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Flamiche - a first recipe

"my favourite savoury tart" Gabriel Gaté

It could be mine too if I think about it. And I don't make it often enough - probably because of the expense of leeks, which I really must overcome.

My first recipe little booklet which came with an ancient Feast Magazine, is excerpts from the book of the same name which I also have, and which I have on my bookshelf. I wrote about it a while back. Only two more little booklets to do I think.

Anyway I thought this was going to be a pretty plain little piece with not very much to say about this dish, which I thought came from Alsace. But along the way, as usual I found a few more little things.

Let's start with names. Flamiche or sometimes Flamique is a Flemish word meaning cake. That seems to be the generally accepted version although I did also see an alternative that said it may have come from the word 'flammèches' which means little flames - the flames which come from burning charcoal, because originally it would have been cooked in a wood-fired oven.

The Belgians and the French both claim ownership. Well actually I think perhaps the Belgian and the French flamiches are different and I will come to that. The very old version -probably Medieval but certainly recorded in the 17th century was more like a very early pizza. According to Larousse Gastronomique an eighteenth century scholar said:

"It is a kind of galette made with baker's dough. It is rolled out with a rolling-pin and put in the oven while the wood is is burning. As soon as it has been throughly heated, it is taken out of the oven and spread with butter. It is eaten as soon as it comes out of the oven."

So really just a flatbread.

I think the next bit of the evolution was in Belgium, specifically the town of Dinant which is so attached to their version that they have a wonderful organisation with the name La Confrèrie des Quarteniers de la Flamiche Dinantaise. Here they all are lined up in their red costumes, probably on the day in September dedicated to their dish, during which there is an eating competition.

The Flamiche Dinantaise also has a lovely origin story. One of those disaster turned to triumph stories you often find in the world of food.

"Flamiche was born on a day when the woman went to Dinant with the products of her farm to sell at the market. She fell violently, and the content of her bag (butter, eggs, cream and cheese) got all mixed up. She ran to a friend who was baking her bread, she took a piece of dough and made a pie where she added all the mixed up ingredients from her bag and put everything in the oven."

Although there are variations such as this:

"She was walking down the rue Saint Jacques on her way to market when she slipped on an icy patch and broke all the eggs she was carrying. A quick-thinking baker managed to catch the broken eggs, added cheese and butter and baked the lot on a base of bread dough."

The Town of Dinant has its own official recipe but there are lots of others on the net. The cheese that is used for this is called Boulette de Romedenne - a soft cow's milk cheese, but yes, it is bread dough, butter, eggs, and cheese. Not a leek to be seen.

From here we move into France and a very similar tart called Flamiche au Marouilles. Marouilles being a washed rind cheese from the Picardy region, just over the border from Belgium. Now this is very rich - some versions call for 15 or 16 eggs which seem to be just poured over the cheese and butter mix. A semi official recipe for Goyère au Marouilles was found at the Consulate General in New York. I don't think it's a very widely known dish though. Notice the change from Flamiche to Goyère but this does seem to be interchangeable, although the bread dough still seems to be the thing. See the cheese and a couple of examples below:

Mind you the emphasis on the cheese, and the bread is oddly fitting for the photographs that illustrate this dish in my little booklet, and also in the real cookbook. Here it is - in black and white and oddly appropriate for a booklet on the food of France, and in colour in the larger book. So very French - the cheese course of camembert and baguette. No butter.

All of the photographs of France and the French in the booklet are in black and white which gives it a kind of authenticity and a feeling of tradition.

And now to Flamiche aux poireaux - leek tart - or is it pie - or quiche? And today I have yet another reminder that my memory might well be fading. This picture is of Flan de poireaux à la berrichonne. The recipe is from Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking which was chosen for At Elizabeth David's Table from where the photograph comes. I don't think she has another version in her books. My memory firmly tells me that this is the recipe I first used, and that it was called Flamiche. True she does say:

"Under the name of flamiche or flamiche a very similar dish is made in Picardy and other parts of northern France"

She goes on to say that Flamiche:

"does not include the ham, more leeks and less cream being used for the filling."

Now I was absolutely convinced in my head that (a) the recipe came from Elizabeth David, (b) it did not include ham and (c) it was kind of a leek quiche and indeed these days I still make it every now and then exactly like a quiche, without a recipe but just using leeks and a few onions.

So where did I get the recipe? Maybe it was Robert Carrier I thought - but no I cannot find a version in his books. Jane Grigson? Yes, she does indeed have a recipe for Flamiche but this can't be it because it's a pie not a tart. And this is when I discovered that there are all sorts of different versions of Flamiche aux poireaux - well of course there are. I do begin to suspect though that the original was made with bread or brioche dough on the base, just leeks in the middle and a lid as well. This would certainly show a progression from that eighteenth century piece of bread dough with butter, through the cheesy bread versions to Flamiche à la Jane Grigson and various others. I'm pretty sure I had it in an Alsatian restaurant in Paris - which is probably why I thought it was Alsatian - and that that version was more like a quiche. What tricks the memory plays on us all. My conclusion is that Flamiche is just a Flemish word for tart or pie and then you add some other words to show what kind of tart it is. Anyway here are some pictures and some recipes including the original as far as this post goes, from Gabriel Gaté - Flamiche aux Poireaux. Also shown here are Flamiche (Flemish leek tart) from delicious.

Leek and cheese flamiches from Gourmet Traveller as well as one from my book The Food of France; a website called The Hungry Lioness; Wikipedia - I think this is from the town of Lille; and one from another book of mine: France a CulinaryJourney. Lots of variety there.

Leek quiche is truly lovely though so do give it a go one day. It could be my favourite too although where I found the original recipe I now have no idea. Oh - was it from Mastering the Art of French Cookery? I bet it was. I forgot to look there.


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