Coronavirus has changed life as we know it. In the space of a week we have been told to work from from home and not to go to bars and restaurants, which were forced to close their doors for the foreseeable future last Friday. I worry how many may never open again. While the virus has hit many industries hard, the hospitality industry has had a particularly tough time of it. In the capital, many have nimbly adapted at lightening speed into takeaway outlets feeding thousands of hungry self isolating Londoners, though this isn’t a viable option for a lot of venues. One way to support the industry through these dark days is by using their delivery services. Eater London has rounded up the restaurants offering their food to go here.
The virus has changed our daily lives dramatically and we have all been forced to adapt. Our horizons have been temporarily narrowed but during the difficult days ahead it’s important to focus on the many simple pleasures that we can still enjoy from the comfort of our homes, from getting lost in a good book or favourite album to binge watching of boxsets on the sofa. Two of life’s biggest pleasures, food and wine, are still up for grabs, though the former is proving increasingly difficult to get hold of as panic buying turns rational human beings into pasta-crazed maniacs.
I intend to keep calm and carry on cooking, providing I can still get hold of the ingredients I need. I was troubled to find the shelves of my local Sainsbury’s bereft of garlic last Friday – not a single clove remained. French food without garlic is like sex without a climax. Luckily, the dish I had in mind this weekend – quiche Lorraine – doesn’t require the allium. The French classic has German roots, originating from the Medieval German kingdom of Lothringen, which was later annexed by France and renamed Lorraine.
The word quiche is thought to come from ‘kuchen’, the German word for cake. Iterations of the dish are thought to date as far back as the 14th century, having been recorded in The Forme of Cury (the ‘method of cooking’), one of the first existing cookbooks originally written on a scroll by Richard II’s chief cooks. The dish became popular in the UK after World War II, when British soldiers brought the recipe back from France.
The filling couldn’t be simpler – all you need is the holy trinity of bacon, eggs and cream. If you’re a purist that’s it, but a good grating of Gruyère makes it even tastier and helps to balance out the intense richness of the cream. Whack in onions and you’ve got a quiche Alsacienne. In Medieval times the crust was made from bread dough, but today shortcrust pastry tends to yield the most delicious results. Having yet to work up the courage to make my own, I cheated with shop bought shortcrust.
Like hollandaise, pastry and I don’t have the greatest relationship, and my maiden voyage into the choppy waters of quiche preparation was no different. Following Julia’s recipe religiously, which includes blind baking the pastry first to turn it pale gold and ready it for the onslaught of cream and eggs, I still ended up with a soggy bottom, much to my chagrin. I think this is due to buttering the baking dish beforehand to try and prevent the pastry from sticking to the bottom. Instead, the fat seeped into it and stopped it from firming up.
Pastry is a fickle fiend that can turn confident cooks into weeping wreaks. I’ve yet to nail it but will soldier on undeterred. Despite the pastry debacle, the filling turned out gloriously. I used lardons and took a detour from the original recipe with the addition of tiny cubes of Gruyère, which I dotted on the bottom before pouring in the beaten eggs and double cream with a pinch of nutmeg. If you’re looking for something a little less indulgent, créme fraîche works a treat.
While purists will scorn the addition of cheese, I love the nutty tang Gruyère brings to the table. The soggy bottom let the quiche down – I ended up having to scrape the filling off the base, which I binned, only eating the pastry around the sides, but for a first attempt it wasn’t a complete disaster. When I get hold of another packet of pastry I’ll be back in the kitchen showing that shortcrust who’s boss.