The first time I ate pissaladière was many years ago in France, on a camping holiday with my family. None of us are good at languages, frankly, but I was the only one unembarrassed enough to actually employ my halting schoolgirl French. So I was the one who got sent into the traiteur to buy delicious ready-to-eat food.
That meant I got to pick what we ate, most days, although my mother and sister could sometimes be seen hovering awkwardly in the doorway, hissing sotto voce instructions. Yes, we were that English family, the one that made you slide your sunglasses down over your face and pretend to be of a different nationality entirely. Still, we ate well.
Pissaladière originated in Nice, in the south of France. A sort of Provençal take on the pizza, it has a base of bread dough (though you can use puff pastry) topped with caramelised onions and a lattice of anchovies dotted with black olives. It is divine.
For one 28 cm pie I used a third of the pizza dough detailed here. It was more than enough as a main course for two people, could be stretched to four with an array of salads, or cut into small bites as a nibble. The secret of a good pissaladière lies in the long, slow cooking of the onions. They will take two to three hours, but you can pre-cook them the day before and refrigerate them until needed.
1 quantity of pizza dough, as above
6 medium to large onions, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
2 tbsn butter + 1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
Anchovies (equivalent to 1-2 tins)
Pitted black olives
In a deep, heavy-based pan, melt the butter with the oil. Add the sliced onions and cook very, very slowly on a low heat until they are collapsed and caramelised. As mentioned earlier, this will take hours. It will look like a ridiculously large quantity of onions to begin with but they’ll go from this ….
… to this. Keep an eye on them towards the end as they can catch and burn, so stir them from time to time. Once they’re done, remove from the heat, add the thyme leaves and salt and pepper to taste (remembering the anchovies and olives will be salty) and allow to cool.
At least 20 minutes before you want to eat, pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7, and place a baking sheet or pizza stone in to heat up.
Roll out the pizza dough on a well-floured board to about 28cm in diameter. Spread the onions on top, leaving a small border round the edges. Arrange the anchovies in a lattice pattern on top and pop an olive into each diamond.
Slide onto the pre-heated baking sheet/pizza stone and bake for about 10 minutes until the dough has crisped and darkened.
Cut into slices and eat hot or cold. Good with a range of salads.