Coca de ceba

You could call it onion focaccia, you could call it pissaladière… and you would find yourself in the middle of one of those never ending debates about which country invented what. Coca de ceba is but one variant of  a traditional dish found all around the Mediterranean:  flatbread with toppings.
A note on flour………..
Make sure that the plain flour is really plain: it should not contain any raising agents at all. The easiest way is to order organic flour from Home Organics and get it delivered to your door along with the veggies.
The hard way is to run around several supermarkets reading the list of ingredients on the side of the “plain” flour packages: you will be surprised to see that for most brands they are the same as in the self rising flour (one of those mysteries!). Otherwise go to a Polish shop and look for ‘mąka pszenna’ but it will not be organic.
For a 20 cm by 30 cm tray, you will need:

  • 400 g plain flour (white, wholemeal or half each)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bag instant yeast (or 20 g fresh yeast)
  • 200-250  g water
  • 75 g olive oil + some extra for drizzling
  • 400 g chopped onions

Prepare the dough using  your favourite method. I use the Thermomix as it takes only 5 minutes for both the dough and onions. If you do it by hand:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in some of the water and set aside.
  2. Place the flour and the salt in a roomy bowl and push to the sides. In the central cavity, add the yeast mixture, the oil and most of the water.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together and then knead. If you are using half wholemeal flour or more, you will need all the water and maybe a bit extra. The dough should be soft as your ear lobe and not sticky .
  4. Place it on a 20 cm by 30 cm  baking sheet lined with baking paper or a silicon mat. If the sheet is shallow enough, roll out the dough using a rolling pin. If the borders of the sheet pan are too high, roll out the dough on the counter and then transfer it.
  5. Wrap the top of the tray with cling film (not too tight but sealing et well) and leave it to rise at room temperature for 1 hour. If you are in a hurry, place it in the oven at its lowest setting (40 C, keep the door ajar if the lowest setting is 50 or 60 C).
  6. Chop the onion in thin fans and drizzle it with olive oil.
  7. When the dough has risen, peel off the cling film and start heating the oven to 220 C.
  8. Using your fingertips, press the dough against the tray to create little holes all over the surface, without piercing it.
  9. Spread the onion fans over the dough and bake on the lower half of the oven for 20 minutes or until the borders of the dough look done. If the onion starts to brown, cover the coca with baking paper.
  10. Let it cool on a rack and serve warm or cold.

To make it French you will need:

  • 600-800 g of onion instead of 400 g (as they will shrink during the slow cooking step)
  • 2 tins of anchovies (60 g drained weight in total)
  • Black olives

Proceed as for coca but, instead of step 6, slowly cook the onions in the oil from the anchovies until they are soft and golden. Make a paste with half the anchovies and some water and add it to the onions. Once baked, decorate with the remaining anchovies and the black olives.

Serve with rosé wine from Provence and call it pissaladière instead of coca. If any of your friends makes jokes about the name, cut them a smaller part and explain that the name derives from ‘peix salat’, wich is old Catalan/Provençal for salted fish.
To make it Italian you will need:

  • 2 balls of mozzarella
  • Proceed as for coca but top the onions with thin slices of mozzarella before baking.

Call it focaccia alle cipolle or focaccia San Remo.

To make coca de recapte you will need:

  • Escalivada
  • Herrings or anchovies in oil (drained) or canned tuna (from a good brand) or sausages

Use the dough and top it with escalivada and any, or all, of the other ingredients arranged in neat pretty lines.