Friday, March 6, 2009

Pissaladiere - Take Tarts While Tarts Are Passing

I grew up lucky enough to have two wonderful grandmothers with me all the way through to adulthood. One was a really wonderful cook, who passed her handwritten cookbook on to me, and I feel a very strong link with her in my kitchen. The other grandmother was an appalling cook (possibly deliberately), who left me with a lot of colourful sayings that still float through my mind in all sorts of situations. Among her collected sayings and wisdom was:
- mad as a ha'penny watch (a watch that sold for half a penny was obviously not going to be anything other than silly)
- miserable as a bandicoot (bandicoots are native Australian animals. I am unaware of whether or not they are miserable)
- you catch more flies with honey than vinegar (ie be nice)
and my favourite
- take tarts while tarts are passing (or grab whatever life sends your way because you may never get another chance)

I cannot make a tart (or more particularly serve a tart) without instructing everyone to "take tarts while tarts are passing". And this tart is definitely worth taking. A traditional French tart from Nice, the pissaladiere uses minimal ingredients and effort (thanks to sheets of pre-rolled puff pastry). The only requirement is a fair bit of time to allow the onions to caramelize and become a bit jammy. I love it as a Sunday night dinner with a green salad. So if you are the sort of person who starts wondering at three or four in the afternoon what you will make for dinner, pop some onions on to start caramelizing. The rest of the tart takes minimal time to assemble, and then 20 mins in the oven to bake, leaving lots of lazy sunday afternoon time to do other things. This recipe comes from the incredible Stephanie Alexander cookbook, which is constantly referred to in my kitchen for her insights on what to do with every ingredient under the sun.

And I will leave you with a little wisdom from my other grandmother - "never let anyone be as wise as yourself". If you have some grandmotherly wisdom to pass on, I'd love to hear it, just leave me a comment.

adapted from Stephanie Alexander in the Cook's Companion

3-4 brown onions thickly sliced
olive oil
1 sheet puff pastry
16 anchovy fillets halved lengthwise (or 32 anchovies if you would rather have them thicker)
12 black olives
Slowly cook onion in 2 tbls olive oil until it is very soft and caramelized (if it seems to be getting a bit too browned and not jammy enough, add a tbl of water and cover the pan with a sheet of foil, pressed onto the onions to help it get to the right texture). Preheat oven to 220C. Lay pastry sheet on a baking tray. Leaving a 1cm border untouched, prick the pastry all over with a fork, then spread the onion in a thick layer on it. Arrange the anchovies in crisscross rows to form large diamonds. Sit an olive in each diamond and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 20 mins until pastry is brown and crisp. Serve warm.


Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

It looks gorgeous! I love "mad as a ha'penny watch".Of course it didn't make sense to me until you explained it but once you did, it made perfect sense!

Patty said...

While anchovies are not my favorite...this looks divine! Will have to give it a go. xxx