Thursday, July 28, 2011

Desperately seeking summer...

Summer has been rather non-committal in this part of the world.  One day, the sun shines and I can soak in a view such as this:

The next, that view has vanished, only to be replaced by this:

View?  What view, I hear you ask.  There is one there; it's just been obscured by Atlantic fog for days.  And days.

Even if I have to (reluctantly) forgo the sunny days of summer, I'm adamantly refusing to forgo the fresh flavours of the season.  Even on evenings when it's cold and damp, with the fog closing in from the sea, I steadfastly refuse to eat the stodgy fare of winter.  But on those evenings, a light summer salad simply doesn't seem appropriate and searching for something of a compromise, I came across a recipe for Pissaladiere from French Country Cooking by the Roux Brothers (a review of which I've previously written here).

This dish is from Provence and if there's anywhere in the world I associate with blue skies and sunshine, it has to be Provence.  This dish - with its pizza base, sweet onion topping, salty anchovies and olives - seemed warming enough to ward off the unseasonal damp but retained the hint of summer I so desperately needed.

Before I tell you how to make it, I want to reassure you that even though this dish takes time, it's actually quite simple.  Mostly it cooks away while you focus on other things.

Let's start with the bread/pizza base:
250g strong bread flour
7g sugar
A pinch of salt
One 7g pack of fast-action dried yeast
125ml warm water
  • If you're making the bread by hand, put the flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre of the mixture.
  • In another bowl, mix the yeast and water and then pour into the well.  Mix the ingredients with your hand until well blended.
  • If you're using a mixer, put the water and yeast in the mixing bowl and beat lightly with a whisk.  Fit the dough hook, add the flour, sugar and salt and beat at the lowest speed until thoroughly mixed.
  • Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place (I always use my hot press/airing cupboard) until it has doubled in size.  This usually takes an hour or so. 
While your bread is rising, you can work on the tart filling.
1kg onions
100ml olive oil
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 anchovy fillets
36 small olives
Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Peel the onions and slice them as thinly as possible.  Gently heat the olive oil in a saucepan with a thick bottom.  Add the onions and garlic.  Cover and cook over the lowest possible heat for up to two hours. Stir the onions every 30 minutes, making sure that they do not colour at all.  After two hours, they should be cooked to a melted, aromatic wonderfulness.  The original recipe recommends taking out the garlic at this stage but instead I squeezed the cloves - which had roasted - into the onion mixture and ended up with this:  
  • By this stage, your bread should be ready so set your oven to 200 degrees C/ 390F/Gas Mark 6.
  • Knock the dough back a little by flipping it over with your fingers two or three times. 
  • Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface and roll your dough into a circle that will fit your chosen baking tin.  (My flan case was 20cm in diameter.)  Oil your baking tin lightly and lay your pastry on top of it, pressing it into place. 
  •  Leave the dough base at room temperature for about 15 minutes to allow it to rise slightly.
  • Then bake it in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and add the onions (draining off the oil, if necessary).  Arrange the anchovies and olives on top and cook for another 20 minutes.
  • Serve hot with some fresh green salad and, regardless of what the weather is like outside, you'll have a taste of summer on your plate.
I'd love to hear what you are all eating this summer and I hope the sun is shining wherever you are.


    1. Sharon that looks gorgeous! I'm trying to eat summery food but sometimes this weather makes me yearn for soup and hearty comfort food :-(
      Bring on the summer........

    2. Thanks, Yvonne!
      And I'm hearing you on the summery food issue. I'm refusing to bow to the temptation though. Summer is now the season for soups and stews!

    3. Oh my god, that looks amazing! I'd really love to try this the next time I'm around

    4. Nancy,
      It's delicious. Sweet onions, salty anchovies, olives... I'm looking forward to having some for my lunch!

    5. That really looks delicious! It would cheer anyone up on a not so Summer's day! :)

    6. Thanks, Orla. I am glad to hear it cheered you up but sorry to hear that you needed cheering on an August afternoon!

    7. You certainly picked a great recipe to ward off the lack of sunshine and blue skies. I ♥ the salty/sweet taste this food gives!

    8. Amateur Cook,
      We are still suffering from a lack of sunshine and blue skies (despite our hopes of an Indian summer!) but I am still cooking my way out of it. Salty and sweet is the biz!