If you’ve ever made a quiche Lorraine with Gruyère or called a savory tart with tuna a ‘quiche’, you’ve committed a grave offence.
THE REAL DEAL
Well, at least according to the Syndicat National de Défense et Promotion de l’Authentique Quiche Lorraine (SNDPAQL) or National Union of the Protection and Promotion of the Authentic Quiche Lorraine (and no, I am not making this up, they really exists). Their aim is to protect the treasured plat régional of the Lorraine region in northeastern France and one of the most well-known French dishes. But what exactly classifies as a ‘quiche Lorraine’?
According to the SNDPAQL: “There is NO cheese or onions in an authentic quiche Lorraine and certainly no leeks, salmon, broccoli or other absurdities. Such dishes are nothing more than savory tarts (tarte salée) and should never be called a ‘quiche’, or worse – ‘quiche Lorraine’.
It sounds logical that a savory tart with chicken or tuna should not be called a ‘quiche Lorraine’. But why can’t it simply be called a ‘quiche’? Because an authentic quiche (which comes from Lorraine) consists of good bacon (not from a pack, but pieces cut from a chunk) and a migaine or cream mixture made from fresh eggs, crème fraîche, a little salt and pepper, and some nutmeg… “et rien d’autre !”
On the SNDPAQL’s Facebook page, there are heated discussions about the quiche’s authenticity. One picture showing a few different quiches in a French bakery reads: “Crétin de boulanger de merde!” They obviously did not approve of the variations with vegetables and cheese!
YOU MEAN ‘KUCHEN’?
What they probably won’t tell you is that the origins of quiche are probably not French but German. It is believed that the first quiche (or kuchen) was made in 1373 in Lorraine, which was then part of the German Empire. The crust was a simple bread dough (not the rich pastry used today), the filling was made with milk instead of crème fraîche and it probably did not have bacon. The savory tart was cooked in a cast iron mold of approximately eighteen centimeters. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the variation we know today started to gain popularity. It is even mentioned in the ledger of Philippe de Rarécourt’ Maître d’Hôtel to Charles III. Apparently, the duke was particularly fond of the tart. The word ‘quiche’, however, probably dates to the beginning of the 19th century.
With its simple ingredients and preparation, the quiche Lorraine is a prime example of regional French cooking or cuisine du terroir. Though the SNDPAQL does not approve of all the quiche variations we have today, it is this versatility that makes the quiche such a loved and popular dish. As for me, I will call continue to call it a ‘quiche Lorraine’ if it has bacon, crème fraîche and eggs, and a ‘quiche’ if it has other ingredients. And I think most of France will agree with me.
Whether you choose to call it a quiche or a tarte salée, this dish is wonderful for lunch, as a light meal or as part of an informal buffet. Here is my recipe for an authentic quiche Lorraine, which I’ve kept traditional – in other words, sans fromage. But first, my recipe for a perfect quiche crust. Use the best ingredients you can get as it will make all the difference.
Perfect quiche crust
For a healthier crust, you can use whole wheat flour. I sometimes like to flavor my crust with ingredients such as dried herbs and mustard powder.
Makes 1 crust for a 25cm quiche pan
- 200g all-purpose flour
- 125g cold butter cut into small cubes
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- One egg, whisked
- Iced water, if needed
Mix flour with butter and salt in processor at low speed for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the whisked egg and pulse until the dough comes together into a ball. If the dough seems dry, add a drop or two of iced water. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 40 minutes. Grease a 25cm quiche pan with a little olive oil. Roll out your dough on a floured surface and drape it over the prepared quiche pan pressing it up against the edges. Trim off any excess dough. Prick the dough with a fork all over its surface and refrigerate for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 190°C, crumple a piece of parchment paper, place it on the crust and weigh it down with baking beans. Blind bake the crust for 10 minutes. The crust is now ready to be filled.
Classic quiche Lorraine
For best results, buy yourself a nice chunk of bacon at a good butcher and dice it yourself. Serve the quiche Lorraine with a green salad, a mustardy vinaigrette and a cool glass of Riesling.
NOTE: The quiche may puff while cooking, but will deflate while it cools.
- 1 round baking dish (25 cm) lined with crust
- 2 tbsps breadcrumbs
- 200g diced smoked bacon
- 250ml crème fraîche
- 4 eggs
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- White pepper
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Fry the bacon in an ungreased frying pan until they turn golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle the bottom of the quiche crust with the breadcrumbs (this will prevent it from getting soggy) and top with the bacon. Gently whisk the crème fraîche, eggs and nutmeg. Pour the custard over the bacon. Bake the quiche for 35-40 minutes. Check halfway through the cooking time to see if the crust is not getting too dark. Should that be the case, cover with aluminium foil. Allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving.