Pissaladiere – caramelised onion and anchovy pastry
Not a tart, no top. Not a pizza, no cheese. Not a quiche, no eggs. “Pissaladiere” is dough topped with caramelised onions, salty anchovies, rich olives and a smidge of mustard, flavoured with thyme. Provence on a plate.
Originating somewhere between Nice and Marseille, perhaps even having migrated from Genoa, the recipe uses local specialities to give a true taste of the region. The name comes from “pissalat” – a condiment that’s difficult to find now and is probably related to the Roman “garum” a sort of fermented fish sauce. The “pissalat” consisted of salted anchovies and other small fish left to marinate and liquefy with some woody herbs over several weeks, but you can substitute a good brand of anchovies out of a tin and still get that deep salty flavour.
I met it on the streets of Marseille, where the savoury scent wafts from the bakeries in the mornings, although regional purists will probably say that the best examples come from further east along the coast, in Nice. You eat it warm, not hot; munching from your hand as you wander through the markets, rather than formally at a table. The base can be a flaky bread dough or an even flakier pastry. I prefer the pastry version and am not above using ready made puff pastry for an easier life.
It’s a great garden party food for summer gatherings. You’ll probably need to offer plates rather than serving it into people’s hands as the flaky pastry can be a bit unstructured and will tend to disintegrate.
Serves 8 Timings: 90 minutes to prep and cook, 30 minutes to cool
Fry the onions very gently in a heavy pan in the vegetable oil, stirring all the time, until they soften and caramelise. This takes longer than you think – about 30-40 minutes. Add a little more oil if needed and add the butter after about 10 minutes. Add the dried thyme and some salt and pepper. Skin the tomato (by dunking it in boiling water and then running under the cold tap), discard the seeds, and chop the flesh very finely. Add this to the pan of onions and continue to fry until the tomato pieces disintegrate. Add the chopped parsley and the tablespoon of vinegar. Stir in and let it cook and reduce further – this gives a lovely deep sweetness to the onion mix.
Pre heat your oven to 210°C.
Roll out the pastry on a metal baking tray, keeping it on its backing paper. Use a sharp knife and score round the edge of the pastry about 1cm inside the edge, but not going through the pastry sheet. This means the edge will rise up slightly above the rest, giving you that flaky crunchy outside.
Spread the pastry (not the edge) with a thin layer of mustard. Spread the onion mixture over the pastry (not the edge) evenly. Criss cross the anchovies over the onion mix and dot the olives in between to make an attractive pattern.
Brush the edge of the pastry with some of the oil from the anchovies.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tart looks cooked and the edges are nicely browned.
Cool before slicing and eat lukewarm. If you feel the need for green, some rocket leaves scattered on top would go well.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.