Monday, September 03, 2007

A Birthday Buffet (and a leek, bacon and mustard quiche)

The past couple of days have been entirely filled with my favourite activity. What is my favourite activity, I hear you ask. Cooking, of course! I decided to throw a lunchtime buffet party for friends to celebrate my birthday. Twenty-five or so people descended on my small London flat and I thanked him upstairs for the dry weather. Once the first eight guests were installed in the garden with a glass of fizz in hand, I decided that the garden was full and that perhaps inviting so many people was a mistake. Bit to late to decide that.

Fortunately no one seemed to mind the squash and it was extremely good fun. Modesty aside, I think I laid on a pretty impressive feast. I cooked my first ever ham (by candlelight, the night before - the kitchen light bulb blew at precisely the worst moment and I didn't have a spare), made quiches, chicken liver paté (I've forgotten how to do those accents again...), smoked trout paté, Kate's special broccoli salad, cucumber salad, other salads. And not to mention puddings. The divine Green and Black's Chocolate Mousse Cake (the first recipe I posted on this blog) and a delicious crunchy raspberry ripple semi-freddo. Recipes will all be posted over the next week, but first up is the quiche. It may not sound exciting. Anyone can cook a quiche. But I have had more comments on this quiche than on almost anything else I have ever cooked...

I am unable to comprehend the enthusiasm for this quiche. Don't get me wrong, I think it is absolutely delicious. A very good quiche with a lovely combination of flavours. But it is just a quiche. There are more exciting things in life, surely. Such is the demand for the quiche that several attendees refused to come unless I promised to produce the quiche. One person even confessed to having a dream about the quiche the night before (the dream also apparently involved a former Russian President). I made two enormous specimens but still had someone complaining that I hadn't made a third!

I feel duty bound to reproduce the recipe here (I personally think the secret of its success lies in the large quantity of double cream and the mustard spread over the base). It is no great secret as it comes from one of my favourite culinary resources - Leith's Cookery Bible. The recipe serves four, but is easily doubled or tripled.

A note on pastry now. Whilst I am capable (and often willing) to make my own pastry, I am not proud. Call me a heathen, but I am only too happy to use ready-made pastry when time restricts. With so many things to cook, I was happy to embrace this time-saving device. No doubt, people will tell me that I am creating a vastly inferior quiche this way, but let me let you into another secret. More than one person complimented me on the quality of said pastry. How I would have loved to bask a little in the glory but I'm too honest.

'How do make the pastry so good?'
'...(slight pause from me)...umm...I buy it in the supermarket'.

To be fair, nothing beats really good homemade shortcrust pastry, but there is certainly no shame in a few shortcuts!

Leek, Bacon and Mustard Quiche

Ingredients (serves four)

170g shortcrust pastry

15g butter
3 large or 5 small leeks - white part finely chopped
55g rindless bacon - I prefer smoked
2 egg yolks
140ml double cream
Grainy mustard - good quality, enough to cover base
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 190C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface. Line a loose-bottomed flan tin (20cm/8in). Pop in fridge to relax for half an hour. This prevents shrinkage.

2. Bake the pastry case blind to prevent soggy pastry (line case with foil, pour in baking beans or dried pasta/rice, bake for approx 15 minutes, remove beans and continue to dry out the pastry). Lower oven to 170C when you remove from oven. (Get on with making the filling whilst base is in the oven - step 5).

3. Spread the base of the pastry case with a generous quantity of mustard.

4. Melt butter in a frying pan and cook the leeks until fairly soft. Fry bacon until brown in separate pan in its own fat. Drain well.

5. Mix egg yolks and cream together and the add the leeks and bacon. Mix and season well. Pour into the pastry case.

6. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake at 170C for 30 minutes or until filling is just set and the top nicely bronzed.

Wine Notes - This would be perfect with a dry white such as a Pinot Blanc from Alsace. Alternatively, a slightly oaked Chardonnay would marry well with both the rich creaminess of the filling and the slight smoke from the bacon - Burgundy is a safe bet. A restrained New Zealand Chardonnay might be good too.


Margaret said...

The birthday buffet sounds wonderful. We too love a good quiche. Leek, bacon and mustard - a match made in heaven.

Kate said...

Happy Birthday! Your quiche looks delicious. There isn't such a thing as "just a quiche" when it's a homemade one.

Lynn said...

First off, Happy Birthday.

Secondly, your spread looks amazing but me invite must have got lost in the post :-)

Antonia said...

Margaret - it is a great combination indeed. Delicious. I was rather sorry that there were no leftovers actually. I could just do with a piece now..

Kate - thank you!

Lynn - thank you. You didn't receive your invite?! Must have got lost in the postal strike...! I'll have to send it out earlier next year!

Joanna said...

I would never have thought of putting mustard on the bottom of a quiche, and yet it's such a good idea ...

Love the idea of you cooking your first ham by candlelight

Many happy returns of your birthday!


Antonia said...

Thank you, Joanna. Yes, the mustard works really well, providing the base is nicely dried in the oven first (otherwise it makes the pastry rather soggy). The flavour is great with the other ingredients.