I’m currently cooking my way through Mary Berry’s Complete Cook Book, which the Pragmatist gave/lent to me when I moved out for my first full-time job. I wanted to document the experience as a kind of cooking diary, and so “The English Student Cooks” was born. This will be an irregular feature, as I only cook when I’m home on my days off, which is Not That Often.
Method: First, I made pastry (I know, right? Advanced cooking!): I rubbed about 2oz of butter into about 125g of flour (I say “about” because it transpired that the weighing scales I thought we had actually belonged to a former housemate who moved out and took them with him, and also I know you are not supposed to mix imperial and metric measures but I did, OK, because I know roughly what 2oz of butter looks like but I have no idea what 60g looks like) until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs. Then I added 1tbsp of water. And then another, because the mixture wasn’t binding properly, but then it was too wet so I added a bit of flour…and so on. Eventually, when I had something that looked about right (a “soft-but-not-sticky dough” according to Mary), I wrapped it in cling film and put it in the fridge for half an hour.
Thirty minutes of Internetting later, I rolled out the dough and put it into the special quiche tin I bought for the purpose (this whole exercise has been scarily adult), which has lots of tiny holes in to help the dough crisp up and also a fantastic loose base. (It was well worth buying this quiche tin, as I am planning to use it lots.) I also pierced the bottom with a fork to let the air out from under the pastry (although given the air-holes in the quiche tin I’m not sure how necessary this was), tried unsuccessfully to brush it with egg with a whisk (because we didn’t have a pastry brush, and Delia Smith Online said that I could do this instead of baking blind) and put it in the oven for twenty minutes.
Meanwhile, I started on the filling: I fried onions and Speck, an Italian cured ham I bought at Borough Market the other week, in butter. I also mixed two beaten eggs with a truly enormous amount of single cream (250ml!).
At this point, I got the pastry case out of the oven, where it had been for 40 minutes instead of 20 because nothing seemed to be happening. (It actually transpired later – much to the hilarity of my housemates – that the oven had been set to defrost instead of fan, which meant it was at a temperature of about 50 Celsius instead of 220.) Undeterred, I put the ham and onions into the case, poured over the egg and cream mixture, and grated Gruyere cheese on top. Then I put it back into the oven for half an hour, and then another half an hour once the mistake with the oven setting had been rectified.
Substitutions/alterations: I made the whole recipe rather than halving quantities as I usually do, because I know with baking things can get messy if you start fiddling around with sizes and quantities. I also used Speck instead of bacon, because I had half a block in the fridge that needed using.
Verdict: Despite the faff with the oven and the fact that the pastry wasn’t cooked properly before the filling went in and my lack of weighing scales, this was hands-down the best thing I have ever cooked. Granted, it did have a bit of a soggy bottom, but other than that it was cheesy and eggy and bacony and warm and rich, the pastry around the edges was delicious, it looked great, and I still have half left in the fridge for today’s dinner.
Having said that, if I make it again (which I will, although probably not just for myself as it’s quite fiddly and time-consuming), I’ll use bacon instead of Speck, as the ham went quite hard in the quiche and didn’t quite work.