It Was Supposed to Be Deep Purple

So the Architect decided to make some fresh pasta. Of course being him, he couldn’t settle for just plain old boring linguini.

Was good too.

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It’s Not Pizza!

The first description I remember hearing for Flammkuchen came from the Architect. He said “it’s like pizza, but not good”. I think it was on out trip to Strasbourg, where Flammkuchen (tarte flambée) was served on this and that street corner. I wanted to try it then, but didn’t get around to it and of course it wasn’t available in Paris where we went next. Paris did however have croque monsieurs made with thick cut ham and huge slices of French bread, perfectly delicious in their own right. A couple of weeks ago we were taking lunch at a local café here and out of curiosity I decided to try their Flammkuchen (naturally the ham & cheese variety). I was served a large, extremely thin disk of dough, covered with a white cheesy mix, onions and some very strong Tyrolean ham, which really is, in reality, borderline bacon. So was it like pizza, except not good? Well sort of, it was a bit like pizza and it was definitely good. What I liked most was the thin crust, very crispy on the edges, that tasted rather like water biscuits. It was like having a giant water biscuit with warm toppings and I thought to myself this could definitely use some improvement.

I know, here I come, the foreigner, “improving” local traditional recipes. Well that’s the way the biscuit crumbles today and that’s that.

The first things I thought of adding to the Flammkuchen were cherry tomatoes and rucola, not before baking mind you, but on top of the finished pie. Then I thought of switching up the toppings, perhaps prosciutto or ordinary ham instead of Speck. Then later a discussion with someone in Finland nudged me towards trying smoked salmon. The Architect thought he might like sardines and anchovies and more cheese. Well to be fair, I also thought I might like a bit more cheese, but I’ll come to that later.

So after a while I went online in search of a recipe and of course found several. As I suspected, the basic recipe is very simple. The crust is nothing but flour, water, oil and salt and the traditional toppings are just crème fraîche, salt and pepper, cheese onions and Speck. The dough comes together in a snap and the toppings are likewise quickly thrown together. Of course any fancy additions, such as extremely finely sliced shallots, add to the preparing time.

So here’s the recipe, in its most basic form.



FLAMMKUCHEN (2 pieces)

OVEN:
200C, for about 15 minutes, mid-level. Or until the edges look golden and crisp.


CRUST:
200g flour
120-125ml water
2-3 tbsp oil
salt (e.g. ½ tsp, whatever you like)

-Put ingredients in a bowl. Mix.
Well, actually there’s a bit more to it than that. The ingredients mix well until the mixture is rough and crumbly, then it’s best to tip them over to a work surface and to knead till there’s a nice, smooth ball of dough.
-Wrap in plastic, let rest in fridge 30min -> 1 day. Resting times outside of this time interval may work, but haven’t been tested by the author.
-Cut in half, roll out into thin crusts. As in really thin, seriously the crust can be translucent and it’ll still work fine. I can spread this amount of dough into two crusts almost the size of a baking sheet. You may prefer thicker crusts or smaller tarts, up to you, I would recommend experimenting to discover what you like best. Sprinkling flour on the work surface helps a lot, even if you’re working on a non stick pastry sheet.
-Add toppings, place on baking sheet, bake in oven.
-Add extra uncooked toppings before serving.


TRADITIONAL TOPPINGS:
2-3 tbsp crème fraîche or other suitable sour cream product
salt
black pepper
lightly cooked chopped onions or very thinly sliced shallots
Speck, i.e. cubed bacon or strong ham

-Flavour the sour cream with salt and pepper, spread on the crust. Sprinkle the onions and ham on top. Bake.


NON-TRADITIONAL TOPPINGS:
Whatever the hell you want.

Well, in all seriousness, here’s what I put on my first one.
The sour cream mix as above, a bit of grated cheese, half mixed in with the sour cream and half sprinkled on top. Ordinary smoked ham, thinly sliced shallots. After baking I added rucola and chopped up cherry tomatoes on top. The Architect doesn’t like the sour cream mix, nor the onions, so I made his without and it turned fine. If you hate the idea of either, they’re not essential.

The Architect also had sardines and anchovies in lieu of ham, I’m told that was all right too.

On the second go I added more cheese, which turned out to be a mistake, more of that later. I again had the sour cream, seasoning and the onions, but topped that with prosciutto and capers on one half and smoked salmon on the other. I put on half the salmon before baking and half after, to see which I liked better. The cooked salmon came out tasting with a very strong taste, a veritable bitch slap of smoked salmon right in the nose. Not that it was bad, there just was a bit too much of it. I enjoyed the uncooked smoked salmon much more, but the cooked one might work as well if only there were much less of it. Pro tip, this might be a good way to stretch out a small amount of smoked salmon to cover several Flammkuchen. The salmon side would’ve been nicer without the onions. The prosciutto side was very salty, probably better either without capers or with vinegar preserved rather than salted capers. This time I also added rucola and cherry tomatoes after baking.

The Architect had prosciutto, anchovies and capers and a selection of cheeses (and rucola). I’m told it was “ok”. Upon being pressed, he added “would eat again, but not with salty capers at the same time”. He also had his second Flammkuchen with a Belgian beer, and I’m told they went very well together. The Architect does feel that the edges become tougher when cooling down than those of a pizza, and thus difficult to eat. I haven’t noticed such a problem, so it’s clearly yet another personal preference.

Here are photos of the second Flammkuchen meal we had. This is a dish which photographs very well and looks fancy without too much work, as such it might also be a good option for guests. The crust can happily sit waiting in the fridge for hours, which is something I quite like, as it allows me the luxury of pacing my cooking comfortably.

Prosciutto, salted capers, cheese, garlic oil, rucola. Served with Belgian (!) beer.

Sour cream with seasoning, shallots, prosciutto with capers, salmon cooked, salmon uncooked and topped with rucola and cherry tomatoes. Served with tap water and too much for one person. Still ate the whole thing, mind.


So what did I get out of all this, apart two rather filling meals?
I think Flammkuchen is better than pizza. That’s right, you read that right. I don’t think pizza is as good. To be honest I’ve grown a bit tired of pizza and these days I find pizza a bit soggy and greasy and altogether a bit too much. I like the thin cracker like base of a good Flammkuchen much better and it’s easy to make a Flammkuchen lighter and fresher. I’m by no means turning into a health nut, I just find that large, heavy meals leave me feeling a bit queasy these days. With a Flammkuchen I can have the satisfaction of a nice, large savoury pie without the accompanying bloated feeling. And now some pointers based on my extensive experience of making four (4) Flammkuchen and eating two of them.

DON’T BE GREEDY
The temptation to roll the crust till it fills out as much of the baking sheet as possible is strong, but do try to resist. Chances are you really don’t need that much of a good thing, honestly a slightly smaller tart will be perfectly satisfying. I would also caution against loading the Flammkuchen up with toppings. In my opinion this dish is best when kept relatively thin and light. This brings out the crust and also makes it easier to actually finish the Flammkuchen, without having to be wheeled off when leaving the dinner table.

EXPERIMENT
The best quality of old, traditional recipes is that they typically allow for endless variation. The principle of a Flammkuchen is a very basic one so just as you can put pretty much anything you want on a pizza, you can do the same with a Flammkuchen. My preference would be to stick to one or two toppings, though of course a single Flammkuchen can be divided into parts with different toppings on each. I’ve even seen references to sweet Flammkuchen, topped with e.g. apples, perhaps that would be worth a try.
In all the images I’ve seen the crust has been very thin, but there’s really no reason why you couldn’t make a thicker crust if you prefer. I would advise to start with a thin one just to see what that’s like, but there are really no hard and fast rules here.

DON’T OVERDO THE CHEESE
There can never be too much cheese, right? Wrong.
If you add too much cheese onto a Flammkuchen, it’ll release too much grease, making everything wetter so to speak, and the tart will be much heavier to eat. Best to use cheese here as a spice rather than a main ingredient. I would also recommend using drier cheeses, such as parmesan or grana padano, if you know yourself to have a tendency to be heavy handed with cheese. My first Flammkuchen had a very small amount of I think emmental and that also worked very nicely.

FEEL THE EDGES
Towards the end of the baking the edges may go from white to overdone quite fast so it’s a good idea to keep an eye at the Flammkuchen after the 10-11 min. mark. I found that feeling the edges with my fingers when the tart was almost done gave me a good indication of when they had crisped up.

THIS IS NOT A PIZZA
This isn’t supposed to be “a healthier pizza” or any other pizza modification. It’s a Flammkuchen. Don’t think of it as a pizza and you’re probably less likely to overload it, use too much cheese, leave the crust thicker than it needs to be or be disappointed when it’s not what you thought it would be.

So there you have it. Flammkuchen, Tarte flambée, Flàmmaküacha, or whatever you want to call it. Just don’t call it “like pizza, but not good”, because that would be incorrect.

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Just a Few Random Cat Photos

Those socks were, of course, clean.

This very rarely happens. Normally they wouldn’t be caught dead sleeping so close to each other.

Kitten sleeps weird a lot.

Here the great snow cat tracks its elusive prey through the endless frozen wilderness…

The rare boreal jungle cat merges almost perfectly with its surroundings…

Pride of two. Or would housecats be called something else? A contentment of housecats?

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The Proper Term Is, I Believe, Boo-Yah

The Wien Oireachtas/continental feis, leg injury, new steps, old ones changed. Two weeks of no practicing just before the feis. Increasing leg pain and weakness on the day. Wasn’t expecting much.

Came home with this.

Shiny.

Shiny.

This is my first ever trophy on anything. I bloody well only went and won one of my dances while injured, despite of messing up my steps.
So, yes. Boo-Yah.

Other placements were 7th or 8th places, except the intermediate reel, which was one of the last placements announced. One might think I am disappointed with that, but on the contrary I’m quite pleased. I messed up quite badly there too and by that time my leg was hurting rather badly and really wasn’t supporting my weight as well as it should. So if I can place in intermediate reel in THAT situation, there’s no telling how far I can get when healthy.

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Just Make Something Up

I rather like playing games and I finally got around to purchasing an English edition of Scrabble for me and the Architect to play together. It has turned out to be rather good fun, especially since we don’t give a hoot about the official rules, but instead make up our own. One of the variations we’ve attempted so far was only using imaginary words. The rules were any word had to sound like it could be a word in English, however vaguely, the player putting it down had to have a definition for the word and the other player had to agree with both the word and the definition. Very much a game of trust then, as deliberate sabotage would’ve quickly lead to scorched earth tactics. In the end I don’t think we rejected many words, perhaps one or two max. We found that often it was much harder to come up with a definition than with a word, at least after the first few ideas had been used up. I thought it would be fun to document this game so I wrote down the words and their definitions as they came up and then took a photo of the finished board. Both can be found below, my words in the first half of the list and the Architect’s words in the second.

Now, to anyone actually still reading, I would like to point out that neither of us is an expert on the internal structure or history of English words, so the ones we came up with probably violate all manner of rules. We don’t care. It was fun and that’s all there is to it. My personal favourites were brawoc and farkin.


The board

The board

Grent:Noun. Angry, antisocial elderly neighbour, who isn’t trouble to the rest of the neighbourhood because he keeps to himself. Mostly used about males.
Brawoc:Noun, archaic. Overly brave and clearly stupid young knave, who because of these properties gets into trouble frequently.
Sagon:Noun. Communal evening event where stories are told.
Dyree:Noun. Female equivalent of dandy, often implies snobbishness.
Druo:Noun. Seamstress’ tool used for marking places of holes for hand sewing.
Helie:Noun. A kite with an inflatable buoyancy aide attached.
Kvite:Noun. A type of dessert made with dried fruit and custard.
Jendo:Noun. Men’s hat which is only fashionable or wearable for one fashion season.
Feiada:Noun. The situation of a large family gathering ending up in a mass fight.
Rougas:Noun. A small auxiliary fireplace specifically meant to keep food warm, not used for preparing. Sometimes used for a equivalent modern device, but that usage is not widely spread.
Enealy:Noun. Relatively low skill representative in legal and accounting matters, attends to everyday issues rather than actual legal cases.
Tlat:Noun. Small hatch in a counter top leading to a rubbish bin beneath it.
*
Tepwis:Noun. A towel almost too wet to be used for drying.
Codge:Noun. An elderly romantic person.
Sime:Noun. A ground drill which makes a square hole.
Quavesh:Adjective. Almost stylish, but not quite due to having too many colours.
Fenton:Noun. A replacement cover for a fold-up umbrella, which does not match the pattern of the original umbrella.
Farkin:Noun. A needle with two pointy ends and a hole in the middle.
Zyetope:Noun. The female body shape which will be fashinable next season.
Namble:Noun. A small brook which flows exactly at walking pace.
Todix:Noun. The level of income at which one is treated the same way by both the UK and the Ireland tax code.
Taric:Noun. A rock on top of a mountain, the falling of which wold make a neighbouring mountain higher.
Wuti:Noun. A device placed on a bicycle, that makes a continuous whistling noise.
Elcodge:Noun. A clip-on flower decoration for a hat.

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Protected: Some Things Make Me So Tired

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Oh and by the way…

We got stuff today. New stuff. Pretty new stuff.
The Architect had grown tired of some of our old pots, so he ordered new ones.

The red one is actually old. It's just there for context.

The red one is actually old. It’s just there for context.

I love proper cookware.

I love proper cookware.

Oh and apparently this is my 100th post here on Teacups and Dictionaries. How appropariate to celebrate it with beautiful new pots.

My favourite is the blue one. It’s so darling.

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