I love this time of year. Even though the weather here in London has been unspeakably naff this weekend, there's something really special about hunkering down at home and spending quality time in the kitchen, big glass of wine in hand. I braved yesterday's squalls to venture down to Broadway Market, where I picked up fruit,veg, fish, oysters and cheese (from the incomparable L'eau la Bouche). My haul included some ruby chard and fennel bulbs, but I couldn't think of anything interesting to do with them other than serve them up alongside some protein. But then, a flash of inspiration struck, and I decided to make a pissaladiere.
Pissaladiere, as the name suggests, is a Provencal version of pizza. It generally comprises a puff pastry or bread-dough base topped with silky caramelized onions, anchovies and black olives. My take on it added the chard and fennel to the onions, and also saw some soft goat's cheese strewn on top. The finished article tasted highly satisfactory and the colours were redolent of this year's autumn.
To make a pissaladiere that serves four:
For the dough
250g strong white bread flour
1 tspn salt
1 tspn sugar (I'd go for granulated or caster)
1 tspn quick yeast (I use Doves Farm instant yeast. Other brands may require more or less yeast for this proportion of flour, so check)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
For the topping
Two large onions, cut into fine half moons
One fennel bulb, cut in half lengthways and then shaved into papery slices
300g of ruby chard, stalks separated from leaves
2 big sprigs of thyme
75g soft goat's cheese
2 tspns of capers
25g of pine nuts
8 anchovy fillets soaked in milk
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the dough, place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Gradually add enough tepid water to bring everything together to form a dough that's soft but which comes away from the bowl. Tip it on to a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. It's ready to let prove when poking it with your finger leaves an indentation that doesn't bounce back. (Alternatively, you can, as I did, put everything in your Kenwood Chef, dough-hook attached, and let it go about its business for 10 minutes or so.)
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm, and put in a warm place to let rise for about an hour.
Whilst the dough's doing its thing, start on the topping. Heat a generous glug of oil in a wide-bottomed pan over a low heat. Add the onions, seasoning and thyme leaves from one of the sprigs. Stir, cover and let cook for between 30 and 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to be golden brown and soft. Cook the shaved fennel in another pan in the same way, but for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Slice the chard stalks into inch-long pieces. Heat more olive oil in a wok or frying pan over a medium flame. Add the chard stalks, salt and pepper, and cover with a little water. Cook until the water has evaporated off and the stalks are tender, about 10 minutes. When they're cooked, add the chard leaves and allow to wilt.
Mix the cooked onions, fennel and chard together and add the pine nuts, capers, and remaining thyme leaves. Check the seasoning, but remember that there will be anchovies and goat's cheese on top of the pissaladiere too. Set the mixture to one side. It should look something like this (i.e. well autumnal):
After an hour, remove the dough from the warm place in which it's been safely stowed. Take an oiled baking tray, and shape and flatten the dough to fit on to it (you might be assisted by a rolling pin in this operation - I was). Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise again in a warm place, probably for another 25 to 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
When the dough's had its second rise, cover it with the vegetable mixture, leaving a one inch border. Arrange the anchovies and spoonfuls of goats cheese over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is deeply golden. Eat whilst watching Harry Hill rip the p*** out of Nigella Kitchen.