French cuisine has a reputation for being elaborate and sophisticated, but you know sometimes the simplest things are the best . Here are two recipes that we seem to use a lot. The first, a pissaladière (very sorry about the name!) is a delicious savoury caramelised onion tart, I love to serve small squares of this with an aperitif. You can either make it with a puff pastry base or a thin bread pizza base, we prefer the latter. Even my son, away at university, has found that this is a favourite with his friends!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 yellow onions, chopped
- 2 teaspoons demerara sugar (raw sugar)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed, or bread dough
- 20 anchovy fillets
- 20 black olives in oil, drained
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and demerara sugar and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions become tender and start to turn golden. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano and thyme. Stir the mixture. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and golden brown.
Remove from the onions from the heat and set them aside while preparing the pastry or the bread dough.
Roll out the pastry or bread dough into a rectangle or circle on a 12-inch by 18-inch baking sheet. Spread the pastry with the onion confit, leaving a tiny inch of dough uncovered around the edges of the pastry. Arrange the anchovy filets and olives on the pissaladière. Bake it for 15 to 25 minutes, until the base has puffed up, turned golden, and crisped.
Remove the pissaladière from the oven and sprinkle the olive oil and fresh thyme across the hot surface of the tart. Cut it into rectangles and serve very warm or at room temperature.
This pissaladière recipe makes 10 servings.
Then a tea time classic, des petits financiers, sweet light almond cakes, best when made individually, but the recipe can be made as a whole cake.
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter, melted, for buttering 21 financier tins
- 1 cup (140 g) finely ground almonds
- 1 2/3 cups (210 g) sugar
- 1/2 cup (70g) all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup (185 g) egg whites (5 to 6)
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces; 185 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Preheat the oven to 450°F(230°C).
With a pastry brush, use the 2 tablespoons melted butter to thoroughly butter the financier tins. Arrange them side by side, but not touching, on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the buttered tins in the freezer to resolidify the butter and make the financiers easier to turn out.
In a large bowl, combine the almonds, sugar, flour, and salt. Mix to blend. Add the egg whites and mix until thoroughly blended. Add the 3/4 cup butter and mix until thoroughly blended. The mixture will be fairly thin and pourable.
Spoon the batter into the tins, filling them almost to the rim. Place the baking sheet in the centre of the oven. Bake until the financiers just being to rise, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400°F(205°C). Bake until the financiers are a light, delicate brown and begin to firm up, about another 7 minutes. Turn off the oven heat and let the financiers rest in the oven until firm, about another 7 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the financiers cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out. The financiers may be stored in an airtight container for several days.