Pissaladière is a Provencal onion tart that normally features onion confit, anchovies, olives, and fresh thyme. I have given it a make-over using Karengo, a seaweed from NZ,which has a taste similar to anchovies when moist. This savoury dish is more like a pizza than a tart to look at, but there are several versions even in France, each region having its little variation.
According to Cuisine magazine:
“The poor anchovy divides opinion: some find its pungency and saltiness overpowering, but these same qualities, which enable it to bring depth and interest to many dishes, also entrance its fans.”
It is the curing process (in salt) that gives the anchovies their strong flavour – they are quite mild when eaten fresh. Anchovies should be treated as a garnish or an ingredient to round out the flavour of a dish – too much and their saltiness can dominate. They are the essential ingredient in Worcestershire sauce and are often used in the bases of sauces and pastes, to add piquancy. Check out the Cuisine article on anchovies.
I love everything with anchovies included because they have the most amazing deep flavour, but my eldest daughter is vegetarian and I wanted to find an alternative that she could enjoy without compromising the flavour. Karengo, a seaweed from New Zealand, is perfect. I used the fronds (pieces of a leaf) because I like texture but it is perfectly good to use the smaller grinds: flakes or granules. Click the link to find out more about Karengo.
I have found that Karengo is the perfect vegetarian alternative for all these Mediterranean dishes that use anchovies because the taste is incredibly similar when the karengo absorb the moisture from surrounding ingredients. The Karengo colour is most attractive on the dish – in fact more attractive than the anchovies originally used! Karengo is the nori from New Zealand and comes naturally in lovely purple hues, giving the dish a visual lift. It is said that the polyphenols present in purple foods may enhance the brain health & function.
This pissaladière cut in little triangles is a fantastic appetizer. It is a very nutritious & satisfying light meal when accompanied by a green salad.
Just a few notes before we get into the recipe:
1. The onions have to be cooked very gently over a longer period of time so they caramelize and not darken; dark onions will give a bitter taste to the whole dish.
2. Karengo is a very delicate seaweed with cellophane-like leaves that can burn easily as well. It is important to make sure the oven is not so hot as to burn the karengo. If you like your pizza pastry very crunchy, it would pay to cook the pissaladière in 2 stages: first the base with all its garnishes except for the seaweed at 200 C for 15 minutes, and then add the karengo and bake a further 10 minutes at 180 C.
3. For the pastry/ base, I mostly use gluten free alternatives, sometime gluten free pizza base by Venerdi or gluten free tortilla from Pavillion . You can make your own by hand or in a bread-maker with the recipes below.
3 onions & 5 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp raw sugar (optional)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, plus extra sprigs to serve
½ medium heat red chilli, seeded, finely chopped
Drizzle of olive oil, to taste
350g small tomatoes, juices pressed out and sliced thinly
160g black olives, such as Niçoise or Kalamata, pitted
25g Pacific Harvest Karengo fronds
I use the gluten free recipe from the fantastic ‘My Darling lemon Thyme’ blog .
For the traditional wheat base version:
100ml olive oil
150ml lukewarm water (100-110 C)
300g (2 cups) plain flour
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp honey
If you make the wheat pastry from the ingredients above, combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl. (If the bowl is cold, start with warmer water so it’s at least 100 degrees F when you add the yeast.) Add the flour and sea salt and stir until the mixture forms a sticky dough. Knead on a well-floured surface for 3 minutes until the pastry is no longer sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 45 minutes for the dough to relax. When ready to make the pissaladiere, roll the dough lightly with a rolling pin, then stretch it to a rectangle and place it on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.
Preheat the oven with a heavy-based oven tray to 200ºC.
For the garnish:
Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and salt to taste; cook gently, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to sweat & cook down. Add the sugar, garlic, thyme and chilli and continue cooking over low heat until golden & caramelized (about 15-20 minutes). Cool.
Spread the onion mixture on the base and place the tomatoes slices in a nice pattern, overlapping slightly; season with freshly ground pepper. Then, scatter the olives and the Karengo on top.
Bake the pissaladière for 20-30 minutes, at 180ºC or until the pastry is crisp & golden and the tomatoes are soft.
To serve, garnish the hot pissaladière with extra thyme sprigs and drizzle with olive oil if desired. Cut into triangles and serve hot or room temperature.
Karengo offers a range of tastes based on preparation. It is a wonderful alternative to anchovies in Mediterranean dishes. It pairs well with roasted nuts & seeds to make a wonderfully nutritious and savoury snack.
In Chinese medicine, this specie of seaweed is recommended for resolving phlegm, softens hardness, dispels heat, and promotes diuresis. It also has applications for edema, urinary infections and sore throat. Karengo is also wonderfully tonic and is excellent to alkalinize & re-mineralise the body.