A lighter, picnic-style herbed salmon and ricotta quiche (right) alongside the more robust roasted cauliflower, gruyere and pancetta version to the left. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian.The classic quiche – no longer a vestige of 1970s naffness – here is revamped into a couple of picnic-perfect summer treats: a herby, crumbly affair laced with salmon and ricotta, and a heartier pie, bursting with roasted cauliflower.Some foods had such an aura around them during my childhood that even now I can’t help setting them aside in my mind as “fancy foods”, to be saved for guests and special suppers and big nights in. Quiche is one of those meals, but unlike the other foods – quivering blancmange, trifle fingers, frozen cheesecakes – whose appeal slipped away with their novelty, quiche still feels like a dish to be celebrated. There are the traditional ones rich with cheese and egg, lighter types cast in filo or wholemeal crusts, quiches robust enough to survive the packed lunch box and those so light that they tremble on your fork. Here are a couple of my favourites.
Herbed salmon and ricotta quiche
This one’s a light quiche for a summer picnic that uses ricotta instead of the usual cream and matching that brightness with fresh herbs and lemon. The crust is a little crumblier than some thanks to the wholemeal flour, but you’ll find it more substantial and more flavourful, too.
For the pastry:
75g wholemeal flour
2 tsp dried parsley or dill
100g salted butter
2-3 tbsp cold water
For the filling:250g salmon fillets
50g watercress or spinach
150ml double cream
3 large eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
A couple of small handfuls of parsley, roughly chopped
2-3 fronds of dill, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 Combine the plain and wholemeal flours and the dried herbs in a large bowl. Cube the butter and add it to the flour, rubbing it in with your fingertips until there are no visible pieces of fat remaining. The mixture should be fine and sandy. Add 2 tbsp cold water and cut it into the dry ingredients using a small knife, working everything together until it begins to form small clumps. There should be no dry flour left in the bowl – if there is, add a drop more water.
2 If the dough’s sticky, wrap in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before rolling. Otherwise, go straight to rolling: gather the dough into a ball and roll, on a lightly floured work surface, to a disc large enough to line a 20-23cm round tart/flan dish or springform cake tin. Press the pastry firmly into the sides and trim off any excess. It may be slightly crumbly thanks to the wholemeal flour, but just work slowly, roll carefully and patch up any breaks or holes with more pastry. Prick the base several times with a fork. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to minimise shrinkage during baking. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
3 Once the pastry case is well chilled and the oven is at the right temperature, line the pastry with a sheet of baking parchment and fill with a thick layer of baking weights. Bake for 20 minutes before removing the baking parchment parcel and baking uncovered for a further 5 minutes or so.
4 While the pastry bakes, place the salmon fillets on a baking tray and slide on to another oven shelf. Cook for 10-12 minutes – just barely long enough for the salmon to start flaking. You don’t want to overcook it.
5 Wilt the watercress or spinach in a sieve or steamer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk half of the ricotta together with the double cream, eggs and lemon zest and season generously. Stir in the herbs.
6 Once the pastry and salmon are both cooked, turn the oven down to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Break the salmon into generous chunks and place in the case. Add the wilted greens then dollop the remaining ricotta on top in scattered spoonfuls. Pour over the cream-ricotta mixture and nudge the lot around gently with a spoon to just roughly combine.
7 Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the filling is just barely set in the centre. Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes before eating.
Roasted cauliflower, gruyere and pancetta quiche
Browning the cauliflower in the oven first gives it a robustly nutty edge, helping the veg to hold its own against the clout of gruyere and pancetta. Try swapping the pancetta for a couple of handfuls of finely shredded kale if you want to ring the changes.
For the pastry:90g unsalted butter
175g plain flour
50g gruyere cheese, finely grated
2-3 tbsp cold water
For the filling:400g cauliflower florets
2 tbsp cooking oil
100g bacon or pancetta, diced
150ml single cream
100ml whole milk
100g gruyere cheese, finely grated
3 large eggs
Salt and black pepper
1 Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Once the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture is sandy in texture and stir in a third (50g) of the grated cheese. Add 2 tbsp of cold water and cut into the flour mix using a small knife, working the liquid into the dry ingredients until a dough begins to form in small clumps and all the flour has been moistened. Add a little extra water if necessary, but it’s best to use the minimum amount of liquid necessary to get a firm dough – this will keep the pastry short and crumbly, as it should be.
2 If the dough is too sticky to roll out, pat it into a flat disc, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or so. Otherwise, roll straight away to a disc big enough to line the base and sides of a 23cm round quiche/flan tin. Press it into the sides, taking care not to stretch the dough. Trim off any excess then prick all over the base with a fork. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
3 While the pastry chills, boil the cauliflower florets for a 2 minutes, trimming down any very large cauliflower florets beforehand. Drain and leave to dry. Toss the blanched cauliflower pieces in the oil, spread them out on a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until brown and black spots begin to creep across the florets.
4 Fry the bacon or pancetta for a few minutes until it is just beginning to crisp then set aside to cool.
5 Once the pastry case has chilled, line the inside with baking parchment and fill with baking weights. Bake (with the cauliflower, if that’s still cooking – both bake at the same temperature) for 20 minutes before removing the baking parchment and the baking weights and returning the pastry to the oven to dry for a further 5 minutes.
6 While the pastry case bakes, prepare the cream filling. Combine the cream, milk and remaining cheese in a pan over a low heat and warm until the cheese has melted. Season the mixture, going easy on the salt. Whisk the eggs together in a mixing bowl then add the cream mixture slowly to them, stirring all the while.
7 Spread the roasted cauliflower florets over the base of the pre-baked pastry case then scatter over the bacon bits. Pour on the egg and cream mixture, filling it just shy of the pastry rim.
8 Turn the oven temperature down to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for 45 minutes – or until puffy, golden brown and set. There should be only the slightest hint of a jiggle at the centre of the quiche. Leave to cool for a while before eating.