asparagus quiches with mint

Quiche has gone out of fashion, hasn't it? When I was growing up, I ate some truly horrible ones, packed with what seemed like a whole refrigerator of odds and ends, suspended in overcooked egg. But, as with most foods we think we don't like, a truly excellent specimen can change our minds in a bite. My hope is that this quiche does just that.

makes 2 quiches

for the dough
375g plain flour
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp baking powder
120g unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into 1cm pieces
60g crème fraîche
55ml very cold water

for the filling

¼ tsp flaky sea salt, plus extra
450g asparagus, woody bottoms snapped off, stalks cut into 0.5cm pieces, tips left whole
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
115g finely diced Spanish onion
1 small bulb spring garlic, roughly chopped, or l tbsp garlic, thinly sliced
2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
180ml double cream
165ml whole milk
8 mint leaves, thinly sliced at the last minute

1. Combine the flour, sugar, sea salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to mix well. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture has the texture of fine breadcrumbs.

2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, pour in the crème fraîche  and water, and use your fingertips to gently work the mixture until it comes together as a dry, slightly crumbly dough. Don't overwork it and don't let it warm up too much. Cover the bowl and keep in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.

3. Line your work surface and a baking sheet with parchment. Turn the dough onto the work surface and roll it out to an even 0.5cm thickness, dusting the dough with flour if the rolling pin sticks. Trace an inverted bowl with the tip of your knife to cut out 12 x 11cm rounds. Work swiftly to line 12 x 7.5cm ring moulds each with a dough round, pressing the sides and bottoms gently. Put them on the baking sheet, cover with clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

4. Place a rack in the centre of the oven and heat to 160C.

5. Cut baking parchment into 12 x 12.5cm squares. Crumple each square into a ball, place under running water, squeeze out and flatten again (this makes them more malleable). Just before you're ready to bake the shells, take them from the fridge. (They must be cold when you put them in the oven, or your quiches will be greasy.) Use one square of baking parchment to line each shell and fill almost to the brim with dried beans or raw rice. Put the shells back in the fridge for 15 minutes.

6. Bake, rotating the baking sheet once, until the dough is no longer raw but not yet coloured (20-25 minutes). Remove the beans or rice and the parchment squares. Gently prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork, to prevent it from puffing up. Return to the oven and bake until the shells are evenly light golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the pans (25-30 minutes). Let the shells cool completely before you fill them. Leave the oven on.

7. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil and salt generously. Cook the asparagus stalks in the water until they've lost their raw crunch (1-1 ½ minutes), and drain. Do the same with the tips; keep them apart from the stalks.

8. Melt the butter in a medium cast-iron frying pan over a medium-low heat until frothy. Add the onion, garlic and ¼ tsp sea salt and cook, stirring now and again, until the onion is soft and barely browned at the edges (12 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat.

9. Combine the whole eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk briefly. Combine the cream and milk in a small pot, set it over a medium-high heat, and cook until it reaches a strong simmer. Remove it immediately from the heat, then gradually pour into the bowl with the eggs, whisking as you go: Stir in
2 tsp sea salt. Let the egg mixture, onion mix and asparagus come to room temperature.

10. Divide the onion mixture among the shells, spreading slightly to form a layer. Spoon in the asparagus stalks (2 generous tbsp per shell). Whisk the egg mixture, then ladle in enough of it to come up to about 0.5cm from the rim. Add the asparagus tips (two or three per quiche) and the mint. Pull the oven rack forward and carefully transfer the tray to the rack, then top off each quiche with a little more egg mixture (so the quiches won't spill as you transport them to the oven.)

11 Bake the quiches, rotating the baking sheet once, until the egg mixture has set (20-25 minutes). It should no longer be liquid, but should still be soft and moist to the touch.

12. Remove the moulds and let the quiches cool slightly before you dig in.