Tian is a Provençal dish and it's also the dish it is cooked in. Simple. And the dish is simple too: veg with cheese, to put it crudely.
What is 'tian'?
What’s a tian? In spite of sounding rather middle-Eastern or even oriental, it’s a Provençal pan made of clay, enamelled in bright colours, which they use to cook vegetable gratins in. Or, indeed, tian, as it’s also the name of the dish.
Markets of Provence
They sell tian pottery at the markets all over Provence and you can hardly pass by the stalls without stopping to admire the vivid colours, the glaze and the various shapes. Usually rectangular or oblong, shallow and bright, they are the perfect oven-to-table vessels.
If pottery wasn’t fragile and rather heavy, I’d have a collection brought over from my French voyages… As it is I need to use boring mass-produced vessels to cook my tians and everything else in.
What goes into a tian?
Tians come in all sorts, all being basically roasted vegetables with cheese. Rice is a common ingredient, sometimes potatoes are added, and spinach is a veritable tian king. Eggs are frequently added but I skipped them here except for one yolk, aiming for a less quiche-y flavour.
Spinach and courgette
Both spinach and courgette are watery vegetables so spinach needs to be blanched or wilted in the microwave and squeezed out. Courgette needs no pre-boiling; salt it and let it sit for a while to drain moisture.
A great veggie dish
It is rich enough to be served as a main course thanks to the cream and cheese but of course it is also a good side. If you're worried you'll go hungry, place a layer of cooked rice at the bottom of the dish or stir in chunks of cooked potatoes.Tiens! Un tian!