It was in Cornwall, England, where I first heard the name Rick Stein. We ate a seafood restaurant in Newquay, called The Fish House Fistral, after a beautiful beach walk from our hotel. Turns out, the chef there had worked under Rick Stein for years, prior to opening his own restaurant on Fistral beach. Chef Stein’s restaurant is called The Seafood Restaurant, which opened in 1975 in Padstow, Cornwall.
What I remember the most, besides everything being wonderful at this casual, seriously unpretentious restaurant on a cliff, during a fabulous sunset in fact, was that I finally experienced bottarga. I’d ordered an exceptional seafood pasta, and it was topped with this condensed salted and cured fish roe, grated on top of the lovely creamy pasta. Heaven.
So I never forgot the name Rick Stein, pronounced Steen, but also never heard anything about him, until recently when I discovered a tv show of his called, Rick Stein’s Secret France! The show is really good, and the passion for everything French, especially the food, really was obvious, as chef Stein makes his way to various towns in France, shown below.
I loved the show so much and was intrigued by so many recipes, that I just had to buy the companion cookbook. Plus I really loved the chef’s easy going style.
From the introduction: “Like many people, I have a romantic attachment to France that goes back to childhood, but when I was 16, a short stay near Cambrai in northern France converted me to the cuisine. My deep affection for France started then and has continued.”
A tarte flambé isn’t anything terribly unique, but there it was in the book. I think it’s the simplicity of what the chef referred to as “France’s answer to pizza,” although he also claims it’s not much like pizza at all! Especially since the dough is more like a flatbread.
I had to research lardons, because I wanted to stay true to the recipe. I discovered they’re unique, cut up from back bacon. I ordered some, but sadly discovered I’d not noticed that it was sliced. So my lardons are all various shapes, but they’re good!
I also ordered Emmental and Gruyere, because I wanted to use them both.
French “Pizza” of Cheese and Ham
250g or 8.8 ounces plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
150ml or 5 ounces tepid water
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
250g or 8.8 ounces full fat crème fraiche
1 large onion, finely sliced
160g or 5 1/2 ounces smoked bacon lardons, fried until browned
250g or 8.8 ounces Emmental or Gruyere, or a mixture of both
A few rasps freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and black pepper
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then add the water and oil and bring everything together to make rough dough. Transfer the dough to a floured board and knead well. Roll the dough into 2 rectangles, each measuring about 25 x 28cm (8.5 x 11”).
Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F) or as hot as your oven will go. Spread the creme fraiche over the dough, leaving a little border around the edges, then dot with the onion, lardons and grated cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until he base is crisp and the cheese is bubbling. Slide the tarts on to a wooden board and use a pizza cuter to cut them into portions.
Serve immediately with drinks or as a light lunch with a green salad.
I also added some cayenne pepper flakes, just cause I can’t resist!