Twitter brought this blog post to me. Rachel Cousineau at @lovelearncook recently tweeted that she’d just made a Pissaladière and it smelled good. Immediately, my heart was full of love and passion for this beautiful, traditional French tart (the Pissaladière, not Rachel). I needed some. Now. Before I had time to question my motives on that Tuesday afternoon, I was rifling through the cupboard, discovering all the ingredients were present for me to make a beautiful spelt Pissaladière with puff pastry, to consume that day. Sharing it with you, my reader, would be the only right-thinking course of action, so here it is, my beautiful Pissaladière.
Those words are enough to send my taste buds into a dizzying spiral of salivary excitement. For many years, my go-to Pizza Express choice was a Romana Padana, a delightfully thin pizza topped with goat’s cheese, caramelised onions and mozzarella. It’s just beautiful because the creamy, tangy goat’s cheese is offset perfectly against the velveteen sweetness of the caramelised onions. It’s a fantastic pairing.
There’s a secret to making caramelised onions, a hidden truth which many recipes skim over, in a bid to retain readers. The secret is time, because caramelised onions need lots of it. I wrote a great blog post about the truth and lies behind onions, you can find it here. A good batch will take an hour or more to make, progressing gently through the softened stage and inching slowly towards darker, sweeter caramelisation with every passing minute and each gentle stir. At the end, the sweet batch of slimy onion shreds is a treat in itself, and Pissaladière is the perfect vehicle to show off this delicacy to the full.
Rough, Rough Puff.
You’ve probably heard of rough puff pastry. The spelt Pissaladière in the photos takes that a step further, because this is rough rough puff pastry. It was made from a slab of two day old rough puff pastry, which had been sitting in the fridge, wrapped in a piece of greaseproof paper and had developed some tough, dried patches on it’s surface. I pulled it out of the fridge, unwrapped it, stared at it’s crackled, tough exterior and thought “that’s rough, it’s fucked, I can’t use it”. In a last minute reprieve, just seconds before it came to occupy the bin, I had a change of heart. I thought “I’m not going to waste this, this can work”.
I sliced it in half horizontally, then stacked the pieces so that the dry sides were on the inside, then rolled it out and folded it once more. It was still quite patchy and a bit lumpy, with dried bits sticking out. It’s constituent parts were still butter and flour, so I reasoned that it’s still pastry and that’s all I need for this recipe.
Dark, Deep, Sensuous Onions.
Immediately, I grabbed a bag of onions and set to slicing as quickly as possible, whilst my Saute pan heated some olive oil over a medium heat. The onions went in. I spent the next hour tending to these slices, occasionally stirring, making sure they reached that dark, beguiling shade necessary for full caramelisation.
When they were done, they joined some anchovies and kalamata olives atop my salvation piece of rough rough puff pastry, before going in the oven for 25 minutes. The resultant spelt Pissaladière was awesome. The pastry tasted so rich and buttery, it knocked the spots off a Pissaladière made with shop bought puff pastry. It didn’t puff up as much, but the taste made up for that in spades. I managed to take some photos before indulgently consuming more slices than is necessarily apt for my diet. This simple treat is way too beautiful to restrain myself around.
I’ve since made another and it really is a beautiful combination of flavours, a classic example of why simple French cooking is amazing. They take such powerful flavours as sweet caramelised onions, kalamata olives and anchovies, and balance together to make taste sensations that rock my world.
Regardless of it being summer, winter, autumn or spring, there will always be a place for a Pissaladière on my dining table. You should check if you have room on your table for one, because I’m sure you do.
Spelt Pissaladière with Rough Puff Pastry
By Gavin Wren
Uses a large frying pan or saute pan with a lid, optional pizza stone.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1kg white onions
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
250g spelt rough puff (half of this recipe)
12 anchovy fillets (tins vary in content, some have 8-9, some have 12-13)
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
Heat your frying pan over a medium heat, then add the oil. Put the onions in the pan, along with the salt and sugar, then place the lid on the pan. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure the onions do not brown at all, they should be turning soft and silky. If they do brown, turn the heat down a bit.
Remove the lid, then add the thyme to the pan, and keep cooking for about 45 minutes longer. Stir every few minutes, making sure they don’t burn. Over time, the onions should shrink and slowly turn darker and darker. It’s a long, slow process, I try to do it when I’m also making another dish. When they are finished, leave aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Pre heat the oven to gas mark 5, 375ºF, 191ºC, 171ºC fan. For more info about oven temperatures, read my free guide, here. I use a pizza stone for cooking spelt rough puff, it helps the base cook all the way through.
Roll out your spelt rough puff pastry to a piece about the size of an A4 piece of paper and place it on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Spread the onions out across it, then arrange the anchovies in a diagonal, criss-cross pattern on the top. Dot the gaps with pieces of olive.
Place in the oven, either on a baking sheet or pizza stone for 25-30 minutes, it should be nicely golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and consume.