Quiche transcends fashion. In 1982 it was being derided as a symbol of masculine confusion in Bruce Feirstein’s Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Thirty years later, it would take on a brief online life as a kind of ironic slang for “cute”, thanks to Australian comic Chris Lilley’s TV show, Ja’mie: Private School Girl. But, enduringly – in its periods of popularity and in its phases of quaint naffness – quiche is always with us. It is a key picnic and party food, served at weddings, christenings, family dos and, sadly, funerals, and, therefore, it is exactly the kind of thing you might suddenly find yourself bulk-buying in the supermarket.
Not that native Lorrains would acknowledge the modern mass-produced quiche lorraine. Originally a flan with just smoked bacon, cream and eggs, it was first augmented by Parisians, who started adding gruyère, and later we Brits, who threw in various cheeses. This is not new. Elizabeth David was flagging up this evolution (or sacrilege) in 1962.
Dairy deviations aside, do any of the supermarket versions achieve greatness? That is, a luxuriously rich, light, readily yielding custard boasting clear flavours, encased in a crisp, all-butter pastry? Or are they as damp and depressing as the baking at a rain-lashed church fete?
Note: all quiches were reheated and eaten warm.
Hot from the oven the filling rises above the (sound, crisp, all-butter) pastry as if puffing out its chest out in pride, and with some justification. Beneath that top crust (draped with bacon rashers, beautifully browned; as attractive as the lacquered interior of a playboy’s yacht), you will find a filling which, if lacking the delicate finesse of the greatest quiches, is bold and balanced in its gruyère-spiked flavours, evenly mined with sweet, smoky bacon and confidently seasoned with pepper and nutmeg. It is, and this is not a given, tasty. 8/10 *Winner*
This chunky example (its 3cm filling the deepest of those tested), looks terrible cold. Straight from the fridge, its surface is as pale and wrinkled as an old surgical stocking. Reheating gets some appetising colour in its cheeks, but the lightly trembling filling is gluey with strands of mature cheddar, a bullying ingredient which the lardons – pink, mushy, Spam-like pieces of “reformed bacon with added water” – are almost texturally indistinguishable from. Overall, a flavour failure. 4/10
The filling’s body language is not promising. It visibly shrinks away from the pastry, which, left exposed to the oven’s heat, becomes dry and brittle. The flavour of that substantively creamy if shallow filling (1.5cm deep) is reminiscent of Walkers cheese and onion crisps or a Greggs cheese and onion pasty. The flavour-deficient lardons (more reformed bacon with added water), are notably scarce – which is a mixed blessing. 3/10
Rather than being evenly distributed through the filling, the lardons (and there are plenty) have all risen to the top. It looks like a teenager with chronic acne. That technical flaw does mean that, in the oven, those reformed bacon pieces harden into a browned crust. They at least taste of something. But this is not great quiche. Its cheesy, hammy flavours are juvenile, the thick pastry (5mm) is rather powdery, and the shallow filling lacks luxurious creaminess. Functional, forgettable food. 6/10
Draped in rashers of streaky bacon, this quiche takes on a handsome golden brown colour. The filling has a persuasively creamy texture too, even if it delivers only wafts of flavour from the advertised extra mature cheddar. Significantly, however, because this is a wide and shallow rather than deep-filled quiche, the ratio of filling (1cm) to pastry (5mm) is ridiculous. The filling is so thin, relatively, it is like eating a pastry-based pizza. 5/10
Another wide ’n’ shallow tart of similarly uneven pastry-filling dimensions that, as the overtly cheesy custard is generously threaded with nuggets of bacon and further rashers on top, produces a hearty, slightly dry mouthful rather than anything delicately eggy. It packs plenty of flavour and the pastry is a decent buttery shell. But if a fine quiche lorraine should have the grace of Brigette Bardot, this is more Inspector Clouseau – entertaining in its way but clumsy, and as French as a stick of Blackpool rock. 6/10
There is a lot going on here. Too much, in fact. The pepper and nutmeg seasoning is unusually concentrated. The cheesy top of the quiche has taken on an almost parmesan intensity. The milky custard, the texture of just-set scrambled eggs, is liberally threaded with lardons whose “smoke flavour” further adds to this cacophony of somewhat jarring elements. It is like talking to a speed-freak at a party. Initially amusing but, ultimately, too confusing to be enjoyable. 6/10
The thinnest pastry of those tested: a mere 3mm along the quiche’s tanned base. It had a smart snap to it and, if a shade oily, formed, as it should, a pleasantly unobtrusive container. Sadly, the skimpy 1.2cm deep filling is far less elegant, with its rubbery, reformed smoked bacon lardons (they look and taste like cheap ham), hints of nutmeg and big, booming savoury cheddar flavours. Think of this quiche as ITV. It has its good points. But it lacks depth and overall quality. 5/10