Pissaladière = Pizza without Tomatoes

Feeling lazy but in need of a quick starter or main course?

The answer is to make a pissaladière, a speciality from Nice. It is similar to a pizza, but does not have tomatoes on it. Traditionally, pizza dough is used but on this occasion, I am using frozen puff pastry. This is ideal if you are having a finger buffet or if you want a main course. There is little preparation and it is definitely summery, although you can eat it in all seasons.

The name pissaladière comes from the latin piscis (fish) and later the niçois patois, pissalat. Anchovies preserved in brine or in olive oil are used as well as caramelised onions and this gives it its strong mediterranean flavour. Add a few black olives and your dish is ready.

 

Serves 2:

2 puff pastry squares or rectangles

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

1 tin anchovy fillets in olive oil

a few black olives

pinch of sugar

 

  1. Gently fry the onion in the anchovy oil and add the pinch of sugar. Cook until soft and caramelised. Liquidize, if you wish. Reserve.
  2. Score the pastry 1cm inside the edge and prick with a fork. Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C and cook for 15 minutes until golden.
  3. Take out from the oven and garnish with a layer of onions, a lattice of anchovies and olives in between.
  4. Put back in the oven for 5 minutes and serve with a salad and a very cool rosé from Provence.

 

Bon Appétit!

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Pain Perdu à la Tomate = De-Structured Pizza

Pain Perdu in French is a pudding similar to Spotted Dick and is a way to transform stale bread into something edible.
The alternative is to feed it to the ducks.

This time, the ducks will have to rely on someone else to provide their meal and yesterday’s baguette will become a savoury dish, using freshly made tomato sauce ( see previous post on Velouté de Tomate of 5 August 2014).

In Italy, this sauce is a passata, so called because it is put through a sieve to remove the seeds.

This de-structured pizza may not appeal to the genuine pizza lovers but it is easy to prepare and will be very tasty when you garnish it with parmesan shavings. You can, of course, add a few black olives, some anchovies and capers, depending on taste.
The texture will be very different from a traditional thin based, oven-baked pizza in that it will be soft – but it is worth trying.

If you do not want to make the tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes, tinned ones will be fine, providing you simmer them for long enough or the sauce will be watery.

Serves 4:

1 baguette or 4 thick slices of country bread or any other bread
Parmesan shavings
Fresh basil leaves

For the sauce:
1kg fresh tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 garlic head, cloves peeled
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

1. Cut the bread in thick slices, toast it and rub it with peeled fresh garlic cloves.
Place it in a cooking pot containing the tomato sauce and simmer until most of the sauce has been absorbed by the bread.

2. Add a few leaves of fresh basil, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan shavings and serve immediately.

Bon Appétit!

Tip:
Try using chilli infused olive oil, sparingly if you do not like chillies too much.

Tapenade

At last, Spring has arrived and with it, a desire to move towards lighter dishes.
For an easy starter or appetizer, a tapenade is a good option.
It is a staple dip in Provence when we have an apéritif with family or friends.

I have always loved olives, anchovies and capers and it is natural for me to use them regularly.
However, if you are not keen on anchovies, they can be omitted.

This time I made a green olive tapenade and spread it on flaky pastry lozenges which became very pretty when cooked.

200g stoned green/black olives, rinsed in cold water
5 anchovy fillets in olive oil
A teaspoonful capers
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1tablespoon lemon juice

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz.
Et voilà!

2. Spread on melba toasts or croûtons, cooked flaky pastry or serve in a ramekin as a dip.

You can also spread the tapenade on grilled white fish or use in a sauce on pasta.

Bon Appétit!

Tip:
I do not add olive oil because the olives and anchovies already contain some.

Salade Niçoise

Friends from Nice are about to arrive and with a week-end forecast promising sunshine, the obvious dish to prepare is a Salade Niçoise.
With a bit of luck, we may even eat outside!

It is a classic speciality from Provence and very easy to assemble.
Little cooking is required and it provides the essence of a Mediterranean diet all at once.
There are many versions of this salad but, in the end you can adapt the ingredients to your taste. Vegetarians who do not eat fish can simply omit the tuna and anchovies and replace them with avocado for instance.
Although it can be used as a starter, it is usually eaten as a main course as it contains proteins and plenty of vegetables and it is very substantial.

Part of this salad can be put inside a large bap to make a Pan Bagnat (Soaked Bread). This is then consumed on a picnic.
You simply use the tomatoes, tuna, anchovies and eggs drenched in the vinaigrette, hence the term Bagnat. It is best to prepare the sandwich in advance to allow the vinaigrette to soak the bread, wrap it in foil and place it in the fridge.

Serves 4 or 6:

50g red Camargue rice
4 small potatoes, peeled
200g very fine French green beans
2 large tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
1 green pepper, rinsed and cut into cubes
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 large tins tuna steak in brine, drained
1 tin anchovy fillets in olive oil
20 black olives
4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered
A handful of basil leaves
For the vinaigrette:
100ml olive oil
20ml red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard
Salt and pepper

1. Steam the beans and potatoes until tender. Put aside to let them cool.
Then slice the potatoes.

2. Cook the rice in salted water for 20 minutes (This type of rice takes longer to cook but it has a delicious nutty flavour), drain and rinse in cold water.

3. In a large salad bowl put the rice, potatoes, anchovies and their oil, add all the other ingredients, sprinkle with the vinaigrette and toss.

A very cool rosé wine will add the final touch.

Bon Appétit!

Gallery

Salt Cod in Tomato Sauce: my grandmothers’ recipe

This Sunday, for lunch, it will not be a traditional roast but as a tribute to both my grandmothers, I will use their recipe for salt cod in tomato sauce.
I have inherited not only the recipe but the cast iron cooking pot to use for it, so it is really a family dish that goes back a long way.

Salt cod is easy to find, but frozen cod or fresh unsalted cod can be used as well.
When using salt cod, it is necessary to de-salt it for at least 12 hours in cold water, changing the water every 3 or 4 hours before cooking it. It is important to remember not to use any salt for the dish as a certain amount remains in the fish.
Beware also that the salt cod bones are big but luckily, easy to see.

Serves 4:

2 large pieces of salt cod, cut in half and de-salted
1 large onion, peeled and sliced,
8 medium-sized tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 1cm thick slices
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
15 black olives, pitted
A handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
Pepper

1. Par-boil the potatoes in unsalted water. Reserve.
2. Warm the oil gently in a cast iron cooking pot with lid (i.e. Le Creuset) and toss the onion in it until golden.
3. Add the tomatoes and the garlic. When the tomatoes are soft, add the cod, the olives and the parsley and cover.
4. Simmer for 15 minutes then add the potatoes and cover again. Simmer for a further 5 minutes. Add pepper and stir.

Serve immediately.

Bon Appétit!

Note: If there is some tomato sauce left, use it with pasta. It is delicious because the salt cod taste adds a great flavour to it.