|Leeks for Flamiche|
At this time of year it's easy to forget we have an allotment, especially when winter is turning out to be so long and cold. Well, it feels long, and it's only the first week in February. Having been unable to dig parsnips from the frozen ground for Christmas lunch the previous year, we made sure we got some up the week before this time round. These are the dog-days of winter where growing our own veg is concerned. Apart from Parsnips, we are reduced to Brassicas - Savoy cabbage and Cavolo Nero. The purple sprouting broccoli is just beginning to show promise. The saving grace is the Leek which thrives in winter's grip and is at its flavoursome best right now. In the teeth of a howling gale I managed to extract half a dozen of them from their sodden clay bed.
So, what to cook? Something warming and comforting is needed, and a hot creamy leek pie fits the bill well. Yes, it's rich but that's what we need in this weather. The Belgians and French have a lovely word for this pie - Flamiche. Provenance is claimed by them both and, depending where you find it, it can be a single pastry layer tart or a pie. At this time of year my preference is for a rich, filling pie. Some recipes add eggs to the mixture, which is deeply wrong I think. This recipe is inspired by La Flamiche restaurant in Roye, about 80 miles north of Paris. I prefer to make a rough-puff pastry rather than using puff pastry, but it's up to you. If you've never made rough-puff do give it a go as it's really easy and works well in many recipes which advise puff pastry. The baked pastry is not quite as light but I prefer the slightly resisting texture, and I even use it in dishes such as Tarte Tatin.
You need 450g/1lb Rough-Puff or Puff Pastry
If making rough-puff:
190g plain flour
190g unsalted butter
Half tsp salt
90ml iced water
900g/2lb Leeks (discard the tough dark green part), sliced, washed and dried
75g/3oz unsalted butter, diced
6 tbsp Double cream
A little nutmeg to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg yolk
To make rough-puff pastry, add the salt to the flour and place on a work surface. Add the butter and rub it into the flour. When the butter cubes are small and half squashed, form a well and pour in the iced water, gradually mix in until everything holds together. Do not knead or your pastry will be tough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in three, bottom to mid-point, then top to bottom, and turn 90 degrees. Roll out again to a rectangle and fold in three again. You have completed "two turns". Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes then repeat to complete two more turns.
Cut the pastry in half and roll out two rounds of pastry to around 22cm/9" and place both on a plate, separated by greaseproof paper, and return to the fridge for 30 minutes (this will make your assembly of the Flamiche much easier and stop the pastry from shrinking and spoiling the shape whilst baking).
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the leeks. Cook gently until very soft - 15-20 minutes. Add the cream, increase the heat and cook for a couple of minutes to thicken the cream (you do not want a wet mixture). Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer it from the pan into a bowl and cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 210C. Place one round of pastry on a baking sheet. Working quickly, brush a 2.5cm edge with egg yolk and place the cold leek mixture on the pastry in a flattish mound within this. Place the second round of pastry on top, pressing the pastry edges together with the tines of a fork to seal the Flamiche. Brush with the remaining egg yolk and make a couple of incisions in the top to allow steam to escape. Decorate the pastry with the point of a knife if you like but don't pierce completely through as you want the filling to be contained. Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes then serve in wedges with your choice of crisp dressed salad - you may be more organised than me but in my case, in deepest February, shop-bought!