This simple but sensational tart from southern France is a great dish for a summer lunch party. Rachel Walker lets you in on the secret that guarantees its success: cooking the onions slow and low to extract their full juicy, sweet flavour. 

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 2tbsps olive oil
  • 3–4 large onions (combined weight, 600g), sliced
  • 1tsp salt 
  • 320g puff pastry
  • 50g anchovies, halved lengthways
  • 8–12 pitted black olives

For the tomato salad:

  • 400–500g tomatoes (look for mixed colours and varieties)
  • ½tsp salt
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3tbsps olive oil
  • ½tsp dried oregano

Pissaladière

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and then add the sliced onions and salt. Cook on a low heat for a minimum of 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. By then, the onions should become sweet and soft enough that they can be crushed with the back of a wooden spoon—yet no darker than a light, honey colour. [This can be done in advance, and the onions can be refrigerated and covered overnight.]
  3. Roll out the puff pastry into a square or a long, thin rectangle. Move it onto a floured baking tray, or one lined with baking paper. Use the tip of a sharp knife to score a border, 2cm from the edge—enough to make a mark that’s visible, but not cutting through the pastry. 
  4. Spread out a thick layer of onion within the border, and then lay the anchovies on top to make a diagonal grid. A traditional pissaladière has lines of anchovies stretching from edge to edge; they have a very strong, salty flavour, so for a gentler flavour, make a thin and long pastry shape and use the anchovies to create a line of crosses down the middle. Stud a black olive in the middle of each diamond in the grid, or in the space round the edge of the cross. 
  5. Put the tart in the hot oven for 25 minutes, resisting the temptation to open the oven (it can cause puff pastry to collapse). By the end of cooking, the tart should be puffed and golden. 
  6. While the pissaladière is cooking, cut the tomatoes into similar sizes. (eg. cut a beef tomato into segments, and just halve cherry or plum tomatoes). Wash, drain in a colander and toss with extra salt to draw moisture out of the tomatoes; leave for 10 minutes. 
  7. Meanwhile, shake together the red wine vinegar, oil and Dijon mustard in a jam jar. Tip the tomatoes into a serving bowl, toss in the oregano and then the salad dressing. Serve alongside the pissaladière.

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