There are two reasons today’s recipes are German-inspired: the three-week Oktoberfest that’s taking place right now, which celebrates companionship, cheer and silly amounts of beer (all very good causes, in my book), and a recent trip to Alsace, which reminded me of the region’s conviviality and its hearty food – rooted in German traditions and the perfect antidote to the short days ahead. Although I’ve played around quite a bit with tradition here, all three recipes aim to have the same radiant effect: they’re festive, filling and fun.
Flammkuchen with speck and grilled leeks (pictured above)
This is my take on a German flatbread that’s typically topped with sour cream, bacon and onion. If you want to get ahead, make the dough and leave to prove overnight in the fridge.
Prep 10 min
Prove 2 hrs-plus
Cook 1 hr 15 min
Serves 4 as a main or 8 as a snack
For the dough
500g strong white bread flour
1¼ tsp salt
2 tsp fast-action dried yeast (ie, 1 sachet, or 7g)
320ml lukewarm water
1½ tbsp olive oil, plus extra to grease
For the topping
750g leeks, cleaned, trimmed, green parts discarded, then cut into 1½cm-thick rounds
90ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
280g creme fraiche
140g speck (about 16 slices), cut in half widthways
10g chives, cut into 1cm lengths
Put all the dough ingredients in a freestanding mixer with the dough hook in place. Mix on medium-high speed for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl (the dough will be quite sticky) and cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Leave to sit in a warm place for two to three hours, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Put a well-greased griddle pan on a high heat. Toss the leek rounds with four tablespoons of oil, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Once the pan is smoking hot, grill the leeks in about three batches for four to five minutes, flipping them once halfway, until deeply charred and softened. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining leeks. Don’t worry if the rounds come apart a little – grill the loose strands until they’re just charred and add them to the plate.
In a small bowl, mix the creme fraiche with a third of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper.
Heat the oven to its highest setting. Divide the dough into four equal pieces of about 210g each, and roll each one into a ball. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to sit for another 20 minutes.
Put two large trays in the oven to heat up. Cut out four 35cm squares of greaseproof paper. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll out each ball on to a piece of paper into a very thin round (it won’t be perfectly round) about 28cm in diameter. Spread all over with the creme fraiche mixture and top with the leek rounds (and any strands) and speck, scrunching up the speck a little. Drizzle a teaspoon and a half of oil over each flatbread. Carefully transfer two of the flatbreads, with their paper bases, on to the preheated trays and bake for 10-12 minutes, until browned and cooked through, then lift and slide on to a large board, discarding the paper. Repeat with the remaining two flatbreads.
To serve, sprinkle the chives over the top and cut each flatbread into four or eight pieces. Divide between four plates, or serve directly off the board or a large platter.