A cheese-free alternative to pizza

flammekuche 261014

The other day, I was reflecting on how difficult it must be to enjoy a good pizza if you don’t like cheese. I tend to think that tomato-based pizzas aren’t very interesting or tasty unless there is a generous amount of mozzarella on top but that’s just me.

It’s been a while since I have shared a recipe, and this time I was inspired to do so by a close friend who never gets to eat pizza because she hates any and all cheeses. So when we were in France in the summer and I was reminded of this whilst perusing the supermarket shelves, I was determined to try this recipe out at home.

One of the traditional dishes of the Alsace near the border with Germany is the Flammeküche, or Flammenküche, also known as tarte flambée (which is a tart cooked in a wood-fire oven, not the intriguing ‘pie outbreak’ Google Translate would like it to be). It is a type of pizza with a white base, topped with caramelised onions and smoked lardons and customarily baked in a wood-fire oven. Its stand-out characteristics are:

  • The base is made of cream and yoghurt: yes it works!
  • Not only does it not usually have cheese on it, it doesn’t even need it, which as a cheese and pizza aficionado I was a bit suspicious about originally, but I was positively surprised by the outcome.
  • The traditional dough is made without a raising agent.

The end result was delicious although I wasn’t totally sold on the dough. I must have done something wrong somewhere as it was sticky and difficult to work with, and when cooked, it was, well, quite ‘doughy’. Badgerman is a big fan of doughy and loved it but I think I will be a bit more careful with the amount of water I add in the future. If you’re unsure about dough in general you can still make this very successfully using pizza dough or a shop-bought mix and spreading it as thinly as you can although the end result won’t be quite the traditional way.

flammekuche pics 261014


For the dough

  • 250 g plain flour
  • 50 ml rapeseed oil
  • 1 small glass of lukewarm water
  • A pinch of salt

For the topping

  • 60 g of crème fraiche
  • 50 g of plain yoghurt (I used Total yoghurt; this is the nearest equivalent to the French ‘fromage blanc’ I have been able to find)
  • 1 large onion
  • 250 g smoked lardons (or streaky bacon cut into thick matches)
  • 12 g corn flour
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl, add the oil and start to work the dough with warm water. You may not need all the water so add it slowly and see how it goes. Work the dough until it no longer sticks to your hands and put it aside.
  1. Cut the onion into thin strips or rings and brown them slowly in a frying pan with a little rapeseed oil, then add the smoked lardons and cook them for two minutes. Put aside.
  1. Mix the crème fraiche with the plain yoghurt, corn flour, nutmeg, pepper and a little salt. The lardons will add saltiness so don’t add too much.
  1. Pre-heat the oven as high as it will go (typically 240°C or 250°C – thermostat 8). Spread the dough as thinly as possible on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Spread the cream mix evenly over it, top with the onion and lardons and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

You can eat it as you would a pizza with a green salad on the side.


Inside a Franglish Pantry: Lardons

Inside a franglish pantry

I was cooking a Boeuf Bourguignon for Sunday lunch last week and the smell of lardons frying in the pan reminded me how much of a staple item it is in France and how frequently I use them in recipes.

Lardons are basically diced smoked bacon, which you can buy in most if not all supermarkets already prepared.

In most cookery programmes I have watched in recent years, chefs will often use the more expensive version of the humble lardon in their recipes, Pancetta. It may make any old recipe sound posh but my view is it doesn’t actually make that much difference which type you use.  I’m not a chef and not quite that precious about my bacon, and it shows in my personal preference, which goes to Lidl’s beech smoked rindless bacon lardons.  They are wonderfully fragrant and are sold in 2 packs of 125g each, making it really easy to avoid wastage, as you can just freeze one of the packs for later use. If you really can’t find lardons anywhere but have access to bacon, you can make your own using smoked streaky bacon. What is most important is that there is a decent amount of fat on them.

Français : Lardons ( porc )
Lardons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I said I use lardons a lot, especially in slow-cooked stews like the Boeuf Bourguignon, the humble chicken stew, various pasta dishes (it’s a main ingredient of a Carbonara sauce), on pizza, mixed in with sautéed potatoes (or say to improve Sunday evening leftover feast of bubble and squeak).

For a fantastic video tutorial of how to make Boeuf Bourguignon, I cannot recommend enough the wonderful work of Becoming Madame, who uses a Julia Child recipe. It’s very close to the recipe I used, although mine didn’t require carrots and added mushrooms towards the end.

My Boeuf Bourguignon recipe comes the completely non-chefy ‘2000 recettes de la cuisine française (de la gastronomie française aux spécialités régionales)‘.

The Ingredients:

1 kg of beef (I would recommend a mixture of lean and fatty pieces for tastier results), cut into chunks

100 g lardons

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

250 g chestnut mushrooms

30 g plain flour

50 g vegetable oil

300 ml water

300 ml red wine (from Burgundy for the authentic taste)

1 bouquet garni (I use shop-bought ones, but you can make your own by tying a sprig of thyme, parsley and a bay leaf together)

salt + pepper

The Technique:

1. In a large heavy-based pan (like a Le Creuset dish), fry the onion and the lardons in the oil. When they start to brown, remove from the pan and set aside.

2. In their stead, turn the pan to a high heat and brown the beef chunks on all sides. You can use two wooden spoons to turn the meat. Don’t put all the meat in the pan in one go, it will be quite difficult to turn and brown properly. Instead, properly brown the meat a few bits at a time.

3. Once the meat is brown, set aside with the onion and lardons.

4. In the leftover oil, throw the flour in one go and turn quickly to make an homogeneous paste. Cook for a minute, then add the water and the wine and bring to the boil, stirring constantly to avoid making lumps.

5. Put the meat, onion and lardons back in the pan with the bouquet garni, garlic, salt and pepper. If you are going to add carrots, this is the time to put them in. Cover the pan with its lid and leave to cook slowly on a low heat for three hours. Add the mushrooms, whole or cut into chunks, 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

6. Serve with new potatoes and green beans.

The Price of Lardons

Available widely in the UK e.g. Tesco’s 200g smoked lardons are £1.95 (their Finest range has some for £3.10 !!!)

In France, places like Auchan do 180g for around 2.28 €. I say ‘around’ because there is quite a lot of choice between smoked/unsmoked, pork/duck, supermarket’s own/big make like Herta, as you would expect.