JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Saturday, August 25, 2007


No photo, because I slightly over cooked it, so it wasn't very photogenic ... but pissaladiere is the most fabulously easy lunch for a hot day, delicious and heart healthy, and perfect if you're fed up with pizza. Or if you're food-fad aware enough to have heard of white pizza.

Pissaladiere is a speciality of the French side of the Franco-Italian border, and is close cousin to the pizza, only without tomatoes or cheese. Sliced onions are gently stewed in olive oil, spread on a base, finished with anchovies and black olives, the saltiness cutting through the sweetness of the onion. It's a great choice for busy cooks, because you can get it ready while you're clearing up breakfast, then leave it for as long as you need to. When you get back to it, you're half an hour from eating, with about five minute's work to do.

500g ordinary white flour
2tsp dried yeast (I don't bother with the instant stuff in sachets, I just lob in the un-instant kind, & rarely bother to start it off with water first)
pinch of salt and sugar
dash of olive oil
300-350 ml tepid water

Mix all the bread ingredients, then knead it until it's smooth. You don't really need to flour the work surface (trust me), because it (and your fingers) will stop getting sticky as you knead it, and if you put more flour in, the finished base is not so soft. Put your smooth dough into an oiled bowl and cover it with a teacloth. The warmer it is, the quicker it will rise - so if you are making it in the morning to eat in the evening, put it in the fridge. At ordinary room temperature, it will take an hour or two to double in size .. but dough is very forgiving, particularly when you're not making a loaf with it, so if it rises too fast, just knead it a little, and let it rise again.

Next, slice a kilo of onions as thin as you can. If you've got a mandoline, use that; but if you haven't, a knife is just as good. Toss them in olive oil, and cook them as slowly as you possibly can in a wide pan (it needs to be good quality, with a thick heavy base, otherwise the onions will catch and burn). Give them a stir now and then, but, essentially, you can leave this alone for a long time.

Half an hour before you want to eat, put your dough onto a work surface and knead it a little, then spread it with your fingers into an oblong on a baking sheet. Spread over the onions, then decorate with a few anchovies and some olives (or dabs of black olive paste). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme. Cook as you would pizza in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes. (If you had the dough in the fridge, you'll need to get it back to room temperature before you can work it - about half an hour.)

I remember the first time I had pissaladiere, it was on a pastry base. That's obviously out of the question in a heart-healthy diet. I wasn't sure which was authentic, so I've just looked it up in Elizabeth David's Mediterranean Food. This is what she says:

This dish is one of the delights of Marseilles, Toulon, and the Var country, where it is sold in the market places and the bakeries in the early morning and can be bought, piping hot, by the slice, off big iron trays.

Get from a baker a piece of uncooked bread, pull it out and spread a baking sheet with it. Cover the bottom of a saucepan with olive oil. Add 2lb of sliced onions; do not brown them but let them slowly melt almost to a puree, which will take about 40 minutes. Pour the puree onto the dough, put stoned black olives on the top and decorate it with criss-cross fillets of anchovy. Cook in the oven. If bread dough is unobtainable, an excllent dish can be made by spreading the onion puree into a tin lined with .. pastry .. or thick slices of bread cut lengthways from a sandwich loaf. Fry one side lightly in olive oil, spread this side with the puree, put in a tin in the oven with a little more oil and cook about 10 minutes.

The flavour of the olive oil is essential to this dish.

So even if you're afraid of cooking with yeast, you've got no excuse!

Incidentally, this is something you really can do ahead ... you can cook up the onions a day or two in advance. I doubled the quantity of onions, and am saving the surplus for another delicious potato gratin tomorrow night. OR you could make the whole dish, cook it lightly in the oven, then reheat it when you're ready to eat. After all, that's what you're doing when you buy supermarket pizza.

And it's good for a crowd - either you can cook it in advance and then reheat it, or you can make it in the morning and assemble it quickly at the last minute.


Anonymous said...

I don't like anchovies, but this recipe could convince me to give them a try! The way you described the blending of the various flavors is very tempting!

lorraine@italianfoodies said...

Hi Joanna. Sounds delicious. We do something similar but with onions, sliced potatoes, and rosemary. I love white pizza for a change. I'm definitely going to try this as I'm a big anchovy lover. I'm jealous of your fresh potatoes by the way;)

Katie Zeller said...

Love the sound of this! I'm making pizza tonight - but no tomato sauce - just fresh tomatoes and herbs.
I've been wanting to make this and you make it sound so easy...maybe next time...

Anonymous said...

Yep Pissaladiere is a big favorite of mine. Pity about no photo of yours though as I like seeing how others versions turn out. Maybe next time you make one you can add a picture for us. You have explained it really well though.

ChovyChap 2008