It was not until last year that I travelled to Southern France for the first time in my adulthood after having spent almost all of the summers in my childhood and youth in this captivating land. And, naturally, a number of things that had been slumbering in the back of my memory sprang to the foreground again: smells, colors, flavors and food that had never been really forgotten, but had somewhat blended with more recent memories and experiences were around every corner. One of the most simple dishes that I found myself re-discovering is this down-to-earth, yet uniquely Nissarde street food. Humble onions, combined with salty anchovies and meaty, aromatic Nyon olives are all it takes for this Southern French finger food which is often described as the Côte d’Azur’s version of Italian pizza, but I do not believe this does justice to either the one or the other. The base of a pissaladière traditionally is pissalat, a paste made from anchovies and sometimes sardines, but you may often find it just with an anchovie topping. Black Nyon olives are a must – no other olive will provide you with quite the same taste. They are unfortunately not very widely spread outside the region, but can be found in French fine food shops in Berlin.
Ingredients (serves 4):
For the dough:
- 250 grams of flour
- ca. 150 to 200 ml of water
- 5 grams of salt
- 10 grams of fresh yeast or 1/2 package of dry yeast
- ca. 50 ml of extra virgin olive oil
For the topping:
- 1 kg of yellow onion
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (for cooking)
- 1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, rosemary)
- 1 garlic clove
- ca. 15 filets of cured anchovies
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- ca. 100 grams of black Nyon olives
- Freshly ground black pepper, salt
Soaking the anchovies:
- Optional: Many people like the strong taste of cured anchovies just as they are, but the salt can get rather overpowering. For a milder taste, soak the anchovies in cold water approximately 12 to 24 hours before baking. Frequently exchange the water (and the milder they will get).
Preparing the onion:
- Peel the onion, half and cut them into fine slices.
- In a heavy-based saucepan, warm up the olive oil. Add the onions, the garlic clove (whole) and the bouquet garni. Add some water so the bottom of the pan is just covered. Place a lid on top and let simmer on gentle heat for about 1.5 to 2 hour until soft. Permit the remaining water to evaporate towards the end of the cooking time, while ensuring that the onion do not brown.
- Remove the garlic and the bouquet garni at the end of the cooking time, season with salt and pepper and set the onions aside.
Preparing the dough:
- Knead 100 grams of the four, the yeast and some lukewarm water to obtain a smooth dough.
- Place in an oiled pot dusted with flour, cover with cling film and place aside in a dark and warm place. After approximately 1/2, the dough should have doubled in volume.
- Mix the remaining flour, water, salt and olive oil, and knead until smooth and elastic. Add the liquids gradually and knead well to obtain a good result. Finally, add the yeast dough and bring together (knead well).
- Place again in a large pot oiled and dusted with flour, cover and allow to rise in a dark a warm place for at least 1 hour.
Preparing the topping and baking:
- Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
- Oil a baking stone and dust it with flour (alternatively, use an oven tray).
- Rinse the anchovies under cold water and let drip off well / pat dry.
- On a surface dusted with flour, roll out the dough in all directions into a round shape (ca. Ø 30 cm). Loosen it from the bottom and permit the dough to retract for 1 minute before the next step. Place on the baking stone and cover with a clean dry kitchen towel. Permit to rise again for approximately 30 minutes.
- Set 8 nice anchovies fillets aside. Chop the remaining fillets roughly, then place in a mortar and crush with 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and some black pepper until you obtain a paste.
- At the end of the rising time, brush the paste on top of the dough evenly, then spread a dense layer of onion on top. Garnish with the anchovie fillets previously set aside and black Nyon olives. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Check regularly – turn down the temperature should the topping become too dark.
- Remove from the oven, let cool down shortly and serve immediately. Alternatively, this dish can also be enjoyed cold. In both cases, of course, best with a glass of rosé.