chocolates. The whole meal lasted 4 hours!
Food for thought
To conclude, I want to share a little French proverb with you: “La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin”, which translates in English as “Life is too short to drink bad wine”.
This is what it means: Aim to enjoy the finer things of life, including food and drink. Focus on those things that are good and positive and helpful. Don’t waste your time and energy on things that do not matter. Life is too precious.
Similarly, here’s what the author of Ecclesiastes wrote a long time ago: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)
5 large eggs
¾ cup oil (I use olive oil)
1 cup Self Raising flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ red capsicum, finely chopped
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated zucchini
handful cauliflower and/or broccoli pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
100 g feta cheese (crumbled)
1 cup grated tasty cheese
¼ cup corn kernels
3 bacon rashers, finely chopped
3-4 sliced olives
- Prepare a large pie dish by spraying it with oil, then lining the dish with pre-prepared puff pastry.
- Break eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat lightly.
- Add oil and flour and mix well.
- Add all remaining ingredients, except grated cheese. Mix well.
- Spread mixture evenly in the prepared pie dish.
- Sprinkle with grated cheese.
- Bake for about 30 minutes in a moderate oven (180 degrees Celcius) or until the quiche is cooked through and the top is golden brown.
- Serve separately or with a light salad.