Pissaladière


You'll need

60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil 500 gm onions (about 4), thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 tbsp thyme leaves 2 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeds squeezed out, coarsely chopped 1 tsp white sugar 12 anchovy fillets 16 black Niçoise olives To serve: green salad   Bread dough 150 gm (1 cup) plain flour 60 gm butter, coarsely chopped 14 gm (2 sachets) dried yeast 1 egg, lightly whisked

Method

  • 01
  • Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add onion, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, over low-medium heat without colouring until very soft (45-60 minutes). Increase heat to medium, add tomato and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato breaks down, liquid evaporates and sauce is thick. Season to taste and set aside.
  • 02
  • For bread dough, combine flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub butter into flour until fine crumbs form, then make a well in the centre. Combine yeast with 2 tbsp lukewarm water, stir to dissolve and add to well along with egg. Combine dry mixture with yeast mixture to form a dough, then knead until smooth and coming away from sides of bowl (add a little more flour if dough is too sticky). Cover with a damp tea towel and stand in a warm place until double in size (45-60 minutes).
  • 03
  • Preheat oven to 200C. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, knock back, then knead into a ball. Lightly flour dough, roll out to a 28cm-diameter circle and place on a lightly greased oven tray. Spread over onion mixture, arrange anchovies on top in a criss-cross pattern and place an olive in the centre of each diamond. Stand in a warm place and prove until slightly risen (10-15 minutes), then bake until golden (20-25 minutes). Cut into wedges and serve with a green salad to the side.

A French pizza? Oui, mais non! Pissaladière bears a striking resemblance to the Italian classic, both in looks and name. Bread dough base? Check (most of the time). Savoury topping? Check. But although its name sounds similar, there doesn't appear to be any direct etymological link with pizza. To the contrary, pissaladière is derived from the Niçoise condiment, pissalat, which, in turn, is derived from the Latin 'piscis', meaning fish.

Originally made from the fry of sardines and anchovies, pissalat evolved into a pungent mixture of puréed anchovies flavoured with cloves, thyme, bay leaf and pepper and mixed with olive oil. As this condiment isn't so easy to get hold of outside the Mediterranean area, anchovy fillets are more commonly used instead, but be sure to use the best you can afford.

Pissaladière can be made either with a shortcrust pastry base or, perhaps more satisfyingly, with a bread dough base (it's also common for pâtisseries to use puff pastry), which is what we've done here. From this point, the other key components are onions and olives. The onions are cooked slowly in olive oil until they're very soft and sweet, and a generous quantity is an absolute must. According to the French cooking bibleLarousse Gastronomique, "good pissaladière should have a layer of onions half as thick as the base if bread dough is used; if made with shortcrust pastry the layer of onions should be as thick as the flan pastry".

Anchovies are then arranged over the sweet onion mixture, traditionally in a lattice pattern, and each diamond is studded with a briny Niçoise olive. Some pissaladières may also use tomato, but for the purist it's the sweet-salty combination of onions, anchovies and olives that truly hits the spot.

The joy of pissaladière is that it's as good cold as it is hot from the oven (and the same can't really be said for pizza, unless you have a hangover). So make two and save some for later. Vive pissaladière!


At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Additional Notes

WHERE TO TRY THEM

France-Soir
One by the book, as you’d expect from this classic Parisian-style bistro.
11 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, Vic, (03) 9866 8569. 

La Gerbe d’Or
This café has been selling them for 26 years.
255 Glenmore Rd, Paddington, NSW, (02) 9331 1070.

Anise
On the menu as an amuse bouche.
697 Brunswick St, New Farm, Qld, (07) 3358 1558.

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