As 23 January is National Pie Day and leeks have been under a euro a kilo at the farmer’s market this week, I couldn’t resist making a typical French classic leek recipe.
Although a regional speciality of Picardy, originally called a flamique by the locals, the flamiche is a warming seasonal special on many winter menus in Parisian brasseries, bistros or cafés and served as a starter or French entrée.
As it’s from the North of France, no olive oil is used – just good unsalted butter. Some variations to the classic include cheese, bacon and other vegetables such as pumpkin, but the most popular you’ll find are made simply with plain leeks, nothing more. Some French chefs add a touch of curry powder to the leek mixture – and I’ve discovered it does enhance the leeks’ flavor.
I strongly recommend making your own pastry for this flamiche, especially as you can add the touch of curry powder instead into the pastry for a special homemade touch. For busy gourmets, you can skip making the pie dough and simply prepare it using ready-made puff pastry – just ensure it’s good quality “pure butter” puff.
Starter or Entrée
Preparation : 30 minutes
Cooking Time : 1 hour 15 mins
250g plain flour (all-purpose)
125g unsalted butter, softened
5 tbsp milk
good pinch salt
1 tsp curry powder (optional)
(or 2 discs of ready-made pure butter puff pastry)
750g leeks (about 4-5)
40g unsalted butter
3 egg yolks (+1 for glaze)
200g crème fraîche
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
good pinch of salt and pepper
To make the pastry:
In a large bowl, sift the flour then add the butter, milk, salt & pepper and curry powder (if using). Whiz together in a mixer until the dough is well blended, or mix by hand until smooth.
Split the dough in half, reserving one in the fridge wrapped in cling-film. With the other half, roll out the dough on to a lightly floured work surface to form a circle (30cm for a 28cm diameter pie tin, or 2cm more than your tart pan). Transfer and push well in to a buttered pie tin (no need if using non-stick). Leave to chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 210°C/410°F.
Place a sheet of baking paper over the tart base and top with ceramic beans or rice. Blind-bake in the oven for 15 minutes, remove the baking beans then leave to cool. Remove the other dough half from the fridge to bring up to room temperature and roll out to a circle the size of your tart pan.
Prepare the filling:
Remove the root bases and about 1/3 of the green leaves, then clean the leeks by cutting down the tops on either side and wash under the tap to remove all dirt from the inside layers. Cut the leeks into 1/2 cm rounds.
Melt the butter in a large non-stick pan and cook over a low-medium heat for 5 minutes until golden. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and leave the leeks to soften gently for 15 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.
Beat the 3 egg yolks in a small bowl then add the crème fraîche, salt, pepper and nutmeg until smooth.
Spread the leeks on to the pastry base then evenly pour over the egg mix. Cover with the 2nd pastry circle, pressing the edges together to seal well. Crimp the edges of the pastry with a fork or make lines using a knife, and finish with a pastry roller to remove any rough edges and seal.
Beat the remaining egg yolk and brush over the pastry to glaze. Pierce a small hole in the middle of the pastry to leave the air to escape and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes and remove from the tin.