The origins of flamiche are not without contention. Some say it hails from Dinant in southern Belgium, while others claim that it is, in fact, French, from the Picardie region. Legend has it that a farmer’s wife from the small Village of Romedenne is responsible. 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.
Flamiche is very popular in Dinant, where it is celebrated in an annual festival. Every September, the Confrérie des Quarteniers de la Flamiche Dinantaise - the Brotherhood of the Flamiche (founded in 1956) - organizes an annual flamiche eating competition.
Having defined the term „flamiche“ as a „quiche-like tart“, the „flamiche aux poireaux“ combines the flavors of salty goat cheese and jammy leeks in the form of a leek confit. And from what I can tell from my research, this is where the difference between a quiche and a flamiche lies. For the flamiche you start off by preparing a leek confit which is nothing more than leeks that have been sliced into thin rounds, placed into a Dutch oven some butter, and left to cook under a tight lid for about half an hour. With the help of moist heat, the leeks soften beautifully and their oniony flavor gives way to something delicate and sweet. For a quiche, you usually do not cook or sauté your veggies before you add them to the eggy custard.
You can also eat the leek confit straight from the pot, it is a delightfully rich, and that's part of its charm. You can also fold it into scrambled eggs or an omelet—anything, really, that involves eggs. You could also use it as a bed for a piece of seared salmon, dab it onto flatbread, or spoon it into baked mushroom caps with some Parmesan or for an easy appetizers slice a baguette, spread it with goat cheese, and pile warm confit on top. Or better yet, put it in a flamiche aux poireaux, or leek tart.
The more I read about flamiche, the more I realized that every flamiche aux poireaux recipe is a little different. Most include leeks, but some also call for onions or bacon or ham. Some have a double crust, like an American apple pie, and though many include cheese or custard, others don't. Every Belgian family, it seems, has its own way of making it. And, of course, I have tried my hand at Julia Child´s famous flamiche - quiche aux poireaux recipe (no cheese in sight) a while ago and loved it too - her recipe can be found on page 151 of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".
Today´s version of flamiche is fairly classic. It's not unlike a leek tart, really, but for added interest, it calls for crumbled aged goat cheese into the confit before I pour in the custard. In general, leeks and goat cheese are a great pair—one of those matches made in heaven—but leeks and aged goat cheese are a particularly delicious duo. This tart is amazing with a standard fresh goat cheese, but with an aged one, it is utterly addictive.
Whenever I can, I get goat cheese in Antwerp (Belgium) at the Exotic Market (for more info go here) from a Belgian goat cheese manufacturer called Kempense Geitenkaas Polle (for more info go here) and once I am back home with my loot, I always make sure to bake one of these amazingly delicious flamiche all the while planning my next visit to lovely Belgium....This artisan Belgian goat cheese is fabulous, it adds an enticingly tangy flavor to the flamiche and tucked into leek confit and custard, it is absolutly divine.
Belgian Leek Tart with Goat Cheese - La Flamiche aux Poireaux et aux Chèvre
Ingredients for the Crust (Pâte brisée)
- about 4 tablespoons ice water
- 3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) AP (plain) flour
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 stick (113 grams) butter, unsalted, chilled
Preparation of the Crust
- In a small bowl combine ice water and cider vinegar, stir.
- Blend flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, slowly add water-vinegar mixture, processing until moist clumps form. If dough seems dry, add ice water by teaspoonfuls. NOTE: you can also do this by hand.
- Gather dough into ball and flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes or more.
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C).
- Roll dough out on lightly floured work surface to 12-inch (30cm) round.
- Transfer to a 9 inch (23 cm) diameter tart pan with removable bottom - I used a French tart pan with high sides - Press the dough onto bottom and up sides. Fold in overhang and press to extend dough 1/2 inch (1 cm) above the sides of your pan.
- Line pan with baking parchment and dried beans or pie weights.
- Bake until dough looks dry and set, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the baking parchment and beans and continue to bake until crust is pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
- Remove from oven and cool on a rack while preparing the filling.
Ingredients for the Leek Confit
- 1/2 stick (55 grams) butter, unsalted
- 4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) thick slices
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Preparation of the Leek Confit
- Melt butter in pot over medium-low heat.
- Add leeks and stir to coat.
- Stir in water and salt.
- Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook until the leeks are tender, stirring often, about 20 minutes.
- Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Set aside until cooled.
Ingredients for the Filling
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk (I use 3.5%)
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) cream (I use 20%)
- 1 egg (L), free range or organic
- 1 egg yolk (L), free range or organic NOTE: if your pre-backed flamiche shell has cracked during baking, use a bit of the left-over egg white to brush over the cracks and "seal" them
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup (150 grams) crumbled aged goat cheese or use fresh goat cheese, rind trimmed
- 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) Leek Confit, cooled
Preparation of the Filling
- Whisk milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, and salt in medium bowl to blend.
- Scatter some of the cheese over the bottom of the warm crust.
- Then spread leek confit over and scatter the remaining cheese overthe leek confit.
- Pour the eggy mixture over.
- Bake until the filling has puffed, is golden in spots, and the center looks set, about 40 to 45 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and cool slightly.
- Remove the baking pan.
- Serve warm or at room temperature (whichever you prefer).
The leek confit and goat cheese set in an egg and cream mixture makes for a luxurious yet simple meal. I usually serve a slice of this rich, lovely tart with fresh seasonal fruits such as some glorious figs and grapes, as I am addicted to the combination of sweet and salty flavors but you could easily opt to serve this tart with a green or mixed green salad.
Such wonderful flavors and textures. Sometimes I use aged goat cheese and other times I opt for fresh soft goat cheese. Both turn out beautifully and delicious, so if you prefer more mild flavors just use fresh instead of aged. But whichever cheese you choose, do make a note to try this recipe soon.