During our graduate school time we lived for two years close to Basel in Switzerland. Even though during this period we never had much time to really explore the culinary scene of Basel or other parts of Switzerland we were able to experience a few of the typical treats like Basler Leckerli which is a hard biscuit made with an unique spice mixture or Rivella, a soft drink made out of milk whey. The food we most often enjoyed was “Wähen”. Wähen are essentially the Swiss version of tartes and quiches. Originally reported in 1556 as a fruit quiche, over the centuries many savory versions also appeared and we were often starting our weekends going to a bakery and eating a piece of one of the many different Wähen on display. This was of course not the first time we ever had a quiche since these are popular throughout Germany as well but they originated from the region of Alsace and Lorraine which are close to Basel.
Quiches were originally food of the poor and made by the women in Alsace to feed their families with a few, cheap available ingredients – egg, milk and bacon as a cheap and nonperishable form of meat. Since at those times, a few hundred years ago, most families baked their own bread making quiches was an efficient way to use leftover bread dough. What started as quiche Lorraine for the poor developed over time to a well-regarded class of dishes everybody around the world is enjoying. Today a large variety of toppings are used with different kinds of meat, vegetables and cheese. A consistency between these many variations is the use of eggs, milk or cream and shortcrust pastry. What started for us as a weekly visit to the bakery led to a continuous interest in making quiches at home like this chard quiche with pine nuts.
For this quiche we used a few more unusual ingredients to underline the uniqueness of chard. Whole spelt flour has a more robust and nuttier flavor than the often used regular wheat flour which helps accentuate the delicate flavor of the chard. Instead of using only eggs and cream for the filling we also added ricotta which gave the quiche more body and at the same time added a slight sweet note. The complex flavor of sage with its spicy, aromatic and slightly bitter tones helps to bring an unexpected taste to the quiche. The long baking time helps to mellow out these flavors so that the sage doesn’t dominate the dish. A salad and a nice glass of white wine made this quiche a wonderful dinner.
Sift flour on working surface, form a well in the flour and add egg with some salt. Place the butter in small pieces around the flour and mix everything using a knife.
Knead dough until smooth and store it covered in fridge for 30 minutes.
Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat and cook spring onions, chard stems and sage for five minutes. Add chard leaves and cook for three minutes until wilted. Season with salt and nutmeg. Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Roll out dough on a little bit of flour and put dough into 30 cm/12 inch spring form.
Mix ricotta with heavy cream and eggs. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Fill chard mixture into spring form and add ricotta mixture. Bake quiche for 25 minutes in the oven.
Sprinkle provolone and pine nuts over the quiche and bake for another 15 minutes.
Recipe adapted from “Quiche, Tarte und Co.” by Gräfe und Unzer
250 g (9 oz) whole spelt flour
150 g (5.5 oz) butter
750 (27 oz) rainbow chard, leaves cut into stripes, stems diced
1 bunch spring onions, diced
4 leaves of sage, finely chopped
2 tbsp Canola oil
200 g (7 oz) soft ricotta
100 (3.5 oz) heavy cream
40 g (1.5 oz) pine nuts
50 g (2 oz) provolone, freshly grated