Flan is an open pastry or sponge cake containing a sweet or savoury filling. A typical flan of this sort is round, with shortcrust pastry, usually coated with sweet syrup. It is similar to a custard tart or a South African melktert.
The history of flan begins with the Ancient Romans. The eggs figured prominently in many Roman recipes. The flan prepared by the Ancient Romans was quite different from the food we eat today. Their flan was often served as a savory dish, as in "eel flan," although sweet flans, made with honey and pepper, were also enjoyed. When the Romans conquered Europe, they brought their culinary traditions with them. One of these was flan. Both sweet and savory flans (almonds, cinnamon & sugar; cheese, curd, spinach, fish) were very popular in Europe during the Middle Ages, especially during Lent, when meat was forbidden. According to Platina's De Honesta Voluptate [On Right Pleasure and Good Health], an Italian cookery text published approximately 1475, custard-type dishes were considered health food. In addition to being nourishing they were thought to soothe the chest, aid the kidneys and liver, increase fertility, and eliminate certain urinary tract problems. Caramel evolved in France.
The English word "flan", and the earlier forms "flaune" and "flawn", come from the Old French flaon (modern French flan), in turn from the early Medieval Latin fladōn-em, derived from the Old High German flado, a sort of flat cake, probably from an Indo-European root for "flat" or "broad".
- Fort, Matthew (15 August 2009). "Food for Fort: An oats mill and french flan:How to roll your own oats, bake a flan nature and get perfect smoked fish". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition (1989); Petit Robert 1973.
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