Every time I find myself in France, be it in Paris or some random countryside town, I make sure I have my fill of one of two things: pain aux chocolat and quiche. There is something so overwhelmingly comforting about walking into the local boulangerie to purchase your daily dose of pastries and bread. The smells wafting on the warm air currents emanating from the back of the bakery, swirling about your head … ooh, divine!
R. generally goes for the freshly made baguettes (he eats them straight out of the paper bag) and the ginormous pillows of meringues, of which he usually buys two, sometimes three, of. I mean, have you SEEN the meringues sold in French bakeries??? They are huge … twice the size of my fist! France has brought much joy to R. and I since we moved to this part of the world four years ago. Its countryside is gorgeous and the medieval towns we often drive through are a delight. But over and above all that, the main reason we keep returning time and time again to France is the food. It never ceases to amaze me how the lifestyle of France is so intertwined with its farms, the land, and the food it produces. Each region of France has its own specialty and locals are very proud to show them off.
France is undoubtedly beautiful no matter which angle you view it from. My photos merely offer a snippet of what it’s really like, and they don’t do any justice either; my photography skills are highly limited. I tend to stick to food photography, and when you’re in France there is no shortage of this stuff. I spend a lot of time staring at pastries, breads and cakes in the bakeries and cake shops when I am visiting France. From the famous ateliers and designer boutique shopfronts of Paris ~ think Pierre Hermé and Ladurée ~ to the tiny mom and pop bakeries run in suburban towns, they all produce some of the most amazing breads, pastries and cake of the highest quality. Even the stuff I pick up at the local Carrefour hypermart is ten times better than the stuff I find in similar stores elsewhere in the world. Which makes me come to the conclusion that if you are in this country and are in the business of baking bread, pastries and cake, you simply cannot afford to be bad at it.
Quiche for me is like a little piece of heaven ~ buttery pastry filled with all sorts of delicious filling. My personal favourites being a toss up between roast chicken quiche or a salmon and spinach quiche. R. isn’t partial to quiches, but if he had to have one he’d stick to basics and get quiche Lorraine.
At home, if I was making quiche, it would more often than not be a leek and bacon one. And it would be family sized since R. is able to scoff half of it in no time. I tend to prefer the smaller versions myself, like the ones they sell at all the chic Parisien bakeries, so today I fished out my mini pie tins and set to work on my salmon and spinach quiches. For a little extra flavour flourish I added some smoked salmon into the mix.
Salmon & Spinach Quiche.
200 g frozen chopped spinach, drained very well
150 g fresh salmon
70 g smoked salmon
2 tbsp ricotta cheese
300 mls fresh milk
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp plain flour
50 g grated cheese
salt & pepper
300 g plain flour
150 g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1 whole egg
2 – 3 tbsp cold water
Start by making the pastry dough. If you have a food processor then good for you. I don’t, so when I make pastry dough I have to do it by hand on the counter top. I mix the salt and sugar with the flour, then cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients. Once it resembles crumbs I add the egg and cold water. Knead, knead, knead until everything comes together into a nice dough ball. Due to the high content of butter it should not stick to your hands. Divide the dough into two discs, wrap with cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
In the meantime, heat the milk over medium heat. Add the shallot, whole, and the bay leaf and peppercorns. Just before it boils, turn off the heat and place the raw salmon fillet into the hot milk. Cover with a saucer or pot lid and leave it to poach.
The spinach leaves should be drained thoroughly, then placed into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and add the smoked salmon pieces and ricotta cheese. Gently fold everything together.
By now, the poached salmon should be cool enough to handle so remove it from the poaching liquid and gently flake the fish into the spinach and cheese mixture. Fold it in but don’t crush the fish. Now make the custard.
I generally cook out the flour that’s added to the eggs and cream to avoid that floury taste … so I make a sort of loose bechamel, then add the eggs to it once it has cooled to room temp. You don’t have to do this step, but today I seem to be in search of more work than necessary for myself. The butter and flour are cooked down in a pot then the milk we used to poach the salmon is strained and used to make this bechamel. Season and allow to thicken slightly. Leave to cool completely then whisk in the eggs.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to about 3mm in thickness. Cut out circles and line the pie tins. Prick with a fork and bake blind for 10 mins.
Spoon in the salmon and spinach filling, then pour the egg mixture over it all. To make pouring easier, use a jug or a ladle with a pouring lip. Place each quiche onto a baking tray, sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20 mins until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with a salad.
~ Enjoy! ~