The other day, I had a head of cauliflower lying around. I had bought without a precise idea in mind on what to do with it. It had just looked pretty and inspiring and so it landed in my shopping cart.
I am trying to work with a lot of regional and seasonal products when I cook, even though I must admit that from time to time, I can’t resist a shiny aubergine or a nice zucchini or a colorful bell pepper, even if they don’t grow around here in winter. Or don’t grow around here at all. For now, the only way to grow decent bell peppers around here, even in summer, was in my father’s greenhouse where they were well protected and got a fair share of heat. Zucchini, on the other hand, grow very well around here and my father could probably feed the whole village with his Zucchini harvest. But now I’m getting carried away, probably because I’m looking forward to spring and summer so much.
Back to our wintery cauliflower. I had several ideas in mind on what to do with it, but couldn’t really decide. I’d made a cauliflower soup not too long ago, so I didn’t want to repeat that. I thought about Jamie’s Cauliflower Macaroni from his 30 Minute Meals cookbook, about an Indian vegetable curry… But somehow, nothing really rang a bell. But then I though, hey, why not try and make a nice cauliflower quiche? Quiches and tartes are most definitely among my favorite food ever. They can be so comforting in autumn and winter while being fresh and light in spring and summer. And you can be endlessly creative with them, using and combing all sorts of ingredients.
So I started rummaging around my fridge and letting my imagination run wild. First thing I found was some cooked ham. Pretty sure this would work well with cauliflower. And then the jar of sweet mustard I had brought from Munich in Bavaria. Don’t know why, but it somehow intrigued me, so I decided to work it into the quiche somehow. And some tarragon. Even though at that moment, it all sounded a bit adventuress to me, I decided to add it as well. No risk, no fun. I always have fresh eggs, cream, milk and grated cheese in the fridge. And to my great relief, there was also a roll of ready to use puff pastry. After all, it was a work night dinner and I didn’t feel like spending too much time making my own pastry. Besides, I’ve never ever tried to make my own puff pastry. I’m too awestruck by the complicated instructions. So if anyone has tried making his or her own puff pastry, feel free to share your experience, I’d love to hear about it!
Now, even if the combination of ingredients felt adventuress at first, I must say that this quiche turned out to be quite delicious. I really loved it and even C., who’s usually not a big fan of tarragon, gave his approval and greedily ate his share.
Ingredients (for a 26 cm quiche form):
1 packet ready to use puff pastry (I usually use fresh pastry >> not frozen)
or make your own crust
1 cauliflower head, cut into small florets
250g cooked ham, diced
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 fresh eggs
1 tablespoon cream cheese (Philadelphia-style)
250 ml single cream
1 tablespoon sweet mustard (if you can’t find any, I guess regular, not too strong mustard would work as well, even if the taste would certainly be slightly different)
1 handful of fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
grated cheese (I used Emmenthal, but other hard cheeses like Comté, Gruyère, Cheddar would be nice as well)
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Roll out the dough and press it into your quiche form. Pierce several times with a fork. I didn’t blind bake the dough even if I do it most of the times for my quiches and tartes, but the crust was alright when the quiche was baked.
Steam your cauliflower until tender, but still crisp and set aside. You could cook it in water as well, but I really prefer my steam cooked as the vegetables preserve their fresh flavors.
While the cauliflower is cooking, pour some olive oil into a pan and set on high heat. Add the onion and ham dices and cook until they’re starting to brown, stirring frequently. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, cream cheese, cream, sweet mustard and tarragon, preferably using a hand-blender. Add a good handful of cauliflower florets to the mixture and mix again until you get a smooth, creamy texture. This really enhances the cauliflower flavor in the quiche. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To assemble the quiche, spread the remaining cauliflower florets and the ham/onion mixture over the crust evenly. Then add your egg and cream mixture and top with the grated cheese.
Bake in the reheated oven for more or less 45 minutes (this really depends on your oven, but generally, when the cheese crust looks crispy and softly browned and a knife that you insert into the middle of the quiche comes out more or less clean, your quiche is done).
Let it set outside the oven for 5-10 minutes and serve with a nice salad and a glass of white wine.