Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quiche Lorraine

It's winter. What a nice time to have a warming quiche.

Quiche Lorraine

(from Heston Blumenthal at Home)

Quiches are quite popular in our house, given a general love of eggs and bacon. Add cream and cheese and it isn't hard to see why this dish is a classic for many a home. So, can Heston improve on a great dish? 
So the recipe has the following steps:
  1. Make your pastry in a mixer. 
  2. Chill
  3. Cook onions
  4. Cook the bacon
  5. Prep your pastry base
  6. Make the filling
  7. Bake the filling in the prepared case
Superficially, apart from the making your own pastry from scratch, this seems like the quiche I'm commonly known to make. But... it's Heston, so no. Not the same except at a superficial level.

Make your pastry in the mixer

This is one of my new favourite ways of making shortcrust pastry. Flour, salty and butter go into a mixer.

Then get processed until they look like breadcrumbs.

Then, switching to a dough hook, gets added some cold water and some egg.

Yup, dough. Very short shortcrust. Feel amazing at how easier that was than using your hands. How old-school you once were.

The lump like this one below (nicely shaped into a flat disc) goes into the fridge to rest, giving the gluten a chance to chill out. (sorry... couldn't help myself).

Cook some onions

Time to get started on the filling. Slice up a lot of onion. Realise you used some of your brown onions on stir-fry earlier in the week and substitute in some red onions.

Into the nice heavy cast iron fry pan with oil...

Now, you should sauté them until soft and golden. Hmmm.. nope, still pale pastel insipid white-yellow.

But here's the thing. Onions, especially slow cooked ones are sneaky sods. The minute, nay the instant you turn your back to finish dicing bacon they will immediately go from  pale pastel insipid yellow to dark golden caramel. Sneaky. You are appropriately forewarned.

Cook the bacon

Take your lovely, from-the-butcher chunk of bacon. Do not buy the rubbish vacuum sealed stuff, you want good quality and thick. About a centimetre, or just under.

This makes for nice chunks. Sorry, I mean lardons.

Cook them in a your frying pan. Smelled so delicious.

Put them aside while you do the next bit of pastry wrangling.

Prep your pasty base

Roll it out to nice and thin.

Line a tart tin with the pastry. Put in some baking paper, and then fill with beans. Or barley, if that is what your pantry seems to have more than you need of.

After cooking for 20 minutes, it looks pretty good.

Unfortunately, then I had to trim off the excess pastry. Doing this does not tend to end well for me.This time was not exception. As for previous attempts, it cracked pretty badly when I did this. It was also not very deep. I am now wondering if extra deep pie tins are a thing for quiche, and perhaps my tart tin is on the shallow end of the tart tin gene pool.

I did fix this with Heston's neat 'liquid pastry' trick. It's kind of pastry spakfilla. Mix an egg and some raw pastry with a stab blender. Use this the cement any cracks, bits back together and so on. It works pretty well. Worth saving a chunk of excess pasty for at any rate.

Make the filling

This is the bit that is really quite different to other quiches I've made, and I strongly suspect ever eaten. You cook the filling on the stove before baking it in the case.

Eggs and cream...

Add the bacon, onion and some Emmental and Gruyere cheeses, plus salt, pepper and nutmeg.

This gets warmed up until it hits 63 degrees.

Yes, it's a savoury, very rich custard. With not as much egg as I would have expected from a quiche.(Only 3 eggs!)

Bake in the prepared case 

You might notice there are two dishes in there. As for my lemon tart, there was twice as much mixture as filled my tart tin. The tin is the correct size, it's got to be a depth problem. Or, perhaps, that Heston-over-zealous-quantities problem again.

Forty minutes later, or more like thirty something, once the inter filling hits 70 degrees, they're done. Here they are cooling off slightly.

And now it's ready to... put in the fridge for 24 hours.  This is apparently to ensure the filling sets properly.


Here it is, nicely golden. Okay not quite that golden, I was having photo issues again. I invited over a friend, warmed up the quiche and we were good to go.



I'm truly left wondering if I've been eating bacon and egg pie all these years, and not quiche at all, because flavours aside, this is quite a different beast. It was very, very rich - something that doesn't always agree with me. I liked the flavours overall but the texture was too squishy for me - I would have preferred it more eggy and solid. Also, super rich foods don't agree with me terribly well and this definitely qualified. I thought was richer than the Chicken in cream and sherry.. which says a lot really.

Guest verdict

Dinner guest was polite and said it was tasty. Husband is more familiar with this analyse-the-dish game and had a somewhat more specific and critical opinion. Namely:

  • There's too much onion. It tastes more like onion than just about anything else. 
  • He liked the bacon but thought the pieces were too big. 
  • He didn't like the custard texture at all - "if I wanted custard, I'd be eating custard. And it would be sweet. And not have onions in it."
  • And finally... "I like your normal one better."
Not exactly a resounding success, was it? Too rich, too much onion...

On the good points, I liked the pastry and would do that again. I'd certainly consider adjusting my usual egg/bacon/milk recipe by adding some cream. And a little onion. But I think I'll stick with cheddar. Very boorish of me, I know.

Next: I'm not sure... but I have Historic Heston now... so... ?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

(French) Onion Soup: the easier way

So I had a bundle full of gentlemen coming over to hang out, play games and be of good cheer. I was asked if I could make them lunch. Thankfully, I was also after a new Heston Blumenthal dish to try - one that scaled well, and didn't take too much trouble for an easy weekend. French Onion soup it is.

Onion Soup

Heston Blumenthal at Home

This recipe makes good use of one of Heston's often mentioned star anise in onion. Which makes sense, because onion soup is largely onion and stock. In a good way. A delicious, caramelised brown bowl of tastiness.

Caramelise onion

To start, take some oil...

 a lot of onion...
 and some star anise.
 Start cooking and stirring...
 Keep going until it is lightly caramelised


Add some butter and cold water.
Then put it in the oven for seven hours at 90 degrees. It will then look a bit like this. Don't worry, it's not as crusty and unpleasant as it looks. 


Remove the star anise

This may take some hunting.
Then de-glaze with some white wine, then cook to reduce the wine away.


Add the liquids

Add the beef stock and simmer.
For 20 minutes.

Then add some Madeira, and let it simmer for another 20 minutes.
Add some more Madeira (I skipped this, feeling it was boozy enough) and salt and pepper.

Time to make the toast!

Pan fry some sourdough in butter.

Smear them with Dijon mustard, cover them in Gruyere cheese and grill.

Serve soup, with cheesy toast floating/wallowing in the thick soup, scattered with artistic chives. Regular chives would also be acceptable.

Lessons learned

  • Recipe, as is often the case for Heston, makes way more than you need. For example, you only need one slice of bread per person. I had all strapping young gents and even they found it plenty.
That's it really. It went pretty well to plan.


Another good, easy recipe that need elapsed time but not a huge amount of active time. Of course, caramelising the onions took longer than the 15 minutes Heston claims, but I've found recipes always underestimate that time. A note to those not familiar with this dish - it is more filling than you'd expect.

Guest verdict

The gentlemen gathered at lunch all enjoyed the soup very much.
My favourite comment was from a guest who'd never had a from-scratch onion soup before. "So this is what French onion soup actually tastes like! I feel like I've been lied to my whole life."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dessert: Banana Eton Mess

Hello all the people reading this. This week I had an influx of readers from Russia! Who would of thought the love of Heston Blumenthal would be so far! It could be my sparkling wit and joie de vivre but let's not kid ourselves, hey?

Banana Eton Mess

Heston Blumenthal at Home
This was a back up dessert. I was pretty worried about how the previous Pain Perdu with Bacon and Egg Ice cream would go, so made this as well.

'Traditional' Eton mess uses strawberries, but Heston says bananas are also authentic. You know what bananas were? In season. So - banana Eton mess it is.

This recipe has a few components:
  • Meringues
  • Hazelnut brittle
  • Banana puree
  • Lime cream


Since this was a second, back up dessert... I cheated an bought some. 

Hazelnut brittle

Roast the hazelnuts in the oven.

Or be lazy and toast them in a frypan.

Now to make the caramel. This is a wet caramel - that is, one that starts out with water in it, that gets heated off. So it goes from this...

To this...

Then we add the hazelnuts...
 And coat them....

 And leave them to cool on baking paper.

Now all you have to do is avoid eating them all before you need them.... Tasty... tasty...

Banana puree time!

After making those hazelnuts, you are probably thinking... you know what this needs? More caramel!

Unrefined caster sugar...

Into a dry burn caramel ...

Drop in some bananas...
Then de-glaze the pan with rum.

Put the caramel-coated bananas into the food processor...

 And whiz until a smooth puree. Pop it into the fridge to chill completely.

Lime cream

Whip cream and lime juice together.


Make piles of meringue, hazelnut brittle, lime cream, extra chopped banana, and banana puree. Top with extra brittle and lime zest! Done!

Lessons learned:

  • Lime juice can be a tad overpowering. Add to taste, rather than believing things boldly like "juice of 4 limes"
  • Bananas should be very ripe. Mine were just ripe, but needed a bit more banana flavour oomph.


  • I liked it, but thought the strawberry sort-of-Eton-mess - Diamond Jubilee Strawberry Crumble Crunch was nicer. 
  • It was easy to make.
  • Lime was a bit overpowering, taking over from the banana which was disappointing.

Guest opinions:

In a case of damned with faint praise, the guests thought it was nice... but just nice.
Super taster husband noted the bananas had a faint 'green banana' flavour that carried through the dish.
The hazelnut brittle was the most well liked component. I'd probably consider making just that on its own. Yum.

Next: French Onion Soup. The laziest version ever.