Now last week a well-meaning guest brought me some “cascaval afumat” – a pretty unprepossessing rubbery blob of fare that had been nowhere near a smokery and everywhere near a phial of chemical flavoring.
Still, having been brought up to believe that throwing food away is the work of the devil and with a bit of recessionary spirit I decided this was not the time to be prissy nor to eschew gifts. I rummaged through my freezer to find some sautéed leeks and onions from a previous summery quiche and a recipe was born. A quick trot down to Mega Image for the all-important ingredient for quiche making in Romania “foi de placinta” or to non-Romanians or those outside Romania, some filo pastry and I was all set. Note: In Turkey “yufka” is the thing to find.
Making a quiche is not very difficult and in fact making it with ready made sheets of pastry is not only super easy – its super quick. Essentially its about a light custard (eggs and milk, or eggs and cream or I like eggs and “sana” or eggs and “kefir”..or lets be honest…eggs and any leftover dairy products lurking in my fridge!) with some savory filling and some cheese and often herbs added. There isn’t too much that can go wrong but I steer clear of “over soggy” ingredients like spinach although watercress and salmon quiche is a winner. I haven’t yet made a quiche here with “Urzici” but they ought to work well. I often thrown in roka leave to quiche especially with some prosciutto or in Turkey some Pastrama. Goats cheese works particularly well as does good crumbly “Telemea de Sibiu”.
A classic Quiche Lorraine has a short crust pastry base, eggs and cream, some streaky bacon lightly fried and sometimes-extra butter or Gruyere cheese added. Its good, but this version is lighter and easier to make too.
Once you have made your quiche how do you serve it? I personally like quiche warm but not piping hot, but it can be served hot or cold. Eaten with a salad (green or a lentil salad) it’s a wonderful light lunch. Add a bowl of soup and you have a more substantial meal. It freezes pretty happily too, although be strict about time in the fridge and re-heating properly as it is after all egg based.
I bought frozen pastry sheets because I couldn’t find fresh ones and layered four of them up across the tin with some olive oil in between the sheets. I have a pastry brush but any old paintbrush would do. I then grated the smoked cascaval over the base of the quiche, spread the sautéed leeks over and made up the custard and egg mix. I used four eggs some leftover cream and some milk.
I seasoned with nutmeg and black pepper. I think some fresh thyme would have worked. I poured this on and then grated a bit more cheese on. Finally… I gave the whole thing a haircut and brushed the pastry with a bit more olive oil.
It didn’t seem to take very long to cook but that’s probably because my brother called me as it was cooking – I think 30 minutes at 160C.
This impromptu fare shows that cooking isn’t always about a romantic stroll in a market bursting with seasonal produce. And nor do you always have to have every single ingredient for a recipe. There is always a sense of satisfaction from creating something from what is in the store cupboard, from improvising a bit and letting your imagination do the rest. If you want to have a go at this I have set out a recipe below… have fun!
Leek Fact & Fiction
It is said that Emperor Nero of Rome regularly ate large amounts of leeks in order to improve his singing voice.
The Welsh claim that wearing leeks in their helmets helped them achieve victory in battle.
A member of the Amaryllidaceae family, leeks are closely related to spring onions, onions and garlic.
Leeks supply plenty of potassium, some folic acid, beta-carotene (in the green stems) and vitamin C. Although less beneficial than onions, leeks may help to reduce cholesterol levels and may offer some protection against cancer. Leeks also assist the body to dispose of uric acid and so are beneficial to those who suffer from arthritis.
Cascaval Afumat and Leek Quiche: Yes I can!
For a 23 cm tin or ceramic quiche dish (for a 26cm one increase to 5 eggs and increase the amounts proportionally)
1 packet of foi de placinta
150g smoked cheese (“cascaval afumat”)
200g sautéed leeks and onions
300ml cream/milk/sana or kefir (what you have in the fridge). Even a bit of plain yoghurt that you cant face eating is fine.
Some nutmeg, black pepper and a pinch of salt to season
Timing: If you are starting with the onions and leeks about 1 hour.
Step 1: If you have bought frozen pastry give it 3-4 hours to thaw out or very very gently de-frost it on the lowest microwave setting possible.
Step2: Switch the oven to 160C
Step3: Cut the leeks very finely. If you can, cube them. Dice the onions. The aim is to have very small pieces suspended in the egg mixture. Cook them gently in a pan with a little oil so that they become soft and translucent, over a low flame. This will probably take 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool a bit while you start on lining the tin with the pastry sheets.
Step 4: Prepare the quiche tin. Layer four sheets of pastry alternatively on top of each other, brushing each layer as you build them up, lightly with Olive oil. Give the untidy mess a haircut. If it’s hot put it in the fridge until you are ready to fill it.
Step5: In a bowl mix the eggs and the milk/dairy products mixture and spices.
Step6: Grate 2/3 of the cheese into the case. Spoon the leek and onion mixture over the cheese. Now pour over the egg mixture. Make sure you poke any pieces of leek under the mixture. Now grate the remaining 1/3 of the cheese over the top. Brush the outside of the pastry with some olive oil. The mixture should just be slightly lower than level with the case. If you think it looks unfilled, quickly beat another egg and some milk together and pour in.
Step 7: Place the tin on a baking sheet (this is because in this method the pastry base is not blind baked and this will help it not to be completely soggy) and place in the middle of the oven. Bake it until it is a light golden brown. The quiche may rise up a bit alarmingly when cooking (especially in a fan assisted oven) but upon cooling will settle down again.
Step 8: Place on a wire cooling rack and if using a loose based tin, turn out when warm and you can handle.