Black olives, rosemary and a little preserved lemon

IMG_20150625_191353Last summer on a wine-tasting visit to Bellet in the hills above Nice I tasted and bought some of Domaine de la Source’s delicious pâte d’olives made with the local cailletier black olives.   The French term for this little treat in a jar translates into English as the rather less glamorous-sounding olive paste and, what’s more, sourcing olives from the Nice area here in the UK is not straightforward.

Never one to be deterred however, I have soldiered on making my own pâte d’olives since Domaine de la Source’s jar ran out within days of returning home last August, and I’ve used more readily available varieties of olive (couchillo, kalamata) with a reasonable amount of success.  Then a couple of weeks ago I had a lightbulb moment while researching the influence of North African flavours on the cuisine of Provence, which led me to try preserved lemons in the recipe to give a kick of freshness to the oiliness of the olives.

The results were impressive. This pâte d’olives is superbly moreish and ideal for spreading ‘neat’ on crostini for a traditional provençal canapé which is equally irresistible with an additional topping of mi-cuit tomatoes or prosciutto crudo.  

Taking this idea a step further, why not toast a few rounds of baguette on one side, top the untoasted side with a generous spoonful of olive paste and a slice of goat’s cheese then stick the whole lot under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and oozing all over the place. Served with a lightly-dressed green salad, you’ll enjoy a perfect lunch in no time. And bowls of spaghetti adorned with the olive paste and some prawns or squid always meet with happy faces and empty plates.

One word of advice though: if you’re looking for an olive-based sauce to accompany roasted lamb, I would go for the full-blown tapenade which includes anchovies and capers in the mix.

Pâte d’olives au citron et romarin
Makes one medium-sized jar and keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks

200g good quality black olives in olive oil, stones removed
20g preserved lemons
2 tsps fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
20ml extra virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients into a food processor with a metal blade and process until blended together.  I keep my paste quite chunky but you can blend it to a smoother texture should you prefer.

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Pissaladière – tart or pizza?

IMG_20140521_202541Caramelized onions, anchovies and olives – the key components of a pissaladière are never in question.  But as to whether this dish, popular on both sides of the French / Italian coastal border, should be made with a bread dough base similar to focaccia or with pastry is up for debate.  Having read around the subject it would seem that the former option is more widely accepted as the traditional recipe, but I beg to differ with popular opinion so you will find my recipe below, using pâte brisée.  The combination of the crumbly, crisp pastry with the melting onions and sharpness of the olives and anchovies is irresistible.  Another twist in my recipe is a thin layer of black olive paste which I spread over the tart base before ladling in the onions.

If you can resist, leave the tart to cool once cooked as you will find it at its very best eaten cold. Serve it with a chilled Vermentino or even a provençal rosé. And if you prefer a bread dough base, you could use the focaccia recipe I posted recently, omitting the rosemary.

Pissaladière

225g plain flour
125g unsalted butter, chilled & cut into small cubes
5g salt
1 egg yolk
30ml chilled water

100g pitted black olives + a few extra to decorate
20-30 ml extra virgin olive oil + extra for sweating the onions / decoration
2 sage leaves, roughly chopped
Small pinch chilli flakes

2 kgs white onions, finely sliced
4 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme
Tin of anchovy fillets in oil

Brush the base and sides of a loose-bottomed 30cm tart tin and prepare the pastry. Place the flour and salt in a bowl and rub in the cubes of butter with your hands until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the egg yolk and water and work the ingredients together to form a soft dough.  Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave it to rest in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight if you prefer.  When you take the pastry out, allow it to reach room temperature before rolling it out on a floured surface until it is around 5mm thick.  Place the pastry into the tin and press it in lightly with your hands. Prick the surface with a fork a few times, cover and leave in the fridge for half an hour.

Heat the oven to 200°C and then turn your attention to the onions.  Fry them on a low heat in a large frying pan with a swig of olive oil, the thyme and bay leaves, and leave them to cook gently for half an hour or more without browning.

When the oven is up to temperature, remove the pastry case from the fridge, cover the base with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans.  Bake blind for ten minutes until the pastry is starting to crisp.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a small foodmixer, whizz up the black olives with 20-30 mls of extra virgin olive oil, the chilli flakes and the sage.

Once the onions are soft and sticky, take them off the heat and remove the bay leaves.  If there is a lot of liquid in the onion pan, pour that away. Spread the black olive mixture onto the bottom of the tart case, ladle in the onions and top with anchovy fillets and a few black olives. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and pop in the oven for 20 minutes at the same temperature as before.

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My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Must make another one soon! I hope you enjoy it too.