Quiche has a branding problem. The stodgy staple of the British summertime is often seen as nothing more than a beige egg pie, served old and cold on buffet tables with other stale classics such as pork pies and scotch eggs.
Its main problem is also its biggest success: quiche lorraine. There is nothing particularly interesting about quiche lorraine, yet it dominates the conversation. It is the quiche to which everyone defaults, out of habit and lack of imagination.
Quiche deserves better. It is time for a rebrand, for people to recognise quiche as adaptable and exciting. We should be eating quiche all year round. Though French in origin, quiche has been welcomed with open arms into British cuisine. It is our answer to pizza and we should treat it with the same adoration that Naples treats its doughy son.
Whisk together a few eggs with some cream, then pour into a pre-cooked pastry case and bake: you have made quiche in its base form – and a simple, economical midweek meal. But, like pizza, quiche is so much better when you make the pastry from scratch, then fill it with meat and vegetables and strong cheeses. There are infinite possibilities; here are a few to get you started.
Strictly speaking, a quiche is still a quiche if it doesn’t contain cheese, but there is no denying that they tend to be better with cheese. Gruyére and cheddar are the two classic quiche cheeses – they are versatile and inoffensive, so they work well with most other ingredients. But other cheeses are just as good when paired with the right partner: emmental and courgette, goat’s cheese and watercress and feta with spinach and tomato, for example.
One of the quiche’s best qualities is that you can pack it with almost any vegetable and it will still work. Some combinations complement each other better than others. Mary Berry’s courgette and spinach quiche is a classic of the genre, but butternut squash works, too, as do mushrooms, cauliflower and asparagus – and even just the humble onion. For something a little less traditional, try Bon Appétit’s roasted vegetable tart, which uses red peppers, tomatoes, aubergine and sweet potato.
Quiche lends itself well to all kinds of seafood: Ruby Tandoh’s herbed salmon and ricotta rendition is a great place to start (is there a more summery dish than salmon quiche?). Once you are ready to graduate from salmon, you could try smoked haddock, cod, crab, tuna or even scallops, if you are feeling flush.
As you already know, sausages are versatile and work well cooked, chopped and buried inside a quiche. Keep it simple with a caramelised onion and sausage quiche, or try something more continental with this smoky chorizo and manchego take. Believe it or not, the hot dog quiche already exists.
Other meaty quiches
When it comes to meaty quiches, lorraine dominates the conversation, but there are alternatives. Quiche is a great way of using up leftover meat: chicken, pulled pork, black pudding, it all works. It goes without saying that ham is good too, but this is so close to quiche lorraine (which uses bacon or lardons) that you may as well just do that instead.
Cherry tomato quiches
Tomatoes generally work fine in a quiche, but cherry tomatoes, with their size and sweetness, are perfect for it and deserve their own section. Kim-Joy’s cherry tomato quiche is topped with one large tomato sporting a decorative sushi nori face. Anna Jones’s includes a medley of other vegetables.
Blue cheese quiches
It is rare for cheese to get top billing when it comes to quiche, but not so for blue cheese quiches. Some recipes keep it simple and call for a generic blue cheese (see Oliver Rowe’s asparagus and blue cheese recipe). Others want something more specific (Ruby Tandoh’s broccoli and gorgonzola quiche). A friend swears to me that pear and roquefort quiches are also a thing.
One of the few criticisms I will accept about quiche is that it is not the healthiest of meal choices. After all, it is mainly eggs and pastry (and cream and cheese and meat). There is a way around this, though – to have your quiche and eat it: make it without the pastry, like a frittata. There are plenty of recipes out there for crustless quiches, but, with the right ovenproof dish, there’s no reason why most wouldn’t also work without the base (although it may require a bit of experimentation to get the best results). You could also try alternatives to pastry, such as a sweet potato crust.
Still not convinced? If you really, really can’t live without it, then Felicity Cloake has the recipe for the perfect quiche lorraine.
• This article was amended on 21 May 2020 to clarify that while quiche is a beloved part of British cuisine, it is of French origin.