Watercress and Brie Flamiche
If a quiche and a pizza fell in love, a 'flamiche' would be the probable offspring. It's from northern France, and consists of a thin bread base with an egg-and-cream-rich leek topping. Sometimes the bread is replaced with puff pastry, and occasionally it even acquires a lid, essentially making a leek pie. While I prefer to stick to an open, bread-based tart, I do like to vary the traditional leek topping. I wilted a bunch of watercress alongside the softened leek to give it a peppery kick, and added a few cubes of ripe brie to melt over as it was cooking. Spinach would be good too, or even some wild garlic.
- For the dough:
- 300ml hand-hot water (use half boiling and half cold)
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 1 pinch caster sugar
- 450g strong white (bread) flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to grease the bowl
- For the topping:
- 25g butter
- 1 large leek, washed, trimmed & thinly sliced
- 170g watercress, well washed & roughly chopped (about 2 bunches)
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbsp crème fraîche
- 125g ripe brie, cubed as best you can depending on how squidgy it is
- A little freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Measure the water into a jug and sprinkle over the yeast and sugar, stirring well until it has dissolved. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast a little time to wake up. Weigh the flour into a mixing bowl and stir through the salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeasty water and the olive oil, using a wooden spoon to mix it together into a rough ball. Tip on to the work surface and knead, using the heel of your hands to push, pull and stretch the dough for a generous 5 minutes or so until it is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. cover and set aside for 30 minutes to prove.
While the dough is rising, cook the topping. Melt the butter over a low heat in a deep frying pan and sweat the leeks gently for around 10-15 minutes until very soft. It is important not to let the leeks burn as they will take on an unpleasant bitter taste. A piece of baking paper, scrunched up under running water, shaken dry and tucked over the top of the pan, will create a steamy lid that helps them soften without overheating.
Once the leeks are soft, add the watercress and wilt down for just a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and crème fraîche and season well with nutmeg, salt and black pepper. Pour into the leek and watercress mixture and stir well.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.
Tip the ball of dough on to a baking tray lined with baking paper and stretch and shape into a freeform base like a pizza. Using your finger and thumb, press a little indentation 1cm in from the edge all the way round, creating a border that will contain the topping. Pour over the topping and level out with a spoon. Scatter over the cubes of brie and bake for around 20 minutes until puffed up and golden brown on top. Serve warm, cut into generous wedges.