Today I would like to pay a tribute to Nice, a city very dear to my heart. Ever since I was a kid, I spent all my holidays near Nice until our family home was sold 2 years ago. We use to go by car, my parents driving throughout the night, taking turns until morning. The arrival on the Promenade des Anglais as the sun rose was a real moment of joy that marked our arrival, and thus, the beginning of the holidays. I can’t find the words to express my support to the victims of this absurd and cruel event, and their families, nor to describe my horror at knowing that this beautiful place is now associated with death and desolation.
So today I wanted to share again with you one of the first recipe I posted on this blog (as such, this recipe means a lot to me!): the pissaladière niçoise, a traditional onion tart from Nice. Pissaladière consists of a bread enriched with olive olive oil topped with cooked onions and pissalat, a paste made of sardines, anchovies and condiments that cannot be found anymore but gave its name to the pissaladière.
Just before the final stop at our holiday house we would stop to same bakery every year to enjoy a piece of pissaladière. And as we ate the first bite of pissaladière of the year, we found that it tasted quite like happiness.
Cook time: 25mn
- 500g all-purpose flour
- 30cl warm water
- 2 packets dry active yeast
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
- 1kg white onions
- 1 to 3 tablespoons sugar (depending on the natural sweetness of the onions)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- a jar of anchovy fillets in salt*
- anchovy paste (optional)
- small black olives from Nice (or regular black olives, of course)
- Peel the onions, leaving the root. By doing so, the root will maintain the onion during cutting process, making chopping the onion way easier. Cut the onions into 2 then cut about 1cm slice horizontally, stopping a few millimeters before the root. Cut the other way to get a beautiful square cut, ideal for pissaladière.
- Once cut, sauté the onions over very low heat in a heavy saucepan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir occasionally, until onions are soft (about 30 minutes in total). Be careful, you want the onion to keep their translucent colour, they should not brown if you cook them over very low heat.
- After 20 minutes of cooking, add 4 anchovy fillets and a tablespoon of oregano and mix. The anchovies must blend into the onions. Let stew at least 10 more minutes.
- Mix the yeast with 3 tablespoons of warm water, put aside for 10 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer, put the flour and salt. Begin to mix with the hook at slow speed while adding the dissolved yeast and the rest water. Once all the water has been absorbed, knead for 5 minutes at medium speed. After 5 minutes, add the oregano, thyme and olive oil and continue to knead for 10 more minutes.
- Then roll out the dough on a sheet of baking paper into a rectangle the size of your baking tray (a 30x40cm rectangle for me). You can give small marks with your fingers across the surface of the dough, it will help it to proof regularly.
- If you wish, spread a little anchovy paste on the dough. Then, spread the hot onions directly on the dough, leaving 1,5cm around the hedge. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the onions. Then arrange the anchovies and olives on top of the onions.
- Let bread proof for 50 minutes in a warm place. Preheat your oven at 220°C. Then bake the pissaladière at 180°C for 20-25mn until the hedges of the bread are golden brown.
The secrets of a perfect pissaladière:
The best is to start with the right ingredients, of course, but here are some tips to make it work with what you find.
- Anchovies: The best is to use anchovies in salt, rinse them well under running water to remove the excess salt. If you only find that anchovy fillets in oil, drain the oil and pat the excess with paper towels.
- Pissalat (or lou pissala peis or salat): well it doesn’t exist anymore but it can be made at home by mixing 6 anchovy fillets with onions before the end of cooking so they melt in and give the “pissalat” flavour to our pissaladière. For the complete anchovy addicts like me, you can also add the anchovy paste (basically anchovies mixed with olive oil to make a paste) on the bread base.
- Onions: we all dream of having these large sweet onions from South of France but, well, we have to face reality. If you cannot find those, you can cheat and add a little more sugar, up to 3 tablespoons.
- Olives from Nice: if you have to substitute them, try at least to find at good quality black olives with pits, and as small as possible.
- Bread dough: it is essential to make it from scratch with good olive oil. And the secret is to put the warm onion directly on the bread dough before proofing. The heat coming from onions stimulate the proofing of bread and gives to the pissaladière its characteristic softness and chewiness (because the pissaladière is not an onion pizza!)
-> Now that you know everything, you’ll be able to make a perfect pissaladière like a true Niçois!