The pissaladière is an onion tart which hails from Nice in the south of France, made with either a dough base or puff pastry, and topped with anchovies and onions. It’s possible that a dough base is slightly more traditional, but opinions are divided and, frankly, it’s significantly easier to slide shop bought puff out of your fridge than it is to rustle up your own bread dough – and I love the way the buttery, flaky base works against the sweet onions and the salty toppings.
It’s often described as the Provencal version of a pizza, but this doesn’t quite ring true to me, cheese-less and tomato-less as it is, and often made with puff pastry. Where I think it sits better is in the realm of a snack to accompany drinks: its potential downfall – its saltiness – is what makes it shine here. Because make no mistake, it is impossibly salty, from both the marinaded olives and the naturally salty anchovies. But with its pastry base, gooey onions and briny toppings, it is the perfect bar snack: crisp and oh so satisfying, and just salty enough to make you crave another drink.
The key to this whole dish is the onions. They’re low effort but long on time. Don’t be disconcerted by the quantity of raw onions: they’ll collapse quickly and decrease even more as they cook: and it’s those onions which give the true depth and character of the dish. Cook them for as long as you have: at least half-an-hour, but up to 90 minutes if you have them spare. They should be soft and caramelised, almost melting, dark but without a hint of burn. Turn your heat down to a whisper and return to the pan every 15 minutes to stir.
This is wonderful with a peppery salad and a bright, lemony dressing, or cut into fat squares and packed into tupperware, it makes the chicest of picnic treats. It goes like this…
2-3 large onions
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
300g puff pastry
60g black olives
1. Slice the onions into slender crescents. Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, thyme and muscovado. Season with just the tiniest bit of salt, stir and leave on the absolute lowest heat possible. Cook for at least 30 minutes, occasionally stirring to ensure nothing sticks. By the end of cooking, they should be dark, soft and smell irresistible.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
3. Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and, around the edge, run a sharp knife creating a border, not quite cutting all the way through the pastry.
4. Spread the cooked onions inside the border in an even layer. Place the anchovies on the onions in diagonal strips, crossing one another.
5. Place an olive inside each diamond that’s been created by the anchovy pattern.
6. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the border of the pastry is risen and golden.