Pissaladière – Niçoise Style Pizza Bread with Caramelised Onions and Sardines
In her book At Elizabeth David’s Table, Ms David shares her discovery of the different types of ‘pizza’ breads encountered along the Mediterranean coast west of Genoa and across the borders of Provence. She speaks of the sardenara – bread topped with salted sardines, onions and tomato, and of her first encounter with pissaladière in the 1930’s, which at one stage was made with small-fry, or pissala but by that time was replaced with the anchovies we see on the bread today. And lastly the anchoïade, made with anchovies and garlic on fresh, thick slices of bread.
This is a version of that sweet oniony bread, with a firm texture and salty anchovies that I enjoyed in Nice and made with Rosa Jackson in her cooking class in the city. It contains the same pile of sweet onions cooked down, black olives, and instead of anchovies, milder tinned sardine segments and a flick of sea salt at the end.
I developed this recipe for Lucky Star the iconic tinned fish brand, that I grew up eating, and this is the first in a series of 5 that I will share.
For the Topping
650 g brown onions, thinly sliced (approx 6 large onions)
60 ml olive oil, plus extra
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 springs lemon or regular thyme
1/2 fine salt
2 x can Lucky Star (or other) sardines
22 whole black, pitted, rinsed and dried with paper towels
1/4 t sea salt flakes
For the Dough
220 g all-purpose or cake flour (can also be made with bread flour)
1 tsp salt
1 t dried herbs (optional)
1 t sugar
1 t dry yeast
150 ml water (warm enough to dip your finger in – not boiling, not luke)
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
1. Cook onions and thyme in oil in a large saucepan on low heat, covered with a lid or a disk of baking paper to cover the top snugly. Cook for 5 minutes, then add garlic and keep stirring. Keep covered and stir from time to time. Do not let the onions brown, a little colour is fine but traditionally they are kept pale. Should take 20 minutes to sauté and cook through. Set aside when done.
2. While onions are cooking, start on dough. Add yeast and sugar to water and sit for 10 minutes, until it starts to bubble.
3. Add flour, salt and herbs to a large mixing bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture. Mix with a pastry cutter or spatula until well combined.
4. Flour a flat surface and knead for 10 minutes or more with the heel of your palms, until a smooth, silky, elastic ball is formed. Rosa Jackson was adamant that the dough be treated gently and not kneaded roughly.
5. Press dough gently into a greased swiss roll pan or a rectangular tart pan 29 x 21 cm. Poke holes with the tines of a fork and cover. Brush with olive oil. Allow to prove covered in a warm place for 30- 40 minutes.
6. Top dough with onions and arrange sardines and olives on top. The traditional fashion is to create a diamond shape with the fish. Top with sea salt and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes.
Disclaimer: I developed this recipe for Lucky Star and will be remunerated for it.