Monday, 8 September 2014

Tarte au Maroilles – The Lazy Person’s Guide

Bonjour tertous ! OK. that's just about all the ch'ti I can speak but I thought it was about time for a ch'ti recipe. After all, it's from just across the channel so it's almost a local dish.

In case you're not familiar with Maroilles, it's a soft cow's milk cheese with an orange rind that's made in northern France. Those simple facts sound harmless enough but there's a little more to it than that. The aroma of Maroilles can be scary. If you don't eat it quickly, it could start to set off fire alarms and endanger low-flying aircraft. On the other hand, it tastes great. As well as being a fine addition to the cheese board, it’s also a superb cheese for cooking.

One of the commonest dishes using this pushy little cheese is the Tarte au Maroilles. You can find different versions of this tarte around Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy but the most traditional form has a yeasted dough base rather than a layer of pastry. Think of it as a sort of enriched pizza dough. (I've now upset everyone from the north of France by saying that).

If you can’t get hold of any Maroilles, then you could substitute another cheese.  If you happen to venture into the Boulonnais region then you could do worse than to look for some of the cheeses made by the Bernard brothers in Wierre-Effroy. The Fruité du Cap Gris Nez would be ideal but the Fleur d’Audresselles or the Fort d’Ambleteuse would also do very nicely indeed. (As usual I should point out that I've no connection with the brothers and haven't received anything for nothing. I just like their cheeses.) Failing that use a cheese that isn't too soft and ripe but does have a powerful flavour: Chaumes, Reblochon or Pont-l'Évêque come to mind.

This is not a difficult dish to make but, if you happen to have a bread making machine, then it will need remarkably little effort. (The dough's not difficult to make without a machine, if you'd prefer to remain traditional). I use a Panasonic bread machine and it recommends the addition of the ingredients in the order I've given here, but follow the instructions for your particular breadmaker since the recommended order is often reversed.
Tarte au Maroilles
You can serve the tarte hot or cold, but I think it’s at its best when warm and accompanied by a green salad. This makes one 25 – 26 cm tarte, which should serve at least 8 as a starter, or 6 as a lunch.

For the base:
     ½ tsp easy bake fast action dried yeast
     300 g strong white flour
     ½ tsp salt
     2 tsp caster sugar
     15 g softened butter
     1 egg, beaten
     100 ml milk
     20 ml water
For the topping:
     300 g Maroilles
     200 ml crème fraîche
     1 egg
     Plenty of pepper, a little salt, a sprinkle of paprika and a pinch or two of ground cumin

Add all of the base ingredients to the breadmaker in the order recommended by your manufacturer. If your machine has a pizza dough setting then use it, but, if not, use the basic dough setting. Once the program is complete, you should have a light, slightly sticky dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 45 – 60 minutes.

Butter a 25 cm or 26 cm diameter pie dish. (The tarte topping tends to bubble up more than you might expect and so a deeper dish is no bad thing.) Knock the dough back and roll it out until it covers the base of the pie dish. Some recipes suggest that you should fully line the dish by spreading the dough up the sides, but I was told in Picardy that it should remain flat.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Slice the Maroilles quite thinly and cover the dough base with the cheese. You don’t have to remove the rind of the cheese, but unless the cheese is very fresh then I think it’s better if you do. Beat the egg and stir it into the crème fraîche. Season this mixture with the pepper, salt, paprika and cumin. (The paprika and cumin aren't traditional, but they do add a little extra something). Pour the mixture onto the tarte and spread it out to cover the whole of the surface (you don’t need to be too fussy or precise about this). Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until the top is golden and puffed up.
Tarte au Maroilles
I will be forever grateful to Richard of ‘Maison de Plumes’ in Heuchin for persuading me to try Maroilles for the first time a few years ago. (Of course, I'm sure that he would never sink so low as to use a breadmaker).

12 comments:

  1. That looks glorious! So tempting, but so wicked, for those of us on perpetual diets!

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    1. I don't think anyone would ever be likely to publish the ch'ti diet book. The food tends to be on the rich and and hearty side. But then it does get cold in the north.

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  2. It looks delicious, and I have some Pont - l'Eveque cheese and a Panasonic breadmaker. Off to make some! Thanks Phil.

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  3. It was delicious, and we ate it with a large mixed salad.

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    1. Really glad you enjoyed it. Definitely best with a salad I think, although there are some in the north who I'm sure would prefer the frites alongside it on a cold day.

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  4. Oh la la, I am swooning at the thought of all that Fromage Francais and I so want a piece of that tart.

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  5. Dear Phil, how did I miss this post, this looks absolutely divine, I love a good savory tarte and yours look delicious. I will be hunting for the Maroilles, thank you :)

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  6. Mmm Phil this tarte looks lovely. Can't say I've come across Maroilles, but the Husband and I have fond memories of cycling back from Le Havre with a chunk of Livarot in on of our saddle bags which you could literally smell from across the other end of the ferry car deck. Less push, that one - more totally in your face.

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  7. Phil my husband made this today and followed your instructions to a T. It looked wonderful, but sadly it was very dry and we were very disappointed. A couple of weeks back he made a fromagerie charantais and I suspect that has spoilt us for any other cheese dish. I am now wondering what we can use the remainder of the tarte for as there is only two of us to eat it! Diane

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    1. Sorry to hear that you found the tarte dry. With that amount of topping and that type of bread mix it always seems to be about right for me. Having said that, the food of the north is very different to the food in other French regions and it can be a bit of a culture shock. This is certainly different to most of the cheese tarts, flans and quiches that you'll find elsewhere in France. The most common regional dish that you'll come across in a lot of the north seems to be 'le Welsh' and this tarte does remind me of a large and eccentric Welsh rarebit.

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    2. I have sliced it, sprinkled it with a little water and heated it up and it is much better. Think it will be crossed off of our favourite list though,

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