While the quality of your ingredients will always affect the outcome of your cooking efforts, some ingredients have more of an impact than others. The fewer ingredients a recipe calls for, the more the provenance, freshness and overall quality of each ingredient will matter.
This traditional French onion tart relies on only a handful of ingredients to build its rich, savoury flavour – onions, thyme, olives and anchovies – and it’s the latter ingredient that provides the biggest hit of flavour.
If your history with anchovies has so far been limited to dry, salty and hairy grey lumps baked onto a pizza, or thin, fishy-smelling brown fillets pulled from an oil-filled bottle, then you’ve never properly experienced this magnificent fish.
Bright, complex and rich with umami, quality anchovy fillets should be plump, pink-hued and only subtly salty, and shouldn’t leave you with a ‘fishy’ aftertaste.
Pulled from the best fishing grounds on the Spanish Cantabrian coast and packed in olive oil, our plump, pink Cantara anchovies are umami-rich and subtly salty with a clean aftertaste.
While traditional pissaladiere recipes have the tart baked with olives and anchovies already distributed over the sauted onion, we prefer adding them when the tart has been baked and cooled slightly to preserve the complexity of their flavour and their beautiful pink hue.
For a quick version of this recipe, replace the yeasted dough with sheets of puff pastry.
Cook the onions and extra virgin olive oil over a very low heat in a saucepan, deep frying pan, cast iron pot or wok until translucent and just beginning to brown (about 30-45 minutes). Cooking the onions too quickly will risk making them bitter, while slow-cooking will bring out their natural sweetness. Add a little salt to season.
Prepare the dough by rubbing the cold butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix through the hydrated yeast, egg and a pinch of salt, then transfer to a lightly-floured bench top and knead until it becomes a smooth dough. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave somewhere warm and draft-free for one hour or until it doubles in size.
Preheat your oven to 180C.
Roll the dough out into a rough rectangle and transfer to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Brush the edges roughly with a little milk, then cover with a thick layer of the cooled onion mix, leaving a roughly 1cm edge around the outside.
Bake the tart for 20 minutes, or until the dough has browned and the edges of some pieces of onion begin to blacken. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
Lay the whole anchovies over the tart (a cross-hatch pattern is traditional, but we enjoy a more rustic feel), then dot the olives between them. Drizzle a little of the olive oil from the anchovy tin over the tart, sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, then slice and serve warm.